You certainly can’t buy a lot for the price of a stamp, not in today’s economy anyway. However you may be surprised to learn that for the price of a 1st class stamp you could get the answers you have been looking for when it comes to your family history. While it’s true that the internet truly has changed the landscape of family history genealogy and for the most part I would have to say it has done so for the better. However when I take a trip to my local family history center and I see that is has cut the number of hours that it is open because there is less demand for the center as a direct result of online research I am a little upset. It’s a similar situation whenever I take a trip up to the Salt Lake City Family History library in Utah, there less researchers working there now than there were a few years ago and again this is a result of everything you need to perform an LDS family search being online.
This really is not the case as not everything that you require for tracing your family history is available online. That being said it is also true that everything you need to research your family history is also not available in the main Library in Utah. Both the family history library and the internet are abundant with information on family history and the amount of records being added to both is growing at a record breaking pace but there are still a lot of records out there that require much more diligent searching and this type of searching can now be conducted right from your own home for the price of a 1st class stamp.
For total thorough research there will never be a single source that is definitive, but with persistence and a lot of detective work you should be able to determine where you need to look for records that can be used to fill in gaps that open up totally new avenues for you to explore.
We all know that when it comes to an LDS family search then starting with your immediate family and relatives is the main starting point. But what do you do when you don’t live near these immediate family members? If you don’t live close to family members that you need to interview regarding your family history then the first thing you should do is give them a call and get as much information as you can.
Now a phone call is only going to go so far and will not be enough to get all of those important dates and other details that you require and this is where your postage stamp comes in. The next thing you need to do is write a letter to your relative explaining that you are interested in recording your family history and if they can help. Include a few specific questions about names, dates and places in the letter. Try not to be too overwhelming and leave your relative enough room to respond, you will also want to include a self-addressed stamped envelope for them to return their answers. Now I am sure you are asking why is that I am writing a letter when I could just fire off an email and get the information this way.
While this is a valid question what you need to consider is the fact that many of our older relatives will not be computer savvy so it’s much easier for them to do things the old fashioned way by writing a letter. Obviously a letter is a lot slower than email but it also has its advantages, a letter will allow more time for your relative to contemplate and you will be rewarded with more interesting stories that have been recalled from memory along with the names, places and dates that you requested. You may even be fortunate enough that your relative will return some original photographs which will help you with your family research.
Another potential goldmine when it comes to genealogical information and one that are quite often overlooked are distant cousins. A good place to find names of distant cousins are obituaries in newspapers, however it is not always easy to go from finding the names of a living distant relatives and actually making contact with them. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find phone numbers for people as nowadays more people are giving up the use of a land line for a cell phone only. There are number of online sources when it comes to finding the names and phone numbers of people such as www.whitepages.com you will need to know a city. Although many of these places are now listing only addresses with no phone number.
Again this is where the humble postage stamp comes to the rescue, while it will certainly take you more time to write a letter than it would to use email or phone you shouldn’t let that put you off. Get the address that’s listed on white pages and write your unknown relative a letter. As before make sure that you include a self-addressed stamped envelope. The reason for this is it makes it much easier to reply and also a lot harder to ignore. I have personally used this method to find a number of distant cousins and they have had information that I needed to piece together my family research and on a few occasions they have even had old photographs that I never knew existed.
You will be surprised what family history gems that could be out there waiting for you. You should never think that just because someone is distantly connected to you that they cannot be of help in your family history research. You should go back and make sure that you haven’t overlooked someone because they are not from your bloodline or who you presumed may not have been able to help you. That one person that you write to may turn out to have a lot of family photos, journals, letters, memorabilia which all can be helpful in your family tree research.