Wonders and Woes

The Internet can be a wonderful thing…..and a problem.

Years ago, I decided to trace my ancestry. My maiden name, Sancomb, is quite unusual. When I started to trace my ancestry, I came to a dead end at my great-great-great grandfather, Charles. The name just….stopped.

Wandering through the web was a relatively new thing at the time, as were the genealogical sites that were springing up. Through one of these sites, I connected with a delightful man named Georges Bellavance. Turns out, there’s a whole organization based on one family, and they trace the family’s descendants. Georges had traced the name TO my Charles, and I had the rest of the story. (I spoke with Georges on the phone one day. He sounded just like Maurice Chevalier.)

When we connected the dots, we had a genealogy that traced back to my ancestor, Pierre Gagne, who immigrated to Ste. Anne de Beaupre, Quebec….in 1653. (!!!) As it happens, the French Canadians were fond of giving themselves “dit” names – variations on the surname to differentiate themselves. In the case of our family, the name was Gagne dit St. Come. If you say “St. Come” with a French accent, you can see how the initial census takers in New York changed the spelling to Sancomb. Bellavance, Georges’ surname, is another of the Gagne dit names.

So when my g-g-g-grandfather immigrated from Quebec to Chateaugay, New York in the 1830’s, he was Charles Gagne dit St. Come. His son was Louis St. Come. The next generation was Sancomb, and the new spelling stuck from there.

Armed with my new-found knowledge of the family tree, I wandered back onto those boards to share. I connected with a distant cousin (4th or 5th, I think) who was searching and shared what I knew. Unfortunately, a few other folks had gathered what they thought was correct information, and so this cousin was torn between what I was saying and what others were insisting was correct.

I just heard from that cousin. She tracked me down from my former email (good thing I’m pretty Google-able) and shared her journey with me. Turns out, the information that the other folks have is just plain wrong – at least, in the case of our family tree. She has done a lot of research, and what Georges and I had found was the actual genealogical path. Jeanette and I are truly related.

So here’s the rub. There’s a LOT of information out there. And there are a lot of people who purport to be experts and have the answers. Maybe they do, and maybe they don’t.

And the point of this whole shaggy dog story? As we continue exploring this marvelous Internet, more and more we are finding….well….crap. The tools are making it easier and easier to people to create web pages, or to add content to sites. Some of the time, it’s great. Sometimes, not so much. Part of our jobs as information professionals is to help people discern the good from the bad.

The wonder? Finding your family history and discovering a cousin. The woe? In my cousin’s case, being taken down the wrong path. Help your patrons find the right path.



Filed under Me and mine

4 responses to “Wonders and Woes

  1. Genealogy research is very interesting. Some patrons have a deep passion for it. Through much research, I have learned that census takers were often not that bright, they were lazy, and that people lie about themselves. A soundex may have helped if you had that available. Great story. .Genealogy research is very fun because have great stories like these.

  2. Pingback: sxa-roo » Blog Archive » Wonders and Woes

  3. Jeannette T. Dumas

    Great story about “OUR” journey to find the truth of who our ancestors on the Gagne/Sancomb side of our family really were.

    As I told you in my email, Mary Beth, I feel badly for those who are following the wrong path and adhering to all the family tree information that is being passed around from one person to another via the internet and as I have proven through my very grueling, extensive researc a LOT OF IT is wrong. I am one of those who is very passionate about genealogy and I have shown that through 7 long years of intensive research on-line. The end result – finding the truth – was well worth the labor of my research. It’s just sad that I have the proof and still those who are passig around the wrong information are standing by what they have. I guess for some it’s easier to stick with false information rather than do the work to verify the data.

    I never doubted your data nor the data that Georges Bellevance shared with you. I had just been stung so often with false information; a lot of it on my own immediate family, no less (laughing at that again, like I don’t know who my own aunts, uncles and grandparents are); that I had decided that all new information I received would have to be verified before I added it to my family tree program.

    I would really love to know how to get in contact with Georges Bellevance so that I can send him my line from our ancestor, Gabriel Gagne.

    Anyway, Mary Beth, thank you for the data you sent a little over a year ago. The effort to verify your data was well worth the time. By the way you and I are 4th cousins once removed. You and my father Harold were 4th cousins.

    Great website.


  4. would love to get in contact with Jeannette Dumas. this is her nephew jason. anyone else related im Jeannettes Nephew, Her Sister Annes Son

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