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.