How Far We Have Come!
In September of last year I wrote about a box of letters which I found. These I had written beginning in 1978 to relatives when I first began seriously researching and recording our family history.
A few weeks ago I found another box, stored away in our barn, which contained another treasure trove. The box contained the form letters I sent out to individuals as I attempted to find out how they were descended from Andreas Hagenbuch. The box also contained 5 x 8 cards of records I kept as I sent out those form letters, replies from folks, and their continued correspondence. My immediate reaction was: I must have had a lot of time on my hands!
At that time (1978 b.c.—before children) I was teaching first grade at Dalmatia Elementary School in the Line Mountain School District. Linda taught high school mathematics in the same district. We lived in the town of Herndon and rented a five room apartment above an aged couple, Cloyd and Sarah.
We were married in December of 1974, and I started teaching in January of 1975. Linda and I had the summers off and we did some traveling: West Germany in 1977; Spain, Morocco, France, Switzerland and West Germany in 1979; and a long trip throughout the United States in 1980. All three of these trips were important to my genealogical growth.
Beginning in the summer of 1978, I started sending form letters to every Hagenbuch in the United States for whom I could find an address. I gleaned these names and addresses from telephone books as Linda and I traveled. Originally, I had planned on putting all the genealogical information together into a book. However, that never transpired as I realized there were just too many questions unanswered which kept leading to more and more information. For me, a published book was an insurmountable task, but continuing to record names, dates, places, and interesting family history was doable.
As the word got around on what I was doing, family and friends began sending me other Hagenbuch names and addresses they found as they traveled. By 1981 I had addresses for over 300 Hagenbuch families in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, Switzerland, and West Germany. Of those 300, over 200 received correspondence from me asking for their family information.
I continued to keep in contact with many of these people over the next several years, sending letters, updates on genealogy, the Beech Grove newsletter, and Christmas cards. With some of these people I lost contact within a few months as they never wrote back after the initial contact. But with others, we stayed in contact even up through the present.
In addition to Hagenbuchs, I also contacted allied families—those people who were descended from female lines. They also received the form letter and a request for more information so I could record their family history. Furthermore, I contacted genealogists in West Germany and Switzerland, as well as genealogical and historical societies in several states that were publishing newsletters in which I would place information about the family hoping to hear from other Hagenbuch genealogists. Those correspondence records, also kept on 5 x 8 cards, number over 300.
To be sure, the family tree and form letters that I originally sent out had mistakes. Much of the information was based on the research of William Hagenbaugh from California back in 1941 and, as we now know, this had mistakes. But the information I received during those first few years, supported by the correspondence records I kept, were the basis for all the research that Andrew and I have been doing over the past five years.
We have come a long way from those early days of research and contacting people. Instead of typed form letters to gather information, we now use the internet to peruse Ancestry.com, FindaGrave.com, and digital versions of vintage newspapers. Instead of typed correspondence cards, we now use email and can look back over years of contacting relatives and societies. Instead of typed pages of family trees, we now have Beechroots.com which can be quickly updated and searched.
All of this technology has provided us with a great leap forward and gives us the capability to answer more questions, bolster the amount of information we have on our family, and also discover more genealogical mysteries. As we continually write: the more we find out, the more questions are unearthed, and the more we want to know!