Jun 22, 2010

Good Karma

Good Karma, I like this phrase because it sounds so mystical.  But it is a simple concept.   Treat others like you wish to be treated and do nice things for others for no other reason than just being nice.  Not because you expect something in return.  This concept definitely applies to genealogy.

So many family researchers are more than willing to share their knowledge to help others.  Many willingly do record look ups in their home town to help those out of state.  If you read any of the genealogical forums you see evidence of this all the time.  There is even a website dedicated to this idea called Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness.  It is a group of volunteers from every state that are willing to research records, take pictures, etc. for the sole reason of helping other researchers.  They only ask for their expenses to be reimbursed, not their time and effort.

I think this is wonderful.  I personally love to help anyone out if I can.  I routinely respond to forums posts and offer ideas and help whenever possible.  Why?  Mainly because I just love genealogy so much and it makes me feel good to help or prevent someone from making the same mistakes I have in the past.  Over the years I have received much good advice and help in finding things from kind souls on the forums.  This is what I refer to as "Good Karma" .  You will benefit by feeling good and eventually being on the receiving end of good deeds.  The people who post and expect people to do their research for them; or receive an obit look up and never even offer a thank you in return irritate me.  I do not take it personally if I don't get a thank you and I continue to offer help.  However I think it is just common courtesy and feel that "Karma" will come back and bite them in the behind eventually!

So I want to share my two "good karma" stories and hope it will encourage others to at least show common courtesy when requesting information.  My first story is about a request for pictures of tombstones that I came across on a forum.  A woman was requesting photos from Mount Royal Cemetery in Pennsylvania, she was located in California and could not travel to PA.  It just so happened I was going to this cemetery within the week because it is where my parents are buried and a few other ancestors.  My trips to Mount Royal are not considered "research" because I was certain I had located all ancestors buried there.  It was just to visit family graves.

My husband and kids went with me and it was a hot, muggy day.  You know the kind where those little gnats are buzzing around your head.  My hubby does not deal well with the heat so he was rather annoyed when I said we had other graves to locate.  He kept asking "how are you related to these people?".  I tried to explain I was no relation it was just "good karma" to help others out, but he was not grasping the concept.

I was lucky and found the graves and took photos for the woman from CA.  This put us in a totally different part of the cemetery than usual.  So we were disoriented trying to make our way from these graves to my family graves.  As I was searching for my Uncle Joe I spied a large marker with Dankmyer which stopped me dead in my tracks.  This was my great grandfather's sister's married name.  I had been searching for any information on her because I had so little to go on.  Never occurred to me to look for her at Mount Royal.  I knew Dankmyer was a common name in this part of Allegheny county so I really did not think too much of it.  But I walked over to the grave site and nearly fell over!  There she was, Bertha Lammay Dankmyer!  I now had her death year and the birth and death dates of 3 of her children buried in the plot.  I never would have found her if I had not been in the part of the cemetery and I owed it all to the woman from CA in the forums.

Not only did I find Bertha that day, but I also found my Uncle Joe's daughter also!  As we walked from Bertha's grave to find Uncle Joe we approached from the back instead of the front as usual.  Turns out his daughter had been buried in the same plot but her information was on the BACK of his tombstone.  It never occurred to me to look at the back of tombstones!  I most certainly check the back of all tombstones now!

I want to add this second story (which just happened on Father's Day) mainly to show my husband really is a kind person and does nice things even though he gave me a hard time in the first incident!  This fits the good karma category but also fits the "spooky occurrence" one also.

We went to visit my father-in-law's grave.  We were sitting by my husband's family graves commenting on the nice breeze there because it was another hot day.  About 75 feet away were numerous graves that had balloons attached.  All of sudden my hubby said "those balloons are blowing away--hurry and run after them!  We have to put them back on the grave."  My daughter took off running and was able to catch them.  I walked over and started to put them back in the vase when I glanced down at the name on the stone.  It was my husband's last name!  Turns out it was his great uncle Bill and Aunt Ida.  We had no idea they were buried there.  It certainly gave us the chills.  Hubby has very fond memories of his Uncle Bill and still speaks of him often.  I think he now gets the "good karma" idea!  (If you want to read about this story in a little more detail I posted it on my "Spooky" blog here.)

The moral of these stories is go ahead and help someone out if you can.  I promise it will give you a good feeling.  Be polite and offer thanks to those who help and assist you in your research, even if it is the librarian pointing you to the right stack of books.  You never know the benefits you will reap down the road in your genealogical journey.

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