July 5, 2011

Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness



     While doing genealogy, I have discovered many truly kind researchers. The first random act of genealogical kindness that I experienced amazed me.

     My husband and I were on one of our first visits to Lamoine, Maine. We stopped at Shore Acres to speak with its owner, Chuck Hemingway.  

     Shore Acres is a bed and breakfast on property once owned by my ancestor, William des Isles, grandson of settler Louis des Isles and his wife, Mary Googins. William operated a massive dance hall on the premises.

     During the conversation, I mentioned a home more inland on the road to Ellsworth. It was owned by my great-grandfather Allen Walker. Noteworthy was a boat, the Arabella, he’d built in Quincy, Massachusetts, and sailed to Lamoine Beach each summer.

     Suddenly Chuck, a post card collector, excused himself from the dining room table he was sitting at. He disappeared for quite a while.

      “I found this,” he said, handing me a post card in a protective sleeve.

     I was amazed. It was a post card featuring the Arabella:

     “Oh,” I said after a few minutes. “Could you scan this for me?”

     “My scanner is broken,” he informed me.

     I became daring. Finding something valuable does that to a person.

     “Would it be possible…er…may I take this post card to our hotel room, scan it, and bring it back to you?”

     “No,” Chuck said emphatically.

     Oops, I thought, I’ve overstepped my bounds. I just met this man, and I just made an enemy.

     Chuck then gave what I refer to as a pregnant pause.

     “No, you cannot take this post card and scan it and return it. I want you to take it, and scan it, and e-mail me the scan. You keep the post card. It belongs to you. It was your grandfather’s boat.”

     Shortly, our visit ended. Later, I’ll create a post on a time I returned the favor, doing a random act of genealogical kindness in the fashion I learned from Chuck.


     Later I found myself at the Ohio home of David Walker, whom we had determined was a fourth cousin on my maternal side. He had three out of four volumes of a family Bible. We were exchanging genealogical information. One of the pieces of information he showed me was an article on his grandmother’s fiftieth anniversary.

     “I have something here,” I said, pulling out a well-preserved eight by ten photograph, the very same one that was in the newspaper.

     “We can scan a copy for me,” he said.

     “No,” I said emphatically, repeating Chuck’s style. “We can’t”

     David looked at me, puzzled.

     “We can scan a copy of this photograph for my records,” I continued. “You are the proper possessor of this photograph.”

     He was grateful.

     And me…I had just passed forward an act of genealogical kindness.


     My advice to you? Participate in as many acts of genealogical kindnesses as you are able. That’s what it’s all about—sharing and increasing our knowledge of our heritage. This is a website promoting passing on random acts of genealogical kindnesses:






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