Monday, June 1, 2009

Say "Thank you"

Words are powerful. I want to visit with you about two of the most powerful words used in family history research. They soften hearts, lift spirits of sometimes overworked and under appreciated workers. “Thank you” spoken is rare for keepers of the records to hear.

Some researching their family history have acquired an ‘expectant’ attitude. City, county and state workers as well as librarians, archivists and workers at other repository sites have many tasks they are responsible for in their day to day routine. What a breath of fresh air you are to them when you are respectful of their time and show appreciation for the help they render.

It is part of their job to help you, but a gracious and grateful attitude will bring you incredible rewards. I traveled back to Massachusetts one year. I had corresponded with a Town Clerk for more than a year asking and receiving help on ancestors who lived in the town for a couple generations. I always sent a ‘Thank you’ card or note and when I was able to make the trip to do some on site research I planned on spending most of a day with her. It was a very fruitful experience. She took the extra time to find all the records I needed. She took me outside of town through pastures and over fences to show me the grave of a gggg grandfather and told me the story of how and why he was buried so far from the center of town. I took her to lunch and throughout the day I thanked her for all of her attention and assistance. She was happy to share the history and nuances of the area because she knew she mattered to me.

When someone helps you in your quest for information and understanding of your family history, do they know that their help is a gift you are grateful for and that as a person they matter to you? If not, you must change your ways. If you are going to play in the sandbox (of family history research) then you have to be kind, generous with praise, patient and just plain nice.

A thank you card will be savored by the recipient for weeks because they are a rare commodity. When the worker is a male, I sometimes send a candy bar with the thank you card if he has gone the extra mile for me. A medium stemmed rose bud can be sent priority mail to a female worker or a relative you have not yet met who has sent you family information. When they receive the ‘thank you’ rose…it will be just starting to open. Can you imagine what bridges are built with such simple tokens of gratitude.

When I traveled abroad, I crocheted dozens of dishcloths. They took up very little room and didn’t add much to the weight of my luggage. I gave one to every worker that assisted me in the libraries, archives and government offices I entered. I told them I had made it just for them because I wanted them to know how grateful I was for their help. I asked for their names and had them write them in my journal so I would remember them. It was a wonderful exchange and some of those amazing people have become dear friends.

Family history is not ‘one man show’. Show your gratitude to everyone you meet on this adventure. Both you and they will be blessed.

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