Come out of the Box

Salt Lake City - 2005
by: Valerie S. Stewart

My name is Valerie S. Stewart and this was my first trip to Salt Lake City. I am researching information of my family in Greene County, Alabama and Russell County, Alabama. My paternal surnames are Purse, Williams, Robinson, Cobb and Pride. My maternal surnames are Cooper, Upshaw, Cochran, Jones, Smith and Lewis.

Before our trip, I was a linear genealogist - meaning I was only interested in finding my direct bloodline ancestors. That's when I hit my first roadblock. I was told that in order to get my complete family history, I must "come out of the box." AAGS education committee advisors explained that I must research my uncles, aunts, cousins and extended family members in order to get the full story of my own family. I thought this would be difficult at first, but I listened and was very glad that I did.

Now fast-forward to Salt Lake. Upon arriving at the Family History Library, I was completely amazed at the sheer size of this wonderful facility. When I sat down at one of the readers and touched it, I immediately felt connected to my ancestors. It's as though they started speaking to me saying, "We are right here. You just have to find us." Then my mission started. Within an hour, I started finding my ancestors. To my amazement, not only did I find information on my direct bloodline ancestors, I found TONS of information on my extended family. I even found some questionable material that warrants careful research:

In the 1930 census, my grandmother's last name is listed differently than what was shared through family oral history.

I located an early 1900s marriage certificate on my father's grandmother in Greene County, Alabama that listed my great grandmother with an unfamiliar last name. Upon further inspection, marriage indexes revealed she had been married twice.

I found a draft registration card on one of my paternal ancestors that indicated the name of a plantation as his place of employment.

I also discovered information relating to a relative's possible half-sibling, which was new to me.

Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. I think I should change my profession to detective or maybe join CSI. I'm glad I came out of the box. By doing, this has enabled me to "see" the big picture and the whole story of my family as I am starting to find information that I couldn't see when I was researching my direct bloodlines.


Last updated: October 9, 2005