As genealogists, we have all had that ‘a-ha!’ moment and regularly ask the genie spirits to provide another one. A couple of weeks ago I was able to share someone else’s, based on my past experience.

I’m one of the Tuesday volunteer help group at the downtown Grand Rapids Public Library and it is particularly fun to see eyes light up and smiles appear. I think it was the day after celebrating the 4th of July that a new woman came in. She had some family information going ‘way back’ and was particularly interested on finding out about her Revolutionary War veteran. The family had previously been researched by someone else who qualified for the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) but the woman had no details other than the name of the veteran. She was also a historian by profession.

I can’t stop myself, so I first gave her the brief lecture about checking other people’s research. Then we looked on Fold-3, a pay-for site available at the library that I’m not particularly good at. The man popped right up but there was not a lot of records, just a couple of pay slips. However, as we looked at them and identified his unit, I encouraged her to look for histories of the regiment for further details of his experience. Then I took her back to the first pay record. I pointed out how interesting it was that he was paid in pounds, shillings and pence. The very next slip showed him being paid in dollars and cents. I turned to her and said “That’s when America came to be a new country. That’s when your ancestor became a patriot American.” Quietly she examined the screens as I bit my tongue. Her eyes slowly widened and she turned to me, “WOW!”

WOW indeed.

S. Rabick