Sunday, April 18, 2010

52 Weeks To Better Genealogy - Challenge 15

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Return to the lost art of letter writing, that is Challenge 15. We are asked to write a letter asking for information from an institution, library or a person. I have written letters requesting information in the past. About 10 years ago, when I started my research, not every site had a link to an electronic request form. I sent letters to a couple of libraries, universities and to people.

My Baudermann line is small and concentrated in the Newark, New Jersey area. Early on I had very little information on my Grandfather Baudermann. My father and his brothers had no contact with their father after 1930, leaving me with no relatives names to contact. I went to WhitePages.com, typed in Baudermann for Newark and got 11 matches. I sent letters to all 11. Just a short, one paragraph letter as I really had nothing to say other than I'm looking for the family of Joseph A.G. Baudermann. I received one reply saying she had no information on the family and good luck to me.

I slowly educated myself on research tactics and began making headway on my Grandfather. When searching family trees on Ancestry.com last year I found a tree with a Baudermann in it. Immediately I contacted the tree owner and started my wait for a reply. The reply came quickly and contained the name and address of a woman I should write to for possible information. My letter this time was two paragraphs as I did have a little more to back up my query.

Two weeks later I received a three page letter, an obituary for my Grandfather, a letter regarding the estate of my Grandfather's cousin and most importantly a photograph of Joseph A.G. Baudermann. The letter is from Joan, the Granddaughter of my Grandfather's half-sister, and she was a goldmine of information. She was such a sweet lady to provide all this information and she states in her letter that she is 78 and only does "snail-mail", how cute is that? I was thrilled to receive the information and I immediately picked up the phone and called her. I was able to fill in a few more details and I truly enjoyed our conversation.

The information Joan gave me, the stories she told of my Grandfather's life and the fact that she called him "Uncle Joe" really brought the family to life. But what absolutely floored me was the photograph. It was like looking at a photo of my Dad. I posted the photograph onto Facebook and asked "who is this"? My family members replied "Dad" or from my nieces "Grandpa". The resemblance is truly uncanny. To say they were surprised when I revealed his identity is putting it lightly.

Joan's letter is beautiful in the physical sense as well as with the imagery she used to tell my Grandfather's story. Would I have been happy to receive this via email? Of course I would, but now I have something that is much richer and means so much more to me.