Return on investment, or why it pays to contact local people

I’ve recently had several experiences that remind me how useful it can be to use your email to ask discrete questions about a family line you’re following.  Phone calls work the same way – but calling England doesn’t occur to me as quickly as sending an email does.

The first set of experiences involved English records that I was hoping to find, to provide sources for information I have that isn’t well-documented.  I emailed the Parish Councils of three locations in Kent, England to inquire about records and availability.  In each case I got a quick response acknowledging my questions and telling me what was being done with my request (who it was going to).  In each case I also got a timely response answering my specific question(s).  I was looking for information on my emigrating ancestor (William Denman) who married in England about 5 years before the family emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1790s .  From one source I got a narrative about the wife’s family, most of which was information I did not have.  From one, I got a confirmation of a marriage date for the couple along with the specific Marriage Register information (a number and the names of the witnesses) along with the information that there were no other records for the couple after the marriage (baptisms, deaths) implying that they had moved to another town (the groom was from a neighboring town).  This answer raised a question because the date was 6 months off from the one I had (and had gotten from a family record sheet from the Family History Library).  From the third place a very kind assistant actually went to the local library and looked at a microfilm of the parish registers for the dates I had asked about and told me there were no marriages or christenings but she did find one burial of an infant.  If this infant was born to my ancestor it adds a new child to the family.   This wonderful assistant also gave me information about where all the original records as well as the Bishops Transcripts are held, with contact information (an email address).  Finally she told me that there is an adjoining parish where people from her parish are often buried, so now I have a new lead.  Not bad for what started with three short emails!

In another effort I emailed the minister of the local church, asking about the cemetery behind his church (who maintains it, and who would have the records).  He answered both questions, and followed up by talking with the Town Clerk to get more information.  He recommended that I talk with the Town Clerk directly to ask my specific questions and added that she would put me in touch with the town historian if she didn’t have the information I was seeking.  And the bonus was that he told me about a church history that had been put together which has a picture of 2 women with the family name I’m searching (Snow) and offered to send it to me if I was interested.  Well of course I said “yes, please!”.  It arrived the end of the week,  and I now know more about the area where my relatives lived for a couple of generations before moving further west.

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