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Open-Ended Questions

March 23 2010 at 5:46 PM
Michael Dorosh 

Response to Give 'em Some Slack

Here is a sampling of some of the open-ended questions I have been receiving via email in the last few weeks:

How would I go about finding lists of members of the militia (particularly Toronto) anytime between 1865 and 1900? I am an amateur genealogist researching his ancestral roots and, having reached a brick wall in this endeavor, am reverting to delving into other possible avenues by which my male ancestors of the time may have traversed.
Thank you for your advice.

First of all, my site clearly indicates THE CANADIAN SOLDIER IN THE 20TH CENTURY. So I find it odd that he started out by talking about the period 1865-1900. I simply had nothing to tell him about this period as it is clearly outside the time period clearly delineated by the site. I also have no interest in genealogy. I came right to the point with my reply:

That's before my period of interest, I'm afraid. Good luck with your search.

I bit my tongue with regards to the 20th Century.

The response was this:

Well, thanks for the big effort to provide me some useful information from your expertise.

I have not bothered with a response, but if I were to, I guess I would ask how much he thinks a professional genealogist would charge him for doing his research for him. Even better, why he thinks a 20th Century historian would have any "expertise" or "useful information" to provide about 19th Century genealogy to begin with. Or why he feels I owe him a single thing. Don't get me wrong; this forum and my site exist to help people and share information. That's done at the pleasure and leisure of those providing it, not out of obligation to anyone.

This one came more recently, and would be a little harder to be snide in response to, but again, what could I possibly say in response:

I hope you can help me. I am trying to get some information on my
uncle J_* H_*. He was born in Scotland on July 5, 18** and died in
Toronto on May 1, 19**. He was my mother's brother and is the last
member of the family I am trying to trace. I am an elderly lady ( 77
years ) and am the last in my family. I wish I had asked about family
when I lived i Scotland but I never did. Too late now, as they are all
What I know about my uncle is the following. He served three years
in the 3rd Battalion, *_* Highlanders as a private. I guess this was
before he went to Canada. His army rank was CSM and his number was
2*_*4. He was listed as a constable when he was accepted in the army.
I guess that was a policeman. I have a document stating that he was "
Fit for Service" on October 12. 19**. He would then be about 27 years
As I said he died in 19** and was survived by his wife,
Nellie/Elsie H_* of 303 C*_* Road, Toronto
Any information you can give me about my uncle would be greatly
appreciated. Thank you. Sincerely,

So apparently I either have some magic personnel file in my basement of everyone who ever served in the armies of the Commonwealth, or I run some kind of free genealogy service in my spare time for people. These are only two examples; I get one or two such emails a week on average. I think it is great that people are showing an interest in past generations; I think it would be greater if people would show more of an interest in doing their own research - which can be as simple as having specific questions in mind. I don't know what Uncle Chuckie's favourite colour was, and I doubt it was recorded anywhere. I have no idea how much anyone knows about the Army, so writing a long treatise one what a private soldier did could be a colossal waste of time if they already know, can buy a book on the subject, have no interest in it anyway, or really wouldn't understand it no matter who explained it to them.

The sad fact is, mostly you should have either talked to your family when they were alive - or accepted the fact that these guys went through something so ugly and disturbing they really had no desire to relive it at all, and just respect that fact now that they're gone without any regrets. It's apparently what they wanted.

This message has been edited by dorosh on Mar 23, 2010 5:47 PM

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