Thursday, October 20, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday - Assume nothing

Roland John "Tom" Bergstad
When I got into genealogy 11 years ago, my mom gave me the records she'd collected up to that point, as well as a pretty good sized PAF file with everyone she'd found and what she knew of them. It got me off to a fantastic start, as most of the 3rd and 4th generations were already filled in. Of course, being the impetuous, naive budding genealogist that I was, I immediately started at the furthest generation of Gibsons I had and went from there. I didn't stop to look too much at my grandparents, because three of them were (and, thankfully, still are) alive (note: DO NOT EVER DO THIS!! You never assume someone, particularly a grandparent or elderly relative, will live until you make time to talk to them. Mine fortunately did, but if I could do things over again, I would have started pumping them with questions from day one. Ok, soapbox rant is over).

In time I came to the line of my maternal grandfather, Roland John "Tom" Bergstad. He died before I was born, but because I had info on his parents, I skipped over him, and went on researching. I've found a goodly amount on the Bergstads, who were Norwegian, and have traced their line into the early 1800s and beyond. I'd always taken it for granted that because my mom's stories about Grandpa Tom began in North Dakota, that's where the family had put down the most roots, and never looked much into whether they had a Montana connection beyond just my grandfather.

That changed yesterday. I decided (both as part of an assignment for the Professional Genealogy course I'm taking, and out of my own curiosity) to go through my files and see what I had on Grandpa Tom. My database had the birth, marriage, and death dates my mom had entered, but no documents were sourced to those dates. I was taken aback - my own grandfather, completely undocumented? I thought, well, I must have something on him. I went into my files, and dug through them all, here's what I came up with - five pictures, a copy of a business card from his band, and a parade ribbon. That's it. I was pretty shocked that I had missed someone so recent - one of my grandparents - so completely. So I am setting about to change that. Grandpa Tom is the focus of my next research assignment, and I'm going to see how much in original sources I can dig up on him in the next two weeks. I've also asked my mom, grandma, and aunt and uncle to see if they have anything on him as well. I'm crossing my fingers and hoping they can help fill in the gaps I've left for far too long.

Then, just to see if I really had misjudged my Bergstad family as badly as I thought I had, I went to my favorite FamilySearch database - Montana County Marriages 1865-1950. I did a search for the last name Bergstad, and within three minutes, I had found thirteen marriages! Thirteen!! And those were just the ones that I could tell right off were my family. Including Tom's parents! I have a lot of re-evaluation and research to do on the most recent generations of this branch of my family.

Bottom line - assume nothing. We all make mistakes early in our research, but hopefully the rest of you haven't made the mistake of not researching your own grandfather.