President’s Message for October 2021

Land Records - OR Index North
Land Records – OR Index North

Land records are considered one of the most underused resources for amateur genealogists. September’s meeting featured AIGS own land record guru, James “Jim” Shroads. Jim made a living, late in life, by digging into these types of records for his legal practice. When you find people like Jim who are willing to share their knowledge of specific types of records, you should seek them out! Jim took what could have been a difficult subject matter and brought it down to a level that we could all understand. Well done Jim!

If you missed his presentation, it was not recorded. Sorry! However, he instructs during our Beginning Genealogy Classes, and Land and Courthouse Records is one of the topics, so I expect he’ll repeat this presentation during January’s classes. Speaking of which, we are now taking reservations for our 2022 Beginning Genealogy Classes! Limited to only 24 seats, these classes fill up quickly. More details can be found here: Beginning Genealogy Course – First Session.

Opportunities exist in our society for members to seek out and get assistance with their family history research. From our 1,000+ genealogy book collection at the Fernandina Beach library, our general meetings featuring specific genealogy topics, to our new Special Interest Group subjects, you can find a vast array of educational opportunities to increase your genealogy knowledge throughout the year. If ever you have a question, the library committee staffs the question and answer sessions at the library, and are more than willing to assist you one-on-one with your research questions. Please reach out to Marcia Pertuz, our Librarian, to schedule a session!

I appreciate member, Janet Loveless, for chairing our Nominating Committee for 2022, and member, Jean Mann, for chairing our Education Committee. Both committees are once again active since the Covid shutdown. We still have opportunities for you to give back to your society with only a few hours a month. Opportunities exist on the cemetery, publicity, library, and data committees. Please reach out to me via our contact form if you’d like to get involved, or talk with me at our next general meeting! You can find more information about AIGS committees here.

Speaking of that next meeting and volunteering. I am looking forward to Theron Roger’s presentation and stories about the gravesites he’s photographed as a volunteer for Find-A-Grave in our next general meeting. This should be an entertaining session!

Searching for Mr. X

I entertained myself this month with some long-form reading by Laura Todd Carns about a man named Mr. X. Back in 1931, a gentleman appeared in the town of Jackson, Mississippi, aimlessly wandering the streets, dazed and confused about who he was. Without giving too much of the intriguing storyline away, he was placed in the Mississippi State Hospital where he would appear in the register as “Mr. X.” It was there, also, where he would meet the grandmother of the author, Ligon Forbes. It was Ligon’s ambition that would set off a wave of publicity across America as news media wrote about and featured the mysterious Mr. X. Did they eventually figure out who this man was? I’ll let you read the story for that answer. But the long-form journalism ended with a poignant message that I thought bears repeating here:

“Awareness of what we can’t see is a kind of knowledge – a sense of the space between what we comprehend and never will, between the facts of history and the fiction of it, between verity and meaning. And when we are gone, who are we except the knowledge of us that other people hold? We are seeds of memory, to be scattered and nourished, lest we be lost forever.”

Carnes, Laura Todd, Searching for Mr. X, the Atavist Magazine, No. 119.

Ligon many decades after this event, shared this chapter of her life with her granddaughter, Laura, who then put pen-to-paper to share it with others. It’s our responsibility as the family genealogist to find these scattered seeds our ancestors have in their memory bank (if still alive) or left behind (if deceased) and nourish them into a story our own grandchildren would find interesting enough to share it with others.

There is both a science and art to the telling of tales. If you want to learn how to write life stories about your ancestor, then may I suggest you join me in the new Special Interest Group “Writing Your Ancestors Life Story” in 2022. I hope to see you there!

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