Ancestry.com started the Expert Connect service nearly a year ago. For those of you that aren’t aware, Expert Connect is an online tool available on Ancestry.com that will link you to hundreds of experienced genealogists who can assist you with your research goals. We recently talked with Willard Edison, an Ancestry.com customer and a security supervisor in Puget Sound, WA who hired an expert to help uncover a mystery in his father’s family history. This is what he had to say.
EC [Expert Connect]: What first got you interested in researching your genealogy?
WE [Willard Edison]: I started this out of memory and respect for my mother, who conducted genealogy research on our family from the 1970s until her passing in the late 90s. All her work was done snail mail to county recorder offices, historical societies, and by accessing Mormon records in Salt Lake City. I was only going to digitize her work for posterity. In the process, my wife and I became hooked on genealogy as well. I’m sure my Mother is smiling from Heaven.
EC: What caused you to use Expert Connect on Ancestry.com?
WE: When my dad reached retirement age, he could not get his SS benefits until he made a legal name change. That’s when we all found out that our true last name was NOT the last name we’d all lived by throughout our lives, as he had not been formally adopted as a child as he thought he was. Huge surprise.
This began a search for my true paternal grandfather. I could not get beyond 1916 in the deserts of Nevada and the area around San Francisco. In that research, I did find out my grandmother had several children who died within months of birth, which was original research no one in the family knew about, but I was out of leads and out of ideas. I thought “what the heck. I’ll spend a few dollars, hire a pro, and see what they can do. It will either confirm a dead end or lead us somewhere”.
As a professional security guy with a background in criminal investigations, I knew that the results not only depended on the quality of my expert, but how lucky she was as well. There is just SO much information that sits quietly waiting for original discovery, in places I’m not even aware of. I was prepared for disappointing results, only because I had cases in my own investigative career that I could not solve.
EC: How was your experience with the expert that you had hired, Sharolyn McCoy?
WE: Superb. The information I already developed had led me to Missouri, so figured I should hire an expert familiar with Missouri genealogy. Ultimately she actually did very little in Missouri, because she uncovered a treasure trove of information about my grandfather in California and Oregon. This is testimony to the quality of my expert. How she reached out and discovered/collected so much good information literally astounded me. I can’t say enough about the hard work and effort my expert put into this project.
For almost 5 years, I tried everything I could think of to determine where my grandfather came from, what his life was like, how his life affected mine, and what happened to him. In less than a month, she answered all these questions and completely documented her research. My gratitude goes beyond money.
EC: What will you do with the research that your expert delivered?
WE: I’ll share it with my one remaining sister, my children and their kids. Kids born in the 1990s and more recently do not even have a sense of their own history and life, because the world is changing so fast. If I can make my grandparents’ world real to my grandkids, it will all be worth it.
If you want an experience like Willard and want the help of a professional genealogist, check out the “Hire an Expert” section on the Ancestry.com homepage, or visit http://expertconnect.ancestry.com.