I pushed the “send” button. And then I cried.
I know, it sounds dramatic. Admittedly, I was up late the night before working on research, but this was a man’s LIFE.
Last night, I came across a newspaper article a friend had posted on Facebook. Her local county coroner’s office was looking for help identifying the families of two veterans who had died in the last month.
The coroner’s office had used its resources, with help from the police and the local veterans’ service commission, but had come up empty-handed. They would have to rely on tips from the public to find the families of these men. And if that failed? The Veterans Service Commission would provide a small stipend for burial assistance and contact the National Cemetery Administration and the VA to help arrange the burial.
These men would have been honored as vets and buried, but their families might never know what had happened to them. What a tragedy!
It felt a little cocky to start the research. After all, who am I to think I could do better than the people who had already been tackling this problem for weeks? Certainly, the resources at my disposal were far fewer.
But I made headway. Years of practice locating living relatives came in handy. My genealogy skills proved their worth and I found the family of one of the men. I prepared a sourced report and emailed it to myself so I could contact the coroner’s office in the morning.
I woke up this morning with mixed feelings. I was confident that I had found the right people. I was eager to help return a lost sheep to the fold. But I also questioned myself. Self-esteem has always been a problem for me. Was I really capable of doing this? Had I made a mistake? Were these people going to think I was crazy, calling out of the blue and saying that I knew who this man’s family was (without ever having met them)?
But a friend posted a video to Facebook. One that I seriously needed to see.
It was time to ask the universe.
I called the coroner’s office and emailed them my report. Then, as I mentioned before, I cried. I cried because I had taken a leap of faith; I had trusted myself to be good enough. I cried because there was a man who might not ever be remembered properly if I wasn’t willing to do what I could do. I cried because I actually DO have the ability to make the world a better place. It didn’t happen the way I imagined it as a child, but that’s what I had always dreamed about: changing things, making things better, having an impact on the lives of others.
For lack of a better term, it was like using my powers for good.
Genealogy isn’t just putting together charts and holding on to old dusty photographs so that future generations will remember. Genealogy is here and now. We have the power to do something amazing, if we are willing to try.