03 August 2016

Our Often Unheralded and Underestimated Friends – Government Clerks! Never Underestimate What They Might Do For You!

Our Often Unheralded and Underestimated Friends – Government Clerks! Never Underestimate What They Might Do For You!

Last month I saw a post by Terry Feinberg‎ to the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG) FB page.  I don’t know Terry and even though her post was on an ISOGG page, the main takeaway for me was the reminder that not all clerks are “just” bureaucrats whose main goal in life seems to be to frustrate us (though there are many that do, whether inadvertently or intentionally).  The moniker is frequently undeserved. Many clerks want do what they can to be helpful.  Do give them the chance!  You might be pleasantly surprised as Terry and I both were.

In her post she states …

…  so called the Clerk's office and Tina in Current Records, wonder of wonders, instead of just telling me that it was the Chicago Fire (my dad wasn't THAT old! 1871) or assuring me that there was no fire, she actually took my information and that of my father and said she'd call back. *snort* Yeah, right.

But! She did call me back with the information that she found nothing but then did mention there was an Abraham Feinberger born on that date …

Voila!  With that, Terry had met with success.  

My similar story involves a clerk in Essex County Massachusetts, back in the late 1980s.  I called because I was seeking the citizenship papers of my great grandparents.  I had been completely stymied trying to learn anything more about my Finnish roots. 

I still remember getting a call back from that clerk and she told me that she couldn’t find any papers in the name Acey (sounded strange enough to me to be Finnish), and I remember that feeling of disappointment.  She then went on to say that she DID find papers in the name of Kujanpää with an AKA Acey.  It ends up that the family emigrated in 1900 as Kujanpää and before 1901 was using the name Acey.  Without that clerk going that extra distance and sharing with me what she had found, I could still be looking for the Acey family in Finland, and with NO success!

She is one of my genealogy heroes for sharing that extra bit of information that made all the difference in my research into that branch of the family.

Of course, in my case, it was also an invaluable lesson to make sure, when researching, that I worked backwards and clearly documented everything!  I never again assumed what the “names” of my foreign-born ancestors were!  I always acquired citizenship papers (if available), passenger records and other US created documents before “jumping the pond.”

What is your story about when a clerk went above and beyond?

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