Carson Smith was always curious about where he came from.
He’s combed through public records, manifests and census data for the last several years in an attempt to track down any long-lost relations on the farthest reaches of his family tree.
Through his searches, the Pasadena resident has found he has relatives all over the world that were unknown to him before he started the process.
Tracking one’s family from their humble beginnings to now is becoming increasingly popular. For one reason or another, people have a keen interest in discovering where they come from.
It’s something I’ve been intrigued in the past and, maybe one day, I’ll pursue it a bit more.
Being a resident of this province, it should be no surprise that Smith has found relatives England and Ireland.
It is surprising that he’s found relatives from the continent of Africa and as far away as New Zealand.
After finding some frustration with popular family-tracking website Ancestry — after paying the monthly fee, he wasn’t a fan of paying additional money for advanced services — Smith decided to track the rest of his family through crowd sourcing.
In October, Smith started the Newfoundland Genealogy Society group on Facebook with the idea providing a place for people to share stories and gather information on their family history.
“It is information that should be shared freely,” said Smith. “The stories are the big thing I’m looking to get for this.”
It isn’t just limited to the west coast of the province, either. The group has close to 1,000 members from all over the world, each of them with some connection to Newfoundland and Labrador.
The idea is to find common threads with another member in order to piece together information that they hadn’t realized before.
The process is akin to putting together that puzzle that’s been sitting in your closet for the last five years. It is unfinished because several key pieces went missing over the years.
Still, you lay out your family puzzle in front of you and pay attention to the pieces you’re missing — just try to forget about the coffee stain from the time it was used as a coaster.
With your chips on the table, so to speak, the hope is that a member of the group holds a piece to your puzzle.
Like Smith when he first started researching his family, I’ve taken baby steps into discovering some long-lost family members.
There hasn’t been anything crazy like taking one of those DNA tests that are becoming popular, or paying for membership to an ancestry site. My search has been limited to the scattered Google search and a run through some old census records I’ve come across.
Being my grandfather on my mother’s side was born in Boston and still has family in the United States, I figured it’d be interesting to see what goes into this lowly scribe.
I’ve gotten as far as an old shipping manifest with the name of a distant relative scrawled on its pages.
I’d like to know more, and maybe I will one of these days.
Smith’s research into the Smith side of his family has plateaued, it seems. He’s stuck somewhere in the mid-1800s.
He figures some members of Smith relatives decided to change their name to Brown while on their way across the Atlantic as they looked for a fresh start.
He can trace his Blackler roots to the early 1700s.
There is a simple reason Smith continues to push to go further back.
“I wanted to have it for my girls so they can see where they’re from,” said Smith. “I’ve learned so much.”
Nicholas Mercer is the online editor with The Western Star. He lives in Corner Brook and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org