After several days of rest from my long road trip to and from the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in Springfield, I have reflected on my experience. This being my first national conference, I went with few expectations other than soaking up all the new information and knowledge I could muster, and most of all, the broad opportunities for networking with other like-minded family historians and writers.

At the end of each day, my husband would ask the same question: "Did you learn anything new today?" and I would nod, providing a small recount of my chosen lectures. Each hour-long presentation that I selected was certainly worthwhile on different levels, as I caught newly noted 'tidbits' and 'how-tos' for genealogical exploration. But as I sit in front of my computer today with new found inspiration, the central theme of note for my learned experience is to trust my gut.

As I listened closely to several of the conference speakers, I picked up on the same subtle theme: keep your eyes open to the small clues; expand your search to your ancestor's neighbors or fellow church members and listen to your own intuition.

We have all experienced it; finding records along the way as we frantically try to follow the trail of an ancestor, only to toss questionable records aside, disregarding their importance. Some clues certainly take our attention off-track, yet many others occasionally lead to enlightened discoveries. Which is just what occurred to me today when I went back through an old file, retrieving documents held for later review.

Spending the last several years searching for the county of origin of my Irish ancestors, I have over time, filled a file full of unconnected dots: records, documents, obituaries of my Irish great great grandparents along with a few records of their Irish neighbors living close by. Rather than disregarding the tidbits as I came across them, I saved them; printed them off and placed them in the growing file.

And this last week, as I reflected back on trusting my gut, I looked at the tidbits again and found a connection: A name on a census record that could be the key to linking my ancestor to his Irish county of birth. For you, my genealogical details are not important. What is important, however, is to learn a lesson that is most fundamental to your journey: trust your intuition-the voice in your head that stops to review a new lead-wondering if perhaps you found a clue. How many times have you moved on, disregarding their importance? What if you had listened to yourself and saved all of those fragments of information to be reviewed another time?

Keep in reserve your unconnected tidbits for later; tucking them away to be reviewed with fresh eyes. Because your own instincts and intuition can eventually help you connect the dots; leading to enlightened details of your genealogical hunt.

Keep searching for answers,

As a 'newbie' genealogist years ago, I became quite empowered with my new-found skills. Quickly developing my on-line family tree and discovering ancestors unknown, I felt unstoppable. Records were popping up in front of me at every click of the button, lighting a fire that propelled me into my obsession. Feeling at awe with my skills, I was certain I could quickly apply for and become a member of every lineage society available. And being driven to prove my Revolutionary War ancestral lineage, I completed the DAR application form, attaching my records for proof and enthusiastically sent it off to Washington.

As the weeks passed, I continued to view my Ancestry.com tree, browsing for new records and basking in the glow of my accomplishment. I waited to receive my DAR congratulatory letter, wondering where I might store my membership certificate. 'Should I frame it?' 'Or perhaps place it in a photo album for safe keeping.' 'Well, I'll figure it out once I have the certificate in hand.'

But when the letter arrived, my confidence meter was shaken by the results: 'additional proof needed.'
With a knee-jerk reaction of defensiveness of my obvious flawless research, I attempted to convince myself 'they' were wrong and I was right. I 'dug my heels in', folded up the letter and stuffed it away in a kitchen drawer. 'What does the DAR know anyway and do I really want to go to their stuffy meetings?'

After a few days of licking my wounds, I picked up the letter once more to review their recommendations. Suggestions were provided for locating further proof of lineage and although I felt confident in my research, I conceded the DAR might have a slight edge of knowledge over me! So I pulled out my notes and records and sent off for further documents from the National Archves.

Feeling challenged by the 'know it alls' of the DAR, I diligently continued my research. And as the days and weeks passed, my detective work grew into an obsession. Looking through every record with a 'fine toothed comb', my eye began to pick up hints not previously noticed. Names spelled slightly different within search engines sometimes revealed new records of proof. I began to explore leads to documents that I had once discounted, reviewing them further and finding new clues. Like Sherlock Holmes, I was consumed with single handedly locating every possible record of proof of every ancestor for my application, proving the DAR had nothing over me!

And then I found it, the 'golden record': The missing link that provided the final connection of proof to my patriot ancestor. It was truly my 'ah ha moment' of genealogical research. The skies opened, the stars aligned and angels fluttered their wings! I did it and I knew I did it. I proved those DAR 'know it alls' wrong. I put the final piece of my research puzzle together, rewriting my application with numerous additional proofs and sent it back to Washington with a new-found feeling of omnipresence.

My congratulatory letter arrived a few weeks later and soon afterwards came the DAR membership certificate. With an immediate trip to the frame shop, the certificate was proudly hung in plain view for a constant reminder of my newly developed detective skills; skills that continue to be fine-tuned with every new lineage society application.

As I reflect on the experience, I now have a deeper perspective of the process. Genealogy is fun, exciting and typically thrilling but proving your actual lineage to an ancestor is a science. And proving connection to your ancestors, without a doubt, solidifies your lineage. As a result of the DAR application process, I developed a better eye for research and improved my skills. The DAR meetings have turned out to be less 'stuffy' and more worthwhile than first thought. And if I ever loose interest in genealogy, I can quickly whip up a resume for Sherlock's new sidekick.

The Daughters of the American Revolution have now made their website available to nonmembers for research. This can be a valuable tool in locating Revolutionary War patriots within your lineage and accessing member's proofs. Go to dar.org. And by all means, consider joining this wonderful organization.

Keep searching for answers,