Martha Bryan was the one ancestor my grandmother could never find. Her great-grandmother on her direct maternal line, and she only knew her married name. After my grandmother passed away and I caught the family history bug at around twelve years old, I was determined to break down the brick walls she had left behind. And I did.
I found Rice Bryan, Martha’s husband, and his parents and siblings in Hancock County, Illinois. I found everything I could about the family, including a marriage record for Rice Bryan, to a Julia Spaulding. But nothing on Martha. Absolutely nothing. If I hadn’t posted my family history online, I would not have found her.
I posted my findings on the Bryan family on this blog. It was a public blog, but intended only for family to see. The idea was that maybe other lost relatives might find it, but I didn’t think that would really happen. I stopped posting to the blog after awhile. I was busy with school and didn’t have time to update it.
Then, out of the blue, I got an email that someone had posted a comment on my blog. I read the comment and was utterly shocked. This was probably the greatest and most helpful genealogy clue I have ever received:
On a divorce record for James D. Logan of Hancock County, Illinois he names Rice Bryan as having adultery with his wife, Martha Logan, 1860’s. Divorce was granted.
After contacting the person who posted the comment, and doing some more digging, I figured out the story of Martha Bryan, also known as Martha Green, Martha Badley, Martha Logan, or Martha Evans. She was married and divorced three times. The reason why I could never find a marriage record for her and Rice Bryan was because they were, according to all available evidence, never actually married. A widowed Martha Bryan applied for a pension because Rice Bryan had been a veteran of the Civil War. However, the pension was never granted because Martha could not produce a marriage certificate! The one husband she never divorced, she never married either. This woman had run away from her past in Illinois to live in Kansas, and left no ties behind. If it weren’t for this comment on my blog, I may have never found her.
That is why you should blog about your ancestors. And don’t stop there. Share your family history online. As much of it as you can, in as many places as you can. The internet allows for so much collaboration on genealogical research that it is mind blowing. See the list below for just a few of the amazing free resources that are available.
Ways to Share Your Family History Online
- WordPress or Blogger blog: Write the stories of your ancestors. Then share the link with your family and friends via Facebook or Email.
- Facebook: Create a group for your cousins and share stories with each other.
- Instagram: Share your family photos and the stories behind them.
- Find A Grave: Create a memorial page for your ancestor. You can even post a request for someone to take a photo of the tombstone!
- FamilySearch Family Tree, WikiTree, or similar collaborative trees: Collaborate with relatives to create a page for your ancestor that contains sources, stories, photos, and comments about the research.
So what are you waiting for? Put your family history online!