Geography has always been an important and vexing part of family history work. Human families are incredibly mobile, and can migrate long distances en masse in short order. My maternal grandfather, Cyril Sylvester Dooley was forced to pack up and leave his farm in Bottineau North Dakota during the “dust bowl” years of the US Great Depression. He, and his wife and seven kids moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, leaving much behind. Fortunately, there are good records at both ends of the move, and my mother has gone to great pains to further document the facts. This is not always the case.
The Urge to Go
Among both my mother’s (Guimonds) and father’s (Roushars) ancestors are religious rebels. The Guimonds are said to have emigrated because of the Jesuit persecutions against the Huguenots. In the Bohemian hamlet of Telecí, it is rumored that my ROUŠAR ancestors had to go underground with their worship during at least two different periods when religious persecution threatened their safety.
Entire populations can be forced to relocate by any number of circumstances or unholy forces, and much of the formal documentation may be lost forever. Surprisingly, there are often tiny fragments of knowledge preserved, or later unearthed, that can be used to reassemble the history and give us deep insights into the struggles and the fortitude of our people. The pervasiveness and flexibility of the world-wide-web has made some of these fragments of knowledge much more accessible, though often hard to find.
Long Lost Cousin intends to take you on geographic expeditions from the comfort of your own phone, then drag you around the world to your ancestral homelands. Using a “big data” model capable of storing massive amounts of information, we are building knowledge in the system of people, places and events. The combinations of these components of historical knowledge will enrich the research process and make the game more fun.
Long Lost Cousin will use advanced geographic mapping techniques to show the origin and destination of important moves in an individual’s life story, and in the stories of groups. The advantage of the cross-pollination of these different types of information will be deeper perspectives into the pressures in society that move people about.
An important part of Long Lost Cousin will be sponsored travel opportunities for groups of 30 to 50 people. Our excursions will go to cities throughout the US and the world for the specific purpose of searching out family roots. We’ll engage genealogists and translators (as needed) to make the excursions most productive. We are interested in getting our community’s input into how to make these the most valuable and memorable experiences possible. Please chime in with your thoughts.