This post may contain affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may receive a small commission (at zero cost to you). Please see my full disclosure policy for details.
We are almost at the end of our 2020 A to Z Challenge. Have you been enjoying yourself so far? I have loved sharing this topic especially when folks are forced to stay at home due to the Covid-19 Virus. I hope you are all staying safe and finding opportunities to engage in activities like family research that you would not otherwise have the time for.
For today’s V post I wanted to share about my search for VAN VALKENBURG relatives and the realities that just because one shares the same surname does not necessarily mean you are connected.
My Van Valkenburg Connection
Great-Grandma Hazel Van Valkenburg
My Agonizing Research of the Van Valkenburg Family
If you were to do a Google search for Van Valkenburg, one of the first sites that would pop up is “The National Association of the Van Valkenburg(h) Family” put together by descendants of Lambert Van Valkenburgh in 1970.
At first – I got so excited and signed up for a paid membership in order to get whatever information they had about my ancestors. Sandra, the very nice family genealogist, sent me some family sheets and lo and beyond (funny enough) the information she had was what my mom had previously given her in the 90s! So that was a wasted $10 but for the fact, it taught me something:
Just because my great-grandmother was Dutch, had the name Van Valkenburg, and hailed from Upper State New York, did not mean that she had any known connections to the “official” Van Valkenburg(h) family.
So that family crest on the website? Not my great-grandmother’s (unless we find a connection going further back).
Do I belong to that “national association”? Not anymore (stopped paying dues after the first year when I hit my head against a figurative wall. And perhaps I never should have been accepted into the association when Sandra saw the family lineage that I shared.
What next after a research stumbling block?
I had to put my detective’s hat back on and research the family line the old fashion way. One treasure trove of information was my Great-Great Grandfather’s obituary that someone kindly posted on Find a Grave. It confirmed the names of my great-grandmother’s siblings and of her parents. And thanks to my detective work, I was able to trace my Van Valkenburg line back to 1789! I still have a lot of digging left to do but I keep tapping away.
3 Suggestions for Staying Positive After You’ve Hit a Stumbling Block
Like me, you might want to scream with disappointment and frustration. But remember that just because one door closes, that doesn’t mean that another won’t open. Here are 3 suggestions for how you too can stay positive after you’ve hit a stumbling block in your ancestry-search.
#1. Turn your attention onto another branch of your family tree for a while.
When I get frustrated with my research or lack thereof with one branch of the family, I take some time to recharge by focusing on another line of the family that hopefully can provide more puzzle pieces to put together and fewer riddles to solve.
#2. Reach out to Other Genealogists Who’ve Shown Interest in Your Ancestor.
During your research, you might have seen a name or two pop up from time to time in connection to your ancestor. Perhaps they added a photo or an obituary to your relative’s Find a Grave page? Or perhaps they have your ancestor listed in their family tree on Ancestry.com?
When you’ve hit that stumbling block, there is nothing wrong with reaching out with a polite email to the contributor via either of those sites. Remember to be respectful, polite, and grateful, and you just might hear back! They might have stories, photos, and further connections for your tree! Just because you can’t build your family tree upwards doesn’t mean you can not learn a lot by building horizontally too!
#3. Consider hiring a professional genealogist.
If this particular branch of your family means so much to you, your last best bet would be to speak with a professional genealogist. Nowadays, they are everywhere online. However, I’d personally go with ancestry.com (not an ad!) who offer Ancestry Pro Genealogists.
According to the website,
Our researchers have spent years helping clients tackle difficult family history problems, find family members through DNA analysis, and trace their family trees. Using online and offline resources—and experts around the world—we have the experience and passion to help you reach your family history goals, large or small.
Pricing is not cheap. As of 25 April 2020, prices start at $2,500 USD. However, if this is very important to you – perhaps you can ask for gift certificates for Christmas or your birthday to help with the cost?
According to the website, gift certificates are available upon request.
Sharing is Caring
I hope my story of searching my VAN VALKENBURG family connections has been encouraging and that you found the 3 suggestions for how best to bounce back after reaching a stumbling block to be helpful! Keep pushing forward and I hope to hear how your own search is going.