Monday, 20 June 2011

The Unexpected Benefits of Having an Online Presence

Several years ago my father received a telephone call from an Estonian relative living in Canada. This man, Heino Lestal, was trying to locate some of his distant relatives but as my father didn't recognise his name nor had any knowledge of his existence he politely replied “sorry, I can’t help you' and hung up. Years later my father relayed this story to me and I was left completely dumbfounded. "What??" I said to him incredulously, “you didn't think it was important to tell me?”. I have been researching our family history for years and he knows this. We have a rare surname and my genealogist has told me that all Lestals are distantly related.  I couldn't believe my father had been so silly but he can be like that  If he's busy or preoccupied, some things go completely over his head.  I asked my father "Did you ask this man anything about himself, did you learn anything at all?”.   “No.  I didn't think much of it at the time.” came his honest reply.

Thanks to the Internet I was able to locate Heino's family but it was years later and unfortunately he had died in the meanwhile. I corresponded with his wife and daughter Linda via email but they only knew limited information. Heino was the key but unfortunately he didn't write any of it down.

Earlier this year Linda wrote to me and asked if I could add my family history information to the genealogy website Geni. I thought it sounded like a good idea so I did. A few months later, completely out of the blue, I received a message from a distant cousin still living in Tallinn who informed me we are descended from the same family. I thought to myself “Wow! another relative has found me!”.  And as Tallinn is a small city it's quite possible I've walked past him in the street, visited the same restaurant or pub as him and not even know it. We're the same age, it's quite possible.

I think it's important to have an online presence, particularly in this day and age. It's so easy to find people and I want my family to find me. Over the years I have collated all the family history information I have been able to acquire from relatives and researchers in Estonia. I think it's important to share with family and hand down to future generations. After all we are what we came from.