It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve had a blog post at The Hipster Historian, but summer vacations, pirate camps (yes, really), and “real life” jobs have gotten us a little busy here. But we are back with a new posting schedule (3x a week) and a surprise new venture (a podcast!) on the horizon. Be sure to check back as we update you with the newest later this week. In the mean time, meet the newest interview in our Genealogy in the Works series, Sara Cochran — The Skeleton Whisper.
What is the Skeleton Whisperer?
The Skeleton Whisperer is a genealogy research business, and I rattle the bones in the family closet, lifting the veil on long buried secrets and stories. I do this by offering record retrieval in Southern California as well as general family tree research. I’ve researched in most of the United States as well as Ireland. I also speak at local genealogical societies on topics like organizing your family photos and getting the most out of newspapers.
How did you get started in genealogy?
Like many genealogists, I have my Grandmother to thank for getting me into genealogy. She had gathered up some of the family photos and organized them into albums, which I got to see at a family reunion. Seeing the faces attached to the names and stories were really captivating, I was instantly drawn in and wanting to know more about them!
Tell us a story about your family or a family you have researched!
A client of mine hired me to learn more about someone in her family tree; the family legend was that he went insane and murdered his family and she wanted to find out if the legend was true. I located several newspaper articles about the incident which ended up confirming the legend. It was July of 1893, and Wisconsin was in the grips of an unprecedented heatwave, which was ruining the crops. William, who felt he had run out of options to support his family, simply couldn’t cope any longer, murdered his wife and children before attempting suicide. He ended up spending the rest of his life in an insane asylum.
What would you say to other genealogists?
My best advice is to be inquisitive and intentionally seek out the whole truth of your ancestors’ experience. It’s very easy to find a single piece of the puzzle and stop there, but it’s very rare to learn the whole story all at once. I have a Catholic ancestor who divorced her husband in the 1930s, which was pretty unusual. I wondered for a long time why she made that decision – so I kept digging and eventually learned that, among other things, that he was physically abusive to her and their children.
What is your favorite thing about genealogy?
I’ve always been fascinated by the ancient Egyptians, who believed that as long as you were remembered, you were immortal. I like to think that when we seek our ancestors and learn their stories, we give them that immortality. But even more than that, I love watching my clients discover connections to their roots and see similarities between themselves and those long-gone family members. I’ve seen real healing happen as my clients learn the reasons behind decisions their ancestors made. It’s humbling and inspiring.
Thank you so much to Sara the Skeleton Whisperer. If you want to check out other interviews in our Genealogy in the Works series, click here and be sure to e-mail us at thehipsterhistorian (at) gmail (dot) com if you know of anyone that would be perfect to feature on our blog.