My reflections of a great genealogy mentor

Kenneth C Sheaffer

He was a man I never met with or talked to but yet he was the greatest influence on my genealogy research. Ken was an older gentleman who actually was related to me in a not too far distant way. We shared a common ancestor,  his Great Grandfather was my 5th Great Grandfather! Ken was around 85 years old when I reached out to him in an email from which I got his email address from the old website in 2005. He had done research on my Sheaffer family line and was the first to publish this line on the internet in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I reached out to him in this email and to my astonishment he responded within 24 hours! I was surprised that at his advanced age how internet savvy he was and how he had to actually walk me through some internet publishing problems I was having at the time. We exchange emails quite often over the next 5-6 years with him often being the teacher and guiding me in research areas to look. See Ken was always preaching to me to verify an ancestor with source records. He always preached to me how one must not give up when all else looks lost, that a clue will pop up when you least expect it and from a source that you may have passed off as irrelevant in the past. How true these words were! Over the years as we discussed areas to research and items to look for,  he always desired to find our common ancestor’s obituary. With me living in the area that our ancestor lived and he living across the country in Washington State I was his eyes and ears at these research institutions. We found many records together over the years, we were like a real life detective team with he the experienced veteran and me the raw recruit. Finally after 5 years of research I found our ancestors obituary in a place that I had for so long overlooked and thought not possible. When I found this and everything matched up I could not wait to email Ken with the obituary and it’s details. I actually felt so proud that I was able to find this link to our ancestor for him that I had such a gratifying feeling that I was able to provide for him my mentor that missing piece he had so long searched for. As time went our communications were getting less frequent as my research would dry up as I would go periods of no research at all. Even during these times I would always try to send an email checking in on him to see how he was doing. in 2011 I was doing some research through land records and felt I was honing in on where the original “Sheaffer Homestead” was. This was something Ken cherished to know more about as well, and so as I was looking into some areas that had promise I reached out to Ken and after not hearing back from him after a few tries and a few weeks I was starting to get concerned as by this time he was almost 90. I started to do a research that i had dreaded to do and that was to try and find his possible obituary being listed online somewhere. I was deeply saddened to find his obituary in an online newspaper that day in June 2011 and really felt I had lost a close family member. What I was shocked to learn was Ken was a fascinating man himself as was a renowned forrester in the state Washington, and was WWII fighter pilot and yet in our correspondence non of this ever came up. I feel bad that I never asked him about his own story, that I fee I have left such an interesting life unfinished in telling his story for future generations of Sheaffer’s.  As I have continued my research since Ken’s passing I can still feel his presence when I find a document I have been looking for after a slow careful investigative style of research. I was fortunate to have known and developed a relationship with Ken and know that I would not be the researcher that I am today without his guidance and encouragement. He was a great friend, a great teacher, but most of all he was a great Mentor.  Thanks Ken!

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One Response to My reflections of a great genealogy mentor

  1. Pingback: My Genealogy Mentor Kenneth C Sheaffer’s Old Family History Page! | Sheaffer Genealogy

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