I never particularly cared who my ancestors were, but I have learned to use ancestor.com, fold3, findagrave, etc. in my research. Nevertheless, when someone actually knows about their ancestor who fought in the Civil War, I admit my curiosity is piqued. I promised myself that someday I would get around to finding out just who my ancestors were. Then I met Ryan Hendricks.
Ryan is a genealogist with a twist–he specializes in Civil War ancestry. He graciously put together two volumes of information, records, illustrations, letters, and newspaper clippings concerning both sides of my family and its involvement in the War Between the States. I had both Union and Confederate forebearers, and probably a few who simply wished it would all go away so they could get back to horse breeding. I was delighted with everything Ryan did–the binders, the timing, the attention to detail–so when he expressed concern about business slowing down because of Covid-19, I thought I could help. What follows is an interview with Ryan and some interesting insights into his world of Civil War genealogy.
Meg: Background, please. How did you first get interested in Civil War genealogy?
Ryan: It started out as a hobby. I used to collect Civil War images and other identified relics. None of these images or relics would ever come with research, so I started doing it myself. I wanted to know where they fought if they were wounded, captured, and their family history. Almost all collectors’ relics and images are always switching hands. Eventually, people started noticing my research that came with the image or relic I was trading or selling.
Meg: What made you realize you were good at it? Did following threads down rabbit holes come naturally?
Ryan: I started realizing I was good at it when people started asking where the research that came with their image came from. A guy by the name of Brendan Synnamon gave me my first paid research job, though. Brendan owns the “Union Drummer Boy” In Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. From that point on, I went around and asked all these collectors if they needed any research done.
Meg: How did you decide to make a business of it?
Ryan: I had just graduated from college with my history degree, so naturally, when people started asking me to do research for them, I saw a business opportunity. My historical binders are very well-priced to other historical researchers, so I was doing three or four binders a day for the first couple of months. That’s when I realized this could be a profitable business venture.
Meg: Has Covid-19 Interfered with business?
Ryan: Absolutely! Covid-19 has slowed business down a lot, and I understand. My historical research binders are something nice to have; however, they aren’t a necessity. People have stopped buying things they don’t need right now, and it has brought my business to a screeching halt. I went from doing 15-20 binders a week to doing maybe 2-5 a week now. It is incredibly frustrating, but I know eventually, my name will get out to people, and business will pick back up.
Meg: Did you ever find anyone with super-famous relatives? What is that story?
Ryan: This is actually a pretty funny story. So, my girlfriend and I started dating about two and a half months ago. She and I have known each other for years, but historical research and genealogy had never been discussed until we started dating. One night, we sat down, watching TV. She said, “You know I am related to one of the witches in the Salem Witch Trials, right?” That very night she and I sat at my computer for three hours, and I traced her ancestry all the way back to the mid-1600s. Low and behold, she wasn’t lying. In fact, she is the 7th great-granddaughter of Sarah Bassett, whose sister Elizabeth (Bassett) Proctor was tried during the Salem Witch Trials. It was awesome to do the family research for their family. However, it’s a little creepy.
Meg: What was the biggest surprise you’ve uncovered?
Ryan: I did a historical binder on two brothers just yesterday who fought in the 14th New Hampshire. One of the brothers was shot in the forehead with a minié ball and actually survived. I come across stuff like this all the time. Soldiers usually don’t survive wounds like that. I would honestly say this is the best part of my business. I feel like I get to know these soldiers personally.
Meg: What is next for you in the genealogy world? Any big plans?
Ryan: Right now, I am just focused on making my business survive this pandemic. Eventually, I would like to write a book with fictional characters using some of the factual evidence I have found on soldiers while doing my research. I would love to put together a book on the real soldiers; however, that would take years of research to accomplish. Maybe that can be a future goal of mine, but right now, I just want to grow my business and build a name for myself.
I am confident that we will all survive the pandemic, somehow or other. I would only like to add that, although I initially had no interest in my own genealogy, working with Ryan has changed my mind. He is knowledgeable, cheerful, and thoughtful. His binders are designed so that other finds can be inserted where necessary–just in case you actually find that CDV of your fourth-great grandfather John and his lovely war bride Anna of 1863, or the new American Battlefield Trust map that shows clearly where fifth-great cousin Ransom’s gun held off the enemy at Antietam. Ryan’s prices are excellent, his work is accurate, and he is fast. I recommend Ryan Hendricks. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 9379176848.