Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is it possible?

Three weeks from this morning (God willing and the creek don’t rise), I will be sitting in a small LDS congregation in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. It will hopefully be my last act of official devotion prior to a week of intensive research in a neighboring county’s courthouse.

I have gone looking for David Scott’s family many, many, many times. So many times, in fact, that it is tempting to become discouraged before I even wend my way to Pennsylvania.

It all began in June 1973. It was my first trip to the Family History Library following a December 1972 return from an 18-month mission to eastern France. In order to be able to serve that mission, I had prayed to be released temporarily from the driving obligation I felt to my ancestors. They had been almost a tangible weight on my shoulders ever since my conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

So as I walked into that facility (then located in the Church Office Building at 50 East North Temple), I relaunched my boat on those tempestuous waters of family history research. As it turned out, that was the day I selected the branch of the great river of humanity which would virtually occupy my life for the subsequent almost four decades. And what a ride it has been!

Given half a chance, I could (and would!) tell you story after story...not only about the information I have found, but also about the serendipity that led me to the source. But we shall not go that direction today. Today, I simply want to record for myself and for anyone else who cares the feelings of my heart as I approach this next substantial research effort.

This is will not be my first visit to Lewistown. In September 2008, my sweet, patient, long-suffering husband accompanied me on another week-long expedition. Sweet, patient, and long-suffering he is, but genealogy fanatic he is not! And the long hours in the basement of the courthouse soon got to him. He helped as much as he could stand. And then, in the inimitable tones of Popeye the Sailorman, he got to the point where he couldn’t “stands no more!”

It is with intense chagrin that I recall that last Friday, after we had checked out of the motel. It was a raw, rainy day in Pennsylvania. The general color was gray. That also happened to be the color of our pick-up truck in which he spent all too many hours that day and into the night—some of it just sitting, waiting for a crazy wife who didn’t know when to quit, and the rest of it driving through the darkness back to the relative sanity and security of home.

Well, this year, his husbandly concern for a wife traveling alone has given way to his dread of having to repeat that September’s experience. We will rendezvous at the end of the week and travel to visit living relatives. For those, my husband has considerably more tolerance. And we will have a wonderful time.

But I can’t help but wonder what my feelings will be at that time, when I have to walk out of the courthouse in time to drive to meet his flight. Will I once again be leaving with the understanding that I will have to return and delve at least once more into the venerable old books, looking for that one clue, that one phrase that might—possibly in combination with other tiny clues and phrases—lead me to the identity of David’s parents...or even just a sibling. Please, dear Heavenly Father, just one additional peg in the board which will allow all sorts of new triangulations.

I suppose there is a remote possibility that I will leave rejoicing, having received that additional piece to the puzzle which may open up a whole new section of the image I am so blindly constructing. However, I almost dread even going there mentally, hesitating to allow myself even to imagine the soaring exultation so akin to emotional fireworks that is associated with a major new discovery (and one which is also usually accompanied by an abundance of tears).

Yet, I have had those experiences, some with David. Two stand out. The birthday present one year when I finally ordered the film containing Brice Collins’s will and learned that his daughter Catharine was indeed David’s wife, and that my second-great-grandfather was definitely, irrevocably, unquestionably their son.

The other, another May, after having accompanied my son to the Missionary Training Center and enduring that two-door experience that would separate us for two years. My reward for holding it together emotionally was time to research once again in the Family History Library (by then in its current location). That afternoon, I found a lead to a new Iowa resource. The next day, I followed it up and located David’s will, written in January 1857 and filed in 1871. As far as I know, he died in 1866. You figure it out!

So by a month from today, the answers will be in. The tally of new records viewed and reviewed will have increased geometrically. The hours will have been expended as enthusiastically and aggressively as I can muster. The missed lunches won’t really have been missed. The computer will have received its usual workout, accompanied this time by an expanded camera capability. My head and dreams will have been filled with almost-desperate pleadings for assistance and direction.

All those are the knowns. It’s the unknowns that tease me. Will I ever solve this in mortality? Or will I have to wait for the eventual unraveling that will be hopefully be made available in that “distant” spirit realm? As much as I love life and hope to stick around for a long while yet, the prospect of that face-to-face interview would make leaving at least bearable.

So, David, it’s you and me...again...once more. May our Heavenly Father be both guardian and guide on this next foray into the past.

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