Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trip results

Some of you may remember my anguished prelude to a research trip last month. Just in case anyone was wondering, here’s what happened.

I did drive up to Huntingdon on Saturday, spent the evening working on a remediation project, attended church the next morning, and then drove up to my host family’s home in Belleville. All went as planned with the minor exception that, whereas I am normally grabbing every last minute to meet a deadline, I actually left home a half an hour ahead of schedule on Saturday morning! Motivation is everything!!!

I reported to the courthouse in Lewistown either as it opened at 8:00 or within the following 10 minutes every morning except Thursday when I went to Mifflintown. I stayed every day until they kicked me out (except Friday when my husband arrived and insisted we had to leave an hour and a half early...in his defense, that was an hour longer than I had negotiated for in the first place.)

During all those hours, I looked at hundreds of records. I read and read and read. I prayed and prayed and prayed. I thought what a simple matter it would be to come across a phrase like “. . . and to my daughter Martha Collins,” or “The previous owner was David Scott, son of an early settler William Scott,” or anything similar. My heart started beating harder several times as similar clues about relationships appeared in those old records. The only problem was that none of them were about my families.

No, once again, the definitive declaration eluded me. It has begun to sink in that it is entirely possible that such a statement no longer exists...maybe never did.

What I did come home with, however, is a new set of clues. I did find a paper no one else had collected from my fifth-great-grandmother’s probate file where my fourth-great-grandfather Brice Collins contested his mother’s capacity to write a will. Both Brice and his son-in-law David Scott were named in the estate papers of a John Patterson. Looking at the Belmont County records, David is not a prolific purchaser at estate sales...usually only those to whom he has some relationship. So this may be significant.

Or it may not. John Patterson may simply have been a near neighbor who died owning tempting articles that David wanted as a relatively new head of household.

Then there are the lawsuits where Brice’s executors are filing against a John Scott in behalf of John Connell, then later William Connell...one of the few Scott-Scott transactions I’ve discovered. But there are only appearance or execution dockets. The court of common pleas records seem to be missing. (Yes, more compassion for those of you in burned counties!)

So was it worth a week of intense effort even though there were no smoking guns? Absolutely! Am I sorry I went to that much trouble for so few results? Definitely not. Will I do it again? Yes, probably. And when I do, I’ll be following up the clues I got this time and looking for more.

Will this puzzle eventually get solved? Well, yes, but it may happen only when I finally get to do those post-mortal interviews. And, trust me, I’ll be first in line with my pen and paper (since I suspect we may not get to take our laptops), eager for the revelations that will help all the discrepant clues come together into a cohesive whole. They say that happens, that all the pieces really do make sense once you know the real story.

So, David, your mysteries remain unsolved as yet. But I get the feeling I’m gaining on you. Don’t get too comfortable!

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