Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Middle-of-the-Night Visitors and Clues

Approximately 38 years and three weeks ago, I was at home in an apartment in Wheaton, Maryland, working on typing up a couple of years worth of genealogical research. I'd already been to Colorado a few months previous so was not traveling that holiday season.

As I typed away into the wee hours of one morning, I suddenly had a strong impression that someone had come to visit. Unseen and silent, his presence was still so powerful that I kept waiting for him to make an accidental noise. Living alone, you would assume that I would have been anxious about this experience. However, there was nothing threatening about his being there.

Eventually, I realized that he wanted me to see something in my notes. I turned page after page to see if he'd give me a clue about where to look. Nothing. With every find I've made in the ensuing years, I've wondered if that was what he wanted me to see.

No one's been visiting to any degree lately, except for new ideas and new information (much of it fueled by DNA tests). Nevertheless, as I read through the 1856 Des Moines County, Iowa, census page by page for probably the eighth or ninth time, I'm seeing little tidbits that could be clues. And having these pass through my brain, I find myself wondering how many details I'm sliding right over that could be part of a solution to my 40-year-old research problem. (I've pretty much given up on the "one" key piece of information that will trigger the crumbling of the brick wall.)

What to do? What to do? The only thing I can figure out to do is keep looking, keep reading, keep talking, keep learning, keep pondering, keep guessing, keep extrapolating, keep trying to notice all the aberrations and trying to figure out the whys and the wherefores.

Because that's what family historians do...either accompanied or all on their own.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The threads

It wasn’t a breakthrough for me, although it was another justification for all the hours of abstracting I’ve done with pen or typewriter or computer in hand. All the entries of the same surname in the same county. Hour after hour of tedious recording. All in the hopes of finding some thread tying these people into my David SCOTT, Sr., or his family (whoever they turn out to be).

One of the SCOTT entries did turn out to help another researcher. Yippee! No, really, yippee! How grand that there was a clue that assisted him.

Last night it was a COLLINS, thanks to David’s wife’s being a COLLINS. An 1815 land record in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, tied a researcher back to her Mifflin County roots through Crawford County, Pennsylvania, to her Henry COLLINS who died in 1793!

True, others have contributed to my understanding through bits and pieces of their preserved notes. But when will there be that golden SCOTT thread that will weave all the SCOTTs and COLLINSes and ROBSONs and HENDERSONs and [VAN] SWEARINGENs and PATTERSONs and BRICEs and GRAYs into some comprehensible tapestry?

In the meantime, let last night serve as a reminder that we need to be looking everywhere......no, EVERYWHERE...... for clues, no matter how minute, no matter how remote, no matter how illogical, no matter how unlikely. As long as life endures and eyes see and hands write and brains cogitate, we must pluck the pieces from whatever source is presented.

It just might be that there are other less tangible beings who are trying to guide us to the end of the requisite thread. May we listen and work and trust them.