I’ve been thinking about my Earhart/Hockman question and trying to figure out what difference it makes anyway. Why do I care whether Mary Elizabeth was a Hockman or an Earhart child? I know, from my sister-in-law as well as my professional training, that your adoptive parents and their families are your own, and they have a huge influence on your experiences and tastes and opinions. They play a major role in making you who you turn out to be.
So why is it that I find myself not doing much to trace the families of John Earhart and Margaret Shotwell? (I do actually have some information on each of them and their family lines, a fair amount on the Shotwells, much of it acquired before I focused on Mary;s origins.) Every time I see something that would lure me in the direction of tracing one of those lines I make a decision to postpone doing it, waiting to finally figure out what family my paternal great grandmother really came from.
This leads me to the question: what is it about researching my family tree that gives me such a kick? Why do I do it? One answer is that I *really* want to know where it all began. Where did I come from? What roots anchor me to my particular place in this great big world? For me, these desires mean knowing my direct ancestral roots (along with all the collateral ones). I want to know the stories of each person, and that may well include being part of a family not biologically related (or perhaps biologically related on one side and not the other). However, I have a strong need to know who each of the biological parents was as a starting point.
Thus, for now anyway, my solution is to list Mary as unknown in terms of her relationship to John Earhart and Margaret Shotwell. Given the time period of her life, and the place, I may never be able to tease out the information about her family of origin.
The searching I have done to try to answer my questions about Mary raise intriguing questions about the John Earhart-Margaret Shotwell family. Did they really adopt (at least informally) two children? Was it the middle two (William S. and Mary E.)? If so why the 20+ year gap between their two biological sons? Were either of the adopted children related to one or the other parent’s family? So far I haven’t found any evidence that Mary was related, but I also don’t have any evidence of her birth other than that provided on her death certificate where the information came from Mary’s daughter. Likewise I now have a death certificate for William Samuel Earhart which says that his father was John Earhart, mother was unknown, and that he was born in Bethel, Ohio. The information on this death certificate came from William’s wife who he met once he left his parents’ home and Ohio. So was John Earhart fathering children in the next county west, and then taking them in? Or is this a case of multiple people with the same name (John Earhart was not an uncommon name, there were several in the area during this time period, and they were probably all related in some way.)