In my last post I threatened to tell you several stories regarding the fruits of giving things a second look and now I am going to make good on that threat.
What should you revisit when doing your genealogical research? Everything. That would make a very short post, so here, instead, are two tales of things I have revisited.
When I was writing my post on Veteran’s Day I went back to look at some of the information I had accumulated about the Blood brothers. I was missing one small item, so I did a simple Google search on the 1st Mechanics and Engineers. There was lots of stuff I had seen before, but there was also a book named My Brave Engineers, a history of the regiment. I have covered this material so many times, how could I have missed this book?
Here is a wonderful thing about my life. I work at Yale University giving me access to one of the world’s great libraries. Many people think this is the only reason I work at Yale and they are not far from the truth. Here is another wonderful thing, the science library is in the basement of my building and the university will deliver any book I want to the science library. I am incredibly spoiled. I looked in the online card catalog, the book was there and, again online, I asked for it. The next morning I went downstairs to retrieve it. Everyone in the library knows me. I’m the one that gets the 100-year-old books that no one has borrowed for years; the ones that are falling apart and that arrive with a note, “return to binding when user is finished.” Librarians often thank me for keeping the lonely books company. As I approached the desk people were smiling. Dave went to get my book. “Not your usual,” he said. Boy was it not my usual. It was brand new, the spine had never been cracked, the pages were pristine, it didn’t smell musty. We both stared at it as if it had arrived from another planet. I opened the front cover to check the publication date. It was published in 2007. Even though I am clearly interested in this material and I know that other people are too, it just never entered my mind that someone would write a book about it. Happily, Mark Hoffman did exactly that. My Brave Engineers does not directly mention my family members, but it is full of well-researched, useful notes and has an excellent bibliography. So, when you’re bored do a Google search, you never know what might turn up.
Another favorite place of mine to revisit is crazy Uncle Gordon’s notes. I’m not talking about your eccentric uncle who sits in the corner at Thanksgiving dinner and eats with his hands. Uncle Gordon was truly nuts. Now, before my blog buddy starts giving me a hard time about insensitivity to the mentally ill, I should say that Gordon’s story is actually a sad one. His life was seriously impacted and limited by his illness. I never knew him but when he passed away my mother-in-law found some notes he had accumulated on the family genealogy and passed them on to me. These notes have quite a bit of useful information, but it is all mixed with what I can only call craziness. A long list of people’s names suddenly turns into a set of comments on the bumps on their heads. Apparently in addition to genealogy Gordon had an interest in phrenology. I really wish he hadn’t seen fit to mix the two together, but I guess in some ways it makes sense. He also talks about married women using only their married names; something like “Mrs. Hamilton lives in Ontario.” Unfortunately, I have no idea how Mrs. Hamilton ties into our family. But every once in a while I look at the notes again and I sometimes find that a piece of information I found elsewhere makes some of Gordon’s writings make more sense. So I go back from time to time and if nothing else I enjoy seeing his handwriting and like to think that it would please him to know that someone else is interested in what he did and is using his notes.
Now I’m going to ask Pat to add a story or two.
The 1910 federal census has been a particularly frustrating place to search for my husband’s family. They just don’t show up (at least not easily) when they really should be there. My first experience of finding something when I went back to look at a site I had already searched, was on ancestry.com. I tried my husband’s grandfather’s name, Ben Riddner, once again. I had looked and looked for him. And this time what showed up? The Canadian crossings showed a Ben Riddner – and he was shown crossing back into the US at Detroit in December 1910, having been in Canada since 1908. No wonder he didn’t show up in the US 1910 census. Now why did he go to Canada when he did (and how did he go from Milwaukee), and what was he doing there, and why weren’t his wife and young daughter with him??
His wife and young daughter were also missing for a long time in the 1910 census. I finally, recently, found his wife (my husband’s grandmother) in the right city and with her mother and a couple of siblings. None of their last names were spelled the way I would expect, and the wife’s last name was shown on the census image as beginning with a “V” rather than an “R” (so she was indexed as Pearl Vidchie, which is a bad reading of the image, rather than Pearl Riddner). I never would have found her, except for the variations on her mother’s name that I am getting to know (Sheer and Sheir among others for Scheier). Strangely though, her young daughter (my husband’s mother) who would have been just barely 2 years old, wasn’t shown with that family grouping. Where would she have been?! And why? There is one other brother (that I know of) who is in still missing in this census. Was the 2 year old with him? I don’t know whether he was married yet by 1910, although he might have been. The search goes on!