Sunday, May 6, 2012

Strange Misadventures in Research

*The following is a story involving client research. Names and locations have been withheld for privacy.

I have a client who first hired me to find their great grandfather's parents, which I happily found. Then the client wanted me to find their great great grandfather's parents (to be referred to as GGF). Could be a bit more complicated, as it appears that GGF died young (disappears off the tax lists before 1860) and didn't leave much of a paper trail.

You may recall a blog post last week (you can see here) that I found an index listing records I was interested in, but had to leave before viewing them. Well I did manage to get back to the archives this past Thursday and pulled the microfilm of interest. The index had indicated GGF's wife (GGM) had some part in an estate settlement case (circa 1865-66). My hope was that the case was GGF's and that within the documents would be some sort of guardianship set up for their minor children, and that GGF's kin would be involved. Best case scenario right?

Well, instead it was GGM's father's estate. Turns out he died intestate leaving behind a widow and minor children. All of the heirs are named, including GGM, along with the wife and the minors who are babies. That caught my attention. GGM would have been about 35 in 1865-66. If she were the first child and her mother had her at say 18, that would mean her mother would be 53. That means she would have had babies in her late 40's early 50's. Not completely unheard of but stretching it in terms of childbearing years for this time period. I wonder if this is GGM's mother, but think it is a good possibility it is her father's second wife. Oh well, I wasn't hired to find GGM's line, I need to find GGF's parents. I search a few more records and it is time for me to go.

Yesterday I went back to the archives to search out more records on GGF. There are two reels of court minutes on microfilm that I haven't looked at. Why? They aren't indexed. This means I would have to go  page by page reading and searching for the surname of interest. However, I did find a book that indexed and transcribed the records up to 1849. It's a start. I looked at the list. I see GGF listed! I turn to the record, and would you believe it is guardianship record involving GGM's father for his minor child with his deceased first wife (Ha! I was right!), and GGF is the security for the bond. Okay, although this is exciting it is not what I'm looking for. Moving on.

I continue to look up other surnames related to GGF, especially the one I suspect is his father. As I'm looking at one of these records, who is also listed on the same page? That's right GGM's father again. It's another record about the guardianship of his minor children, the difference is this record lists the maiden name of his wife. Crazy right? Usually it is the women who are difficult to trace and this information is literally just falling into my lap. The worst part is that it is not even what I've been hired to find, and it is a gold mine of information!

The strange part, is that this scenario is not really all that unusual for me. It is typical of my misadventures in research. I set out with a goal and other information will come forward. So, the moral of the story? Some ancestors are happy and willing to be found, others like to hang back and wait awhile, and others elbow everybody else out of their way and shove the information in your face whether you want it or not.


  1. Just found your blog via Gini Webb's article on GeneaBloggers. Loved reading through some of your exploits! It truly is, sometimes, a misadventure!