Genealogical Fence Mending

I’m not talking about farmers who must mend their fences regularly to insure their livestock and produce remains safe; I’m referring to the idiom regarding improving or repairing a relationship that has been damaged.

This week, I’ve had several situations that could be termed coincidence, synchronicity, or just considered odd. You be the judge.

The first occurred on Sunday when I was researching a pioneer family in my city for possible inclusion on an upcoming cemetery tour that my local historical society will be hosting in the fall. One of my town’s best sources is a work by Gertrude Stoughton who retired here and established the historical society. Her work is thorough and my only recommendation would have been to include footnotes as I often have difficulty tracing her information.

Above you’ll see a clip from a Google search I did to find the McElroy family who established the second drug store in town; their unnamed daughter in Stoughton’s book was purportedly the first female pharmacist in our location and probably the state of Florida.

I had searched for nearly 2 hours and was finding NOTHING about the McElroys; I located a Black family in the southern part of our county who operated a lab but the dates were way later than I was researching. I found a family of that name who once owned a pharmacy in Orlando and thought they may be related but that investigation turned up nothing. In desperation, I decided to just Google “Tarpon Springs” and “drug store.” Lo and behold up pops the clip above. Notice how McElroy is spelled? MCAROY. Hmmm. Clicking the snippet view gave me a completely different excerpt. I have a hard copy so I turned to the glossary to find a McAroy. None listed. Only one page for the McElroy’s. Somewhere, buried in that book was another sentence about the family I was researching. Skimming page after page I discovered it on page 29:

Clearly, McElroy is written and not McAroy. I went back to the online snippet and checked the copyright date of Stoughton’s book. Same as mine. There have been NO updates or newer editions with revisions.

So, tell me, how did the internet show me the correct spelling of the family I was searching when the source it was citing did not have the correct spelling anywhere in the book? Beats me!

Also on Sunday, I sent an email to an acquaintance regarding a lineage society application I had submitted 3 years ago but still had not received a resolution about. The genealogist I had been working with stopped communicating with me in July 2020, I assumed because of the pandemic. I asked my colleague to forward my request for a resolution to whoever was currently involved with that organization. The following day I received an email from the current genealogist. We wrote several exchanges and Tuesday evening, I decided to call him to make sure I was clear on the direction we were going. When I told him who I was on the phone call he replied, “Hi, cousin.” I was stunned. Sure enough, I’ve done a surname study of several family names and he is my cousin from a line I’ve never met in person. Odder still, he lived not far from me for the last 50 years but recently moved out of state 3 months ago. He moved to an area close to where we also own property and planned to visit this summer. We’ll be getting together then.

We had a wonderful conversation on many genealogical topics and he let me know about two Sons of the American Revolution applications he had done for Florida families. Florida wasn’t a colony in Colonial America and I really never thought much about its involvement in our Revolutionary War.

The following day, I was getting my hair trimmed and shared the coincidences with my stylist who is interested in history. He had to step away from me to take a phone call for a reschedule and when he returned he informed me that somehow, my appointment wasn’t scheduled for today but someone named Renee was supposed to have been there instead. He didn’t know a Renee. I told him I only knew one. Seconds later that Renee’s mom happened to walk into the shop. We laughed about the coincidence.

I had planned after my haircut to visit a local funeral home (as a genealogist, this makes sense, right?!) as I got a tip that the owner was a descendant of a man who local stories claim lynched several men locally during the Civil War. The problem is I have found records showing the man wasn’t even in this area at the time the purported lynching occurred.

The descendant wasn’t available so I left my card with the couple who was in the office. I told them why I wanted to speak with the owner. The woman informed me she was from a pioneering family in the county north of mine and the story I was interested in didn’t occur during the Civil War but during the Revolutionary War. I thought about the story my newly met cousin had told me about the previous evening. Weird.

Since I’ve had such an odd week I decided to just spill the next part. . . A woman who I met who is involved in a lineage society informed me that dead Rebel soldiers speak to her and one named Parker told her that he had been killed on Deserter’s Hill and was buried under a museum.

I will investigate any tip I get so I asked her if the dead man had told her if Parker was his first or last name. She didn’t know. I asked where the museum was located as there wasn’t one on the site. She didn’t know. So much for that hint.

The woman at the funeral home looked at her spouse and they stared at each other for a bit. Were they thinking I was a kook? I just let the quiet hang. She then said there were Parkers in the area and they were involved in the Civil War and they were buried in Anclote Cemetery. Wow. But that’s not all – one was buried in an unmarked grave that they later discovered happened to be under a sign for an RV company. Very odd.

I plan to be checking out this Parker family. But here’s the clincher of the ending.

I asked for both of their names. You probably already figured this out. Her name was Renee. I laughed. Asked her if she had an appointment at my salon today. She didn’t.

So now I know 2 Renees. I’d love to meet the woman who was supposed to have been having her hair cut at the same time as me with the same stylist. Maybe she doesn’t exist and it was a message for me that I should have gone to the funeral home first as that Renee wasn’t planning on staying much longer.  I’m glad we connected.

The connections we make as genealogists and the records we leave behind are important historical truths. An innocent man has been linked to crimes he never committed. A woman before her time was largely forgotten because of the misspelling of her name. My parent’s divorce has led me to not know my father’s family. In 48 hours this week, all of those fences were fixed because of a chain of weird occurrences.

Genealogists don’t think of themselves as fence menders but it is what we do, it’s who we are. And I sure appreciate a little help from the Universe to get over those fences!

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