I’ve blogged often about my mysterious Duer family who left scarce records behind. Last Saturday I attended a local genealogy workshop hosted by Thomas MacEntee. While he was in Chicago and we were in Florida, my serendipitous encounter happened regarding Trumbull County, Ohio.
About once a month since August, out of the blue, some small item shows up which gives me a clearer picture of the family. The first weird event occurred in August when I made a call to a reluctant Trumbull County Clerk asking for help in locating cemetery records. When she told me I wasn’t going to find anything she actually meant she wasn’t going to look, as access to the original books were restricted to the general public. I told her the connections I’ve made on this line and how family history has seemed to repeat (see my blog Circular Migration Patterns – How History Repeats Itself). She was hooked and agreed to try to find the cemetery records, though she warned me I might not hear back for weeks. I laughed and told her I bet she turns to the exact page I needed. Ten minutes later she called to say my prediction was correct and she was spooked! Unable to place the book on the copy machine which was down, the clerk used her smart phone to take pictures of the page and then texted them to me.
During the hurricanes in September, I tried to locate a deed from 1805. Another Trumbull County employee told me that they were no longer available. I told her a little about the family and within an hour, I was on the phone with a retired genealogist who used to be president of the local history society. When the employee had called her with the name I was searching, Thomas Duer, the genealogist said, “Oh, I must speak with this woman as Thomas almost killed me once.” She explained that his tombstone had toppled and she had tripped over it during a cemetery cleanup several years ago. She had a photo of the stone that I had been searching for but her computer died and she had no backup. With a large personal library, she looked up the Duers and Byrds in every resource she had. That’s when I discovered that Thomas’ family had been left out of his father John’s will.
In October, I discovered who was Hazen, who had been named in John’s will. I had tried to find a newspaper obituary the previous month for him but they weren’t available. By the end of October, they were. Turned out Hazen was a grandson of John’s, the son of one of John’s deceased daughters. As I pondered why one grandson was named and not others who were descended from deceased son Thomas, I hoped for another wonderful find.
That discovery arrived unexpectedly right before Thanksgiving when I checked an unsourced tree on MyHeritage. Thomas’ wife, Hannah, was named as the wife of John Preston. Using FamilySearch, I found the marriage record; the reason I had never found it before was because Hannah’s married last name, Duer, had been indexed as Dure. That was odd as I originally had the surname as Dure from information I had received from a second cousin in the 1990’s. I only discovered the Duer name in 2010 when a family researcher contacted me via email. I was never able to find out how he connected with me as he died a few weeks after we began corresponding. But back to Hannah, she and John Preston had married just a few months after her first husband’s father-in-law had died and she and her children had been left out of the will.
I didn’t research much in December due to the holidays. My last words to my husband as I left for the genealogy meeting last Saturday were in jest; I hoped I make another awesome Duer find. The workshop was on finding the living so I really didn’t expect it to be useful for my Duer’s as the family relocated by 1860.
I arrived early to the meeting because I knew traffic would be fierce with the college championship games being held in the city. The parking garage line was long and when I finally got up to the ticket machine, it was empty. There was a line of cars behind me so I couldn’t back out but I couldn’t go forward, either, as the gate was down. I got out of the car and told the woman behind me I’d call security. Like the old fashion game of telephone, the message was passed from car to car.
Soon security arrived with tickets but the machine had jammed and then the gate was stuck. By now, it was pouring down rain as a cold front was coming through. I considered going home. A few minutes later the gate was open and I had a parking space. Because of the strong wind, I decided to just run into the auditorium as the umbrella would have been useless.
Dripping wet, I signed in and found a seat as the attendees were having a discussion about their brick walls. I wasn’t really paying attention when I caught the words of the woman in front of me “where do I look for divorce records?” No one replied so I asked in what location. “Ohio,” she said. I asked if she had used the Wiki on FamilySearch as I had found divorce records in several Ohio counties through the Common Plea records. She thanked me and another attendee asked a question. I went back to looking at my emails on my phone when a gentleman came up to me and asked where I was researching in Ohio. I told him Trumbull and Mercer Counties for my Duers. He said, “I was born and raised in Trumbull County.” My heart started thumping. “Oh my goodness,” I thought, “I was just kidding this morning when I said I hoped to find some Duer info.” We exchanged email addresses and yes, he also has a personal library of Trumbull County information which he has graciously shared with me in the past week. He also volunteered to have a friend of his go to the cemetery and take a picture of Thomas’ grave as soon as the snow melts. I’m hoping that’s my March Miracle!
This gentleman also explained to me why most of the records are not available. Several years ago there was a sewage leak in the basement of the building where the records were housed and most were destroyed. I can add this disaster to my burned courthouses, gas explosions and ripped out pages!
So, on that blustery Saturday I discovered a living knowledgeable individual from the area I was researching at a workshop on finding living people. That turned out not to be one of the methods but it certainly worked for me!