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!

Another Duer Synchronicity


The universe has made some odd Duer connections for me lately and I just have to share!

For my new readers, I’ve been enamored with my Duer lines for the past several years after I received an out of the blue email from a Duer genealogist who informed me I had wrongly recorded the surname as Dure in my Ancestry.com tree. Edgar sent me an electronic version of his work which went back generations and within two weeks, he died. The good news was that he got the information out before he passed; the bad news was I could never ask him questions or collaborate on further research with him. The odd thing about that email was that it did not go through Ancestry but Edgar had somehow gotten my personal email. I never learned how he tracked me down. It also was received at a time I was extremely busy with family matters that strengthened the Duer connection.

The weirdest occurrence at the time I received the information was to discover one of my children had followed the same path as the Gateway ancestors. My child had spent a college term in Cambridge, England, decided to live in Grenada, West Indies upon graduation and then relocated to Morristown, New Jersey. Seriously, who follows that migration? Apparently, others in my family.

The Gateway ancestor, Thomas Duer, had married Mary Ann Hollingshead who had been born in the West Indies and with her father, relocated to Sussex County, New Jersey. Her parents were from Great Britain, as were Thomas’. My child was following the same immigration routes as her ancestors 250 years before. The problem was I only had 2 weeks to research as the dear child was once again relocating and I would have no reason (or place to stay for cheap) in Morristown. During breaks in the packing, I’d planned to visit the library which contained the oldest remaining records of the area. The night before my arrival, there was a gas explosion and the library was off limits. I was beyond disappointed. I did check out several other research facilities around the area but discovered nothing. (And yes, I did make a trip back later to visit the library when it reopened and I mined it for some small tidbits of info.)

Although researching in the Sussex County area had been disappointing I found another way to gather information. Edgar had not made his work public which I promptly did and that has opened the universe to many connections that have enabled me to put together the family’s dynamics over centuries. To me, it’s a very interesting family who never backed down from their beliefs which were way ahead of the society in which they lived. That character strength led to records, mainly court, which have been fascinating to read.

For the past 2 years I’ve been trying to connect Revolutionary War Patriot John Duer to his son, Thomas. Thomas died intestate before John so he wasn’t named in John’s will. Records from New Jersey are scant but last month I did find a document through FamilySearch.org that placed John, his wife, Susannah, and Thomas, all in the same place at the same time in Sussex. They had witnessed a will of a widow of the town’s physician. I learned that Susannah was illiterate, John had wonderful handwriting and Thomas, not so much. Thomas would have been 18, of legal age to testify in court that he had witnessed the widow’s wishes.

The record I wished to view was only available at a Family History Library so I trekked to one, accessed the microfilm, and promptly saved it to a thumb drive. I checked the thumb drive before I left the facility. All good. Until I got home and tried to open it. I can’t explain why but only half of the first page of the will was visible and it was the part that didn’t have the Duer signatures. The facility was now closed and wouldn’t reopen until the following week so I sought out another library location. My husband offered to go as it was quite a drive. We made it through a violent rain storm and I again found the record quickly (thanks to clearly writing the citation down) and triple checked that the document was saved intact. This time, I was successful. It seems I must work extra hard on this line to move forward!

I know from land records that the family relocated to what is now West Virginia/southern Ohio shortly after the will was written. I’m still trying to hunt down those deeds. I have found 2 clues to their existence but have been unable to locate the exact location. I decided to spend the summer working on that project.

I began by reading up on various companies that sold land during the late 18th century in the U.S. and track down where the land grant records were held. John is not listed in Bounty Land records held by the government so I decided to pursue private collections, such as the Ohio Company, whose records reside at Marietta College.

I got a beep on my phone that an email had come through so I checked as I was anticipating a response from Marietta College. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to have received 3 photos of the grave of Thomas. I had placed a request on Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves several years ago but no one picked it up, probably because the cemetery is so remote. The sender was a gentleman I had met once at a local to me genealogy meeting. In the twisted Duer way I discover information about the family, I had signed in and put my current area of research was Trumbull County. At the conclusion of the program about Cuban genealogy, the gentleman asked who I was. I waved and he said he wanted to have a word with me. After the meeting concluded he informed me that he was from Trumbull County, Ohio and he had never met anyone else in our area that was researching that location. We exchanged contact info and I asked him if he knew of anyone I could reach out to to obtain a picture of the gravestone. He said he would try his friend. I was not surprised when a week later he told me his friend had become ill and would not be able to visit the cemetery. So again, out of the blue, nearly two years after we met, the gentleman, also named Ed, remembered my request while visiting the area and surprised me with the photos.

I decided to share them with the only other person I had ever connected with who has Trumbull County roots – a former genealogy society member who still lives in that area but due to age, can no longer drive. I forwarded the pictures to her because when we first connected two years ago, she told me that Thomas had almost killed her. I was understandably confused since he died in 1829 and she was still alive but she went on to explain that she was doing a cemetery clean up and had tripped and fallen over his stone. She and other genealogy society members had righted and replaced it.

A few days went by and while I was outside speaking with the house painter I had hired, my cell rang. I excused myself as I saw the area code was from Trumbull County. Sure enough, it was the dear woman who had righted Thomas’ gravestone and we talked about my latest findings and where I was headed with the research. Hanging up, I explained to my painter how excited I was to receive the photos and to collaborate with someone so knowledgeable who lived in the area I was researching. The painter, who had gone to high school with one of my children, asked where I was researching. When I told him he laughed and informed me that his family had first emigrated from Greece to Trumbull County and he had spent the last 10 years living in the area as he still has family there who are bridge painters.

I was speechless. The universe was clearly making connections and the discovery was in my own backyard. Very weird! Even stranger, I had planned to visit Cuba for the first time 3 days later. I had only attended the local genealogy meeting where I met Ed because I wanted information in preparation for a trip to Cuba. We had had a tropical storm the previous day of that meeting and I debated whether I should drive across bridges to get there as the wind was still strong. At the end, the genealogy bug won and I made the trip. I’m so glad I did!

Patience is a virtue I have trouble possessing. Maybe that’s the lesson the universe is trying to teach me. The Duer seeds were planted a few years ago and the universe, in its own time, are maturing them and now I’m reaping the fruits. I can’t wait for the final harvest – that missing document that clearly shows that Thomas is the son of John. People have told me repeatedly I won’t find it but I believe it’s out there somewhere. The search continues.

Synchronicity in the Work Place


Synchronicity is the occurrence of events that relate but the connection was made in an unexplainable way. I’ve written about odd happening with my genealogy many times before. Sometimes I randomly start up a conversation with an individual and discover we’re related. A wayward email or a post from long ago (remember mail list servs?!) finds there way to me and uncovers the key to long sought after records. I’m in an archive miles from where my ancestor lived and something pops in my mind to check an individual out and discover records there that shouldn’t be. Those eebee jeebee occurrences are indeed special!

I realize that all of us humans on planet earth are related; sharing something close to 99.5% DNA. Perhaps the following true story is not as weird as I see it. You be the judge.

My primary job is still in the educational arena and that’s where the occurrence I’m about to describe happened in mid-January. The flu hit our workplace hard the first week of January. One of the individuals in a supervisory capacity went from flu to bronchitis to pneumonia over a 2 week period. While home recuperating, she received in the US mail a piece of junk mail from Reader’s Digest for a man she supervises.

I don’t know about you, but I weekly get someone else’s mail delivered to my house so this is no big deal, right? Wrong! The two do not reside in the same neighborhood. In fact, they don’t even live in the same county. The names of the cities where they live are not similar and neither is the street address or zip code. The envelope was not stuck to another. The supervisor who received it does not have a last name alphabetically close to her employee so that wasn’t a reason for the wrong delivery.

Upon receiving the letter, the supervisor texted the employee that he might want to stop by her home after work to pick up his mail. He responded, “Huh? What mail.” She then took a pic of what had arrived at her home that day and sent it to him. The address was clearly typewritten showing his first and last name, home address, city, state and zip. Typically, his mail is delivered to a post office box. He called his local post office and spoke with the postmaster for an explanation of how this could have happened.

The postmaster said he couldn’t explain it. From where the letter was mailed, it would have arrived at the Tampa International Airport receiving facility where it would have been sorted. It would have then traveled by truck to the county where the man lives to be further sorted and delivered to his local post office where the employees should have put it in his pick up box. The truck from the airport to the county post office would not have been the same vehicle that carried mail for the person who received it since she resides in a different county.

The postmaster could offer no explanation in how it went through 4 sorts (the airport, the county facility, the local facility, the home mail delivery person) and no one noticed it was headed for the wrong destination or how its final arrival was to someone who knew the person well.

Both supervisor and employee have endured a lot of ribbing about the universe wanting to connect them personally. I’d be tired of hearing how they should purchase a lottery ticket or take advantage of the junk mail offer. Certainly weird things happen and perhaps there is no hidden message to uncover here. We’re still talking about it 3 weeks later so I said I’d put it out there to cyberspace to see if someone can come up with a rational explanation. Any ideas?