Just Two Tiny Words

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 18 June 2016.

Last time I blogged about the discovery of one of my husband’s great great grandpas wearing some type of insignia in an old photo I had not previously noticed.  I intended to work towards identifying it this summer when out of the blue, a descendant of that two times great grandpa emailed me.

The cousin believes it may be Masonic so I’ll be exploring that angle soon.  In the meantime, her email had me in a tizzy!  Cousin wanted to know if I was the Ancestry tree that had placed the same grandfather’s first wife as the sister-in-law of his second wife.

It wasn’t my tree that she was referring to but when I investigated the owner of that tree I noticed he had borrowed the photo I was now hanging on my office wall and a Bible page that I had posted.  There were no source citations as to the marriage.  I emailed him and although he’s had a tree for a number of years and was on the site recently, he didn’t respond.

I haven’t researched that line in at least 6 years so I went back over my own notes and realized that I had come to the same conclusion he did.  (Well, maybe he didn’t reach that conclusion and instead, borrowed it, whatever!)  Thankfully, my notes were clear as to where I got the information – from a transcription of a letter written by the granddaughter of the couple.  It was the only record of the marriage from upstate New York in the early 1800’s that has ever been found.  I emailed the cousin a snippet of the letter.

Her response was not what I expected; she snipped a copy of a letter authored by the same person that had completely different information!  It stated that the grandfather’s first wife had been the sister of the second wife.

Neither letter was dated but the letter I had a copy of displayed shaky handwriting, punctuation was lacking and there was many misspelled words.  The letter she had a copy of was well written and clear.

I received my version of the letter from the cousin’s now deceased mother who never told me about an earlier letter.  The cousin had gotten her letter also from her mother and wasn’t aware of the older letter.  All of the mother’s genealogical information resides with a niece who planned to carry on researching.   Why we each only got half of the information I don’t know.  Why the information conflicts I can’t explain, either.  Was it faulty memory of an elderly relative or a correction to an earlier mistake?  Whatever the reason, this definitely confirms you can’t believe everything you read and the importance of seeking out more than one source. I will now ask, “Is that all?” when meeting with family and clients to make sure I have everything that is available.

All I know for certain is that I’m thankful I kept notes and citations.  Originally, I had transcribed the word “her” as “his” and had come to the same conclusion as the cousin.  I looked at the letter several years later and re-transcribed it.  The second time, however, I had scanned and blew the letter up to 200 times when I made the transcription.  It was then that I determined that “her” should have been “his.” That small difference provided me a different maiden name for the first wife and through that, I was able to identify two other siblings who connected with this family in two different states.

Last blog I mentioned how valuable it is to take a look back at your old photos.  I’d add it’s equally important to take another look at other documentation you may have.  You might be able to break through a wall with information that is in front of you all along.

Just two little letters can make all the difference and change the direction of  your research.

A Transcription Treat

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 22 Dec 2015.

Tis the season of Sugar Plum Fairies and although I can’t prove it, I believe they are somehow related to Genealogical Fairies.  Here’s why –

For some reason, I didn’t receive the document from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG)  that I am supposed to transcribe.  After waiting 3 weeks I emailed and was told the day it had been sent.  BCG staff was going to resend if I didn’t receive it by the end of that week.

Nearly a month after it had been mailed it finally arrived with no postal markings and it looked like it had gotten stuck in a machine as a side was torn.  The contents, though, were fine.  Since it arrived the day before I was to fly out to the west coast for business I put it aside until this week.

Last Friday, I decided I would drive to the county mentioned in the document on Monday and locate the original so I called to check the time the office would open.  With holiday closures one never knows!  This led to several phone calls and messages left.

I received a call mid day Saturday informing me that the office would be closed Monday but they would be open on Saturday until 5:00.  I was running errands but dropped everything to drive the 2+ hours to get there before they closed.  I am so glad I did!

When I arrived there were only 2 people staffing the archives, a paid employee and a volunteer.  After seeing the document and photographing it, the volunteer asked me why I had wanted to see that particular record.  I told her about the certification process.  We continued talking and she mentioned her home state which happened to also be mine.  Turns out we’re related in 3 lines (Lamphere, Kuhn and Duer) through our great grandfathers!  If you’re a faithful reader you know I wasn’t close to my dad’s side growing up and have never met any of his relatives so this meeting was especially sweet.

What makes it even better is the lesson that persistence pays!  My first call was to the courthouse but I was told by the operator that they didn’t have old records and I needed to call a different office.  The next office staffer told me that all of their records were online and the originals had been destroyed.  When I pointed out that the record I was looking for wasn’t online the clerk didn’t know what to say.  She suggested I called the historical society. The first person I spoke with there said she had no idea where the record I needed was and she would have someone call me back.  I waited a few hours and called again.  That’s when I learned she had left for the day. The person I was then speaking with told me that the historical society only had microfilm and that the originals were at the courthouse.  I asked who I should speak with at the courthouse as that was now bringing me full circle because that’s where I first called.  She suggested I check with the records department.  Unfortunately, the records clerk had to check with an older employee as she had no idea what I was talking about.  The older employee wanted to know why a fortune teller wanted the record.  Huh?! Evidently the girl I spoke with didn’t know what a genealogist was and thought it was some kind of fortune teller.  Clearly I’m not a fortune teller or I would have knowledge of where I’d find this record!  We both laughed about the misunderstanding.  We left it that I would come on Monday at 8 AM but I should be prepared that the record wouldn’t be found.

I packed what I needed in my purse in preparation but wasn’t particularly hopeful.  When I got the call on Saturday that the record was available I couldn’t believe it.  That alone would have made my day but to meet a relative who just happened to switch her volunteer hours due to the holidays, well, I think this was meant to be.

I’m on my way to the post office to mail my new found relative copies of my records and then on to the airport to pick up family so I’m posting my Thursday blog early.  Wishing you and your family love, hope and good cheer this holiday season!