December 30th, 2011 at 4:06 pm (Articles)
What do I do next? I have tried the family. I have tried the census records. What do I do next!! Do you ever find yourself saying those words? I know I have. Genealogy can be fun, interesting and stimulating to say the least, but there is another side “frustrating”. Not meaning to send a negative vibe out there, but many of you know what I mean. If you do genealogy long enough, chances are you too will walk in these shoes.
For many years I have been looking for my great-grandfather David A. Brown. He divorced my great-grandmother in Rock Springs, Wyoming and was thought to have died in the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. There was never any official obituary or documentation, but this was the oral history that had been handed down through the generations. The family generally took this as gospel.
About 10 years ago I was visiting a relative and we started talking family history. Luckily Ted was one that was always willing to share any information he had. The subject of David A. Brown came up and it seemed that he had a side story to tell. Somewhere back- in-time someone, he could not remember who, had stated they thought David A. Brown had actually survived the earthquake and lived in California with a second family. I was shocked. Could this be true? Had David A. lived on and remarried? This definitely put a new spin on things.
I began searching census records. There are so many David Browns in California during the early 1900’s I was overwhelmed. A very distant cousin Keith and I had been comparing notes from time to time. Keith is retired and has lots of time to do research (yeah!). He decided he would look in to this and get back to me. A year or so later Keith did just that. He found who we think is our David A. Brown on a census record in Santa Monica, California. All this time we have been working on the death index for the 1906 Earthquake, and now we needed to change direction.
The main reason I am sharing this story with you to show that even for the seasoned genealogist there are stumbling blocks. For this instance it was made more difficult because in this line there is David A., David B., David A., and David Brown. Many of the older records do not show the middle name and those of us looking had to take more time to scrutinize the census records a bit closer. Also oral histories are a great source, but as you see they are not always correct. You must do the fact checking to be sure.
If you are lucky you might enlist the help of other family members to help with the research. Contact family members or do a post on Facebook, MySpace, etc. to see if there are others that would join in the hunt. You never know. Some may not have ever worked on family history but might be willing now. Don’t pass up the great opportunity.
Now that we have a general area to search we are trying to find this other family. It may take a bit of time but we feel it will be well worth it. We know that he was born in Scotland but we have no idea where. Once we find the records on this other family, there is usually a good chance more information will be learned. With genealogy it is always the perpetual hunt.
I am stealing a line from the Ancestry.com commercials but “I really do feel like the family detective”.