Recently hearing of the cancellation of two iconic soap operas, my reaction was one of immediate shock and disappointment. Although years since I had viewed either show, I felt a glimmer of nostalgia thinking back to my youth when my daytime world was wrapped up in the anticipation of Ericka's latest steamy romantic love. Yes, I admit my years of mindless soap opera addiction have long since past, but for 'All My Children' viewers, genealogy can provide for stiff competition.

Never feeling my research is complete, I have recently taken the task of peeling back further details of my ancestor's lives in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Records for ancestors on this part of my family tree have never been easily accessed on-line, so I have dug further into their history by contacting the folks at the county courthouse in Fayetteville. As I have focused on each individual ancestor, increasingly captivating court record details have arrived by mail at my door. And the operatic plot thickens as each new juicy tidbit is revealed.
Fayetteville Arkansas Historic Courthouse
The first dramatic genealogical episode opened with the discovery of my ancestor Wesley, a small man with a big heart, losing his first wife and young children to the ravages of a brutal, bloody war. After becoming emotionally drawn in to poor Wesley's saga of death and despair, I turned the pages to discover he had fallen madly in love with the beautiful raven Mary Jack, daughter of Judge Abraham Jack, a well respected elder in the burned out, war torn community of Fayetteville. Wesley and Mary soon established a solid foundation in a small hamlet 30 miles north of Fayetteville, where they began purchasing land and building their family.

Feeling relieved (and a little bored) with Wesley, Mary and Judge Jack's comfortable southern life, I again contacted the Fayetteville courthouse for the next 'All My Ancestors' episode: Details on Clark and Isabella Mathews, the soon to be in-laws of Wesley and Mary Jack.

Land records for the Mathews were quickly discovered but odd 'goings on' began to creep into an otherwise uneventful story. Clark, the tall, mysterious gentleman from the big city of St Louis, suddenly 'quit claimed' all of his property into his wife Isabella's name. And then further documents were found with his wife being forced to relinquish her property to the county for unpaid takes...and suddenly I discover Isabella is signing court records with a different last name!

"Wow, this is getting good'! I'm thinking, wondering what next week's episode will reveal. I call my courthouse contact to ask if any further documents on Clark and Isabella have been located and she blandly stated; 'well, no probate records were found...but are you interested in the criminal record for Clark Mathews?'

Dun, dun dun....(soap opera music, you get the picture).

'What do you mean his criminal record?' I ask with wistful anticipation.

'Oh, it's an indictment'!

'Yea, I definately want that." I quickly responded.

And so while my neighbors are staring at their televisions, desperately channel surfing for the latest attempt at dramatic entertainment, I anxiously wait by my mailbox for this season's genealogical finale of death, divorce and indictment in Fayetteville. Days of soap opera watching have been tossed aside to reality televsion, but my genealogical reality provides endless days and nights of suspense and intrigue.

Begin your genealogical soap opera by contacting your ancestor's county courthouses for marriage, divorce, land, probate and...criminal records. You will most likely discover that next season's ratings will go through the roof!

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