I have a confession:
During this very second, as I lounge at my computer clicking through genealogical websites, yawning and snacking and yawning again; a cousin and co-researcher is trekking two countries for me, tirelessly digging for ancestral finds.
Well...I guess not just for me...but also for him too.
It really is embarrassing and quite pathetic when you think about it. My unflagging trooper and fourth cousin is hiking genealogical trails (well, not really hiking), traveling from courthouse to courthouse, state to state, country to country, desperately rummaging the dusty dungeons of county and state archives while I sit in my plumped-up chair, zipping him e-mails of "Oh, hey...while you're there...can you try to find?..."
And, I am hopelessly ashamed to say he quickly responds with a "Sure, no problem...I can look for that."
My traveling fourth cousin has roomed in Canadian hotels without wifi and cell phone coverage, wrangled with the French language, and fought a downpour in Michigan, all for the purpose of finding the hidden keys that could unlock the heavy cement door to our brick wall.
Hearing reports of his daily trials, disappointments and bitter-few triumphs, I send him cute little encouragements from the sidelines like: "Hang in there! You can make this! I'm proud of you!"
And then I yawn once more, click off my computer and crawl into my cozy bed with a glass of wine and a good book.
Oh, and then there is my other co-researcher and newly discovered cousin. My contact with him has unfolded delightful insights into our shared lineage. His wisdom, both of the geography and political history of our ancestor's state, has opened aspects of my family tree I would have never known.
Ancestors and research I had tucked away in files are now viewed with new perspectives, delivered as a result of the brilliance of my cousin.
Both of my co-researchers are generous, kind and unselfish and our on-line contacts have been invaluable. Sharing documents back and forth, hearing another angle I had not thought of before and discovering my previous research through a second set of eyes, has bridged doorways I might have never crossed.
For this I feel blessed.
Genealogy, especially done by way of the Internet, can be an isolating hobby. And yet, it should never be that way. Pause for a moment to consider that for every ancestor you are researching, at least five others are doing the same for the exact ancestor.
You are not alone. Combining efforts will only produce better results: two minds are better than one and four eyes are better than two.
So, I am taking up my blog space on this heat-sizzlin' summer day to salute my dear co-researchers and cousins: your vigorous, unrelenting search for answers have lifted my spirits and kept me on track.
And, oh yea...forth cousin in your lonely hotel room in Michigan: Do you mind looking for those extra death certificates while you are there?
Keep searching for answers,
I have mentioned on more than one occasion my amazement at the kindness of strangers. The little county courthouse workers and the tireless underpaid librarians, researching and copying precious documents at my request. And yes, there are the others; the "distant cousins" discovered on websites touting their evidence of knowledge on ancestors but provide little response when inquiries are made.
But the "others" are quickly forgotten when you run across a gem of a genealogist: One that unselfishly pours forth realms of genealogical documents. And you are suddenly provided with knowledge and research that would have taken months, even years to discover. Which is just what happened to me when I began digging further into my Hobbs lineage.
Stumbling onto a Rootsweb surname site, I entered Hobbs in the search engine and like a casino penny jackpot, out rolled what I had been frantically looking for: details on my Hobbs ancestors. Buzzing with excitement, I rolled the dice again and sent an e-mail to the "cousin" listed as the source. And gleefully, my newly discovered "cousin" immediately wrote back.
Asking what information I wished to obtain on our Hobbs ancestors, I responded with "everything," not realizing this genealogist gem had volumes of research at her fingertips. And her fingertips are fast; scanning and e-mailing and snail mailing letters and articles and pictures and family group sheets until my eyes began to cross and my head began to swim.
Sensing a need to calm my excitement and organize my prize of new genealogical information, I sat this weekend with the stack of documents as I slowly read through each one:
"Thomas Hobbs was most likely the first known ancestor of our lineage, settling into Salem and participating in King Philips War."
"His son, Abraham Hobbs, born in 1720 in Topsfield, Mass, was the next of our ancestors, well regarded as a Selectman and Massachusetts legislator."
"Abraham's son, Isaac, born in 1743 in Topsfield, Mass, moved to Addison, Vermont and was murdered by his son-n-law, Mr. Hickox, in 1815."
"Isaac's son Samuel, was born in 1776 and migrated to Meadville, Pennsylvania..."
Did that say murdered?
Let's back up just a tad bit.
As most should know by now, I am always looking for the next story. Other family historians may relish in the discovery of tiny droplets of royal ancestral blood; but not me. I like the juicy, jaw dropping, "pull the skeleton-out-of-the-closet" story and my newly discovered Hobbs saga is more than winning the penny jackpot: its taking home an entire lottery!
Stunned at what I read, I whipped off e-mails back to my informant. "Is this Isaac Hobbs from Vermont our ancestor?" "Was he really murdered by his son-n-law?"
"Yes" and "yes" shes responded; zipping back further obits and recorded court reports providing further details to the deadly deed:
"Near Middlebury, Isaac Hobbs, aged 73, was murdered by his son-n-law, Selab Hickox. It is said, that a family quarrel had long existed; on the day of his death, Mr Hobbs was at the house of Hickox, a contest arose, he was ordered out of the house, was followed by Hickox, and beaten by him with a club, so that he died. A jury of inquest pronounced a verdict of willful murder." (The North American Review (July 1815)).
Well, so that is that. I played my pennies long enough until I discovered a gem of a genealogist and a jackpot of juicy ancestral stories.
"Isn't genealogy grand?"; my genealogist gem happily quipped back.
Keep searching for answers,