Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brick Wall Headache Relief

I probably learn more about how to research my family’s history by chit-chatting with genealogy friends than any other method. I love hearing their success stories, but I get much more out of hearing about their search struggles. Each step along their journey is important to me. As I listen to them explain their adventures I learn about techniques they have tried, and new repositories they have explored. Many times their stories are mere vents of frustration but usually there are juicy gems embedded along their journey’s path.

Tonight at the TriCity Genealogical Society meeting I was entertained and educated by two very dear friends, Sandra Floberg and Bob DeLorenzo. Janet McKinnon introduced Sandra as our “Southern Lady”, so she was given the opportunity to speak first, allowing our “Italian Gentleman”, Bob DeLorenzo, to wrap up the evening.

Sandra has been one of those close genealogy friends that I have the honor of interacting with quite frequently. I was not at all surprised that she was going to talk about her John Worth Meacham – again.  Her presentation started with the general list of questions that all genealogists should ask when they begin their hunt for information. She then proceeded to explain what she had done to try to unravel her quagmire of Meachams and Worths that all enjoyed the same naming patterns and had adopted the name of John Worth Meacham for generations, overlapping not only generations within their own family but also generations of neighboring John Worth Meachams.

Sandra shared how she had finally explored the use of DNA testing, and had taken results from other companies to combine the results into Family Tree DNA ( ). She explained how hopeful she had been that by using yet another company to match results she might gain answers to questions she had worked on for so many years.

As a friend, and as an attendee at the TriCity Genealogical Society meeting, I was shocked when Sandra shared that even with DNA testing she was not able to determine the parentage of John Worth Meacham. She admitted that there was not yet enough DNA samples, and that she would have to walk away from her chase. Not only was I shocked, but I was saddened. Now what would she possibly have to share with her genealogy friends? I felt as if I was experiencing the death of a decade.

What transpired next shook my world and was a true revelation. Sandra shared a census record showing her John Worth Meacham and his wife, Elizabeth Allen, which also held clues for Sandra to begin researching Elizabeth Allen’s lineage. For years she had worked on John Worth Meacham, but when she finally walked away from that particular chase and began working on his wife’s lineage the doors started to open.

Sandra has found a new peace. She is comfortable waiting for answers on her John Worth Meacham. By following his wife’s lineage she has been able to add two more Revolutionary Patriots to her family tree. That is a pretty amazing accomplishment and a big bonus as she serves as Regent for the Kennewick Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Bob DeLorenzo then got up to speak. I love listening to Bob’s comfortable speaking style and was so glad he had agreed to speak at tonight’s meeting.

Bob began by giving an introduction to the Mayflower Society. He explained a little about their history and read the Mayflower Compact. He then shared the story of how he and his deceased wife, Nancy, got involved with genealogy and Nancy’s desire to join the Mayflower Society.

After joining the Mayflower Society, Nancy decided that she wanted to prove that she had another lineage that was connected to the Mayflower, to Pilgrim Francis Eaton. When Nancy and Bob started digging through the Silver Books, which are books full of information about Mayflower descendants, they found the initials n.f.r. after Francis Eaton's descendant Sarah Ramsdell, which stands for "no further records"!!  Nancy had an ancestor named Sarah Ramsdell, and she was persuaded that her Sarah Ramsdell was the same person as Francis Eaton's descendant with that name, but how could she prove it?

Bob shared how he and Nancy had used logic to determine that Sarah and her sister Lydia, (who also had n.f.r. after her name in the Silver Book), and their mother, had moved to a neighboring town after the death of Sarah's (and Lydia's) father, Thomas.  There were no records to prove this move, but logically it could be explained. This was presented to the Mayflower Society, but Nancy’s supplemental application for Francis Eaton was denied. This was heart breaking, but Bob acknowledged that the denial was proper since there were no documents to prove their theory that Nancy's Sarah Ramsdell, and Francis Eaton's descendant, Sarah Ramsdell, were the same person.

After Nancy’s death Bob continues to work on proving Sarah (and Lydia) Ramsdell, and their mother, relocated, and he hopes that the documentation to prove his logical explanation will lay in records left my Sarah and Lydia's mother’s employer, a judge. He has searched probate records and now plans on looking for personal memoirs or social history left by the judge’s family.
A startling discovery was shared about an heirloom spinning wheel that is showcased in the DeLorenzo home. The spinning wheel has been appraised by professionals. It is in great condition for its age, however its age has not been determined. While researching probate records Bob came upon a Last Will and Testament dated before the Revolutionary War. In the Will one of the daughters was listed as not being left anything, but not being overlooked either. She had been given a spinning wheel before the Will was written. By finding this probate record, Bob was able to date the spinning wheel that sits in his living room to a preRevolutionary War timeframe.

I left the meeting feeling appreciative of the gems Sandra and Bob freely gave. No longer will I beat my head against my own brick wall, but rather look at how my brick wall ancestor integrates in his wife’s family documents. By doing this maybe I can find a couple more Revolutionary War patriots, or even my own Mayflower connection.