It’s been twenty four hours since I posted a private message on Facebook to a possible distant cousin. Still no answer. What’s up with this?
Apparently, instant gratification has not yet made its presence known in the field of family history research. Social media connectivity notwithstanding, it’s the people who need to make the connections, not their communication devices. And people need time to warm up to the idea of engaging with total strangers—family or not.
In the meantime, the impressive prowess of search engine Google keeps me informed on a host of possible cousin connections for this newly-discovered branch of my husband’s Kelly family. It’s incredible, don’t you think, that a family of Irish immigrants with a surname as common as Kelly could have slipped in, unnoticed, through the back door of this country—arriving through the port of New Orleans and sailing past the 1850s countryside along the Mississippi to the Wabash River destination of Lafayette, Indiana—and yet have their descendants of the fourth and fifth generation tracked through multiple online resources almost two centuries later.
It was on Find A Grave that I located burial information on the Anna Crahan whom I had originally discovered through Mathew Kelly’s 1880 census record. Listed as niece to Mathew, the head of household, she was identified there only by her initials. That mystery was resolved, once I located her name in her step-mother’s obituary, years later. That record clued me in to the name of the man she had married—John P. Quinlisk.
Like a chain reaction, each discovery led to new facts—like the census records for the new family, adding children over the years—until I came to the Find A Grave record of her son, John P. Quinlisk, junior, and his wife Edith.
What was interesting about Edith Quinlisk’s entry on Find A Grave was that it contained a transcription error that made me take a closer look. While the headstone itself showed her date of passing as 1989, what I had originally seen was the year on the transcription: 1929. A date that early threw me off, and I dismissed it out of hand—at first.
I had seen other indications for this woman leading me to think that she had died in California, rather than in Indiana, so I went looking for other entries on Find A Grave. Rather easily, I discovered one for an Edith V. Quinlisk who died there in Sacramento County on December 16, 1989.
Fortunately, this Find A Grave memorial came complete with one of those serendipitous entries including family information. While not an obituary, it was a brief listing of Edith’s family constellation, including the names and locations of her children, provided by one of her grandchildren. What more could I ask?
That, and an obituary for one of her sons, found through Ancestry.com, was enough to equip me to go looking for possible cousins. During my foray into additional Internet resources, I once again also ran into the Lafayette Journal and Courier newspaper index, as well as the websites for various Lafayette public library genealogy holdings and databases, and the Indiana State Library Genealogy Database for marriages. Bit by bit, I am adding to my repertoire for finding aids to Indiana’s past records beyond just the government documents, themselves. I’m keeping a file of these valuable resources for future research, you can be sure.
As I track how these generations unfolded through history, it eventually leads me to the point where I run out of dusty old archives and into the broad daylight of modern times. And that is a decision point. Do I continue the search to try and connect with those who are related to our family? Or do I satisfy myself with knowing a stranger’s name—and maybe city of residence—and leave it at that?
I, for one, want to push the envelope out just one more generation. Unlike the books, documents, and microfilms which have no vested interest in revealing their secrets to me, the flesh-and-blood repositories of family heritage in this current generation may or may not be willing participants in my quest. Unsure of whether I care to turn salesperson to further my cause, I hesitate at this precipice of the decision point, though I realize just one favorable invitation will be all it takes for me to transform this precarious decision point into my personal tipping point.
I’ve never been so impatient about getting to yes.