Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Why I Stopped
If you found it rather extreme that I should have completed, over three years after its start, my application to become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, then I expect this explanation will strike you in quite the same manner.
In yet another attempt to connect with a Patriot, I am currently struggling over how to locate documents connecting my mother-in-law's family line with the Patriot, William Ijams. While it sounds like it's helpful that William's daughter had also married the son of a patriot—Lyman Jackson—it's not turning out that way.
It's not just a matter of inaccessible documentation. Granted, I'll have to get my hands on some old-fashioned paper records, likely during a trip back east. But that's not the main issue.
What's at hand here is a situation which either falls in the cracks between regularly scheduled forms of early documentation, or moves far afield of the type of civilization which is accustomed to such documentation. In other words, the story of what became of these people has been handed down in various—sometimes conflicting—permutations. And I needed to review those twists and turns in the narrative.
I had gone down this path before. Just as I had mentioned initiating my search for my own D.A.R. Patriot years ago—worse, in reviewing my notes, I found Sheri Fenley's own blog post about our first meeting to start the project indicating the true date was more likely in 2011—I had started the search for the Jackson and Ijams connections almost as long ago. Right after the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012, to be exact.
How did I remember that trivial detail so vividly? Simple: I Googled my original series of posts to refresh my memory on the tangled pile of data I had found back then.
In reading that series, starting here, only so slowly did the realization dawn on me of what it was that kept me from completing the task that first time. Calling it deja vu would cast the experience in too cheerful a light, so I suppose I'd have to find a more somber label for that creeping melancholy that again slipped over me.
I had pre-written some of those posts, back in 2012, because I knew I'd be going on a business trip to the Midwest; taking a break in the midst of our duties to visit family nearby, I couldn't help but remember the cousin who had died there of cancer less than a year before. Then, right after starting the series, our family was hit with the surprising loss of another relative—my sister-in-law. And just before that Christmas Eve, I received a phone call that my aunt had unexpectedly fallen, in the midst of picking up her bags to head out of town with friends for a holiday trip, and broken her neck.
It was a devastating month. If it hadn't been for writing up some of that research ahead of time, I probably wouldn't have had any of the work laid out for this project, at all. Even now, getting my head around all the twists and turns is overshadowed by those memories. Funny how we forget some of the details. Maybe that is merciful.
In pursuing family history, when we spend so much of our time focusing on those who are no longer with us, it seems ironic to realize how much the circumstances we write off as "Life Happens" can get in the way of research progress.
Above: "The Oxbow," Thomas Cole's 1836 oil on canvas depicting the view of the Connecticut River from Mount Holyoke near Northampton, Massachusetts, after a thunderstorm; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.