Friday, October 23, 2015
Sidetracked by Some Surnames
Do you ever get sidetracked while working on your family history, and start wondering about all the surnames that have married into your direct lines? I do. You can count on me to follow The Bright Shiny, once it makes itself known. And yesterday was just one of those days.
Perhaps it is through the haze of my recent malaise that I'm seeing things differently right now. Yesterday was such a nondescript day—one in which I felt like doing nothing. In the rare moments when I feel that way, I try to find something mindless to do, to spend my time doing something, but not really having to think about it.
So I took a spin through the kin on my Ancestry.com trees. Hint hunting, mostly. Thought I'd clean up a few of those shaky leaves, since I was feeling quite shaky, myself. Somehow, no matter how bad I feel, those shaky leaves can create a time warp for me. Before I know it, the day has passed. It might as well be a day like this, with its interminable waiting for the bug to stop fighting with me and finally call it quits.
I picked my mother-in-law's maternal line. That's a line firmly ensconced in Perry County, Ohio—you know, that place where everyone's related and a cute high school gal can't accept a date without first whipping out her pedigree chart. Complete through the entire four generations preceding her, of course.
I like cleaning up my lines from Perry County. For one thing, up until about the second World War, most everyone stayed put in the same place their ancestors had farmed since the early 1800s. No wondering where that eighteen year old daughter disappeared to, come the next census enumeration. Everyone was always right there. And if they weren't, it was a safe bet you could find them in the church cemetery.
Another reason I like working on our Perry County lines: I know all those private resources tucked away hither and yon on the Internet. You know, the stuff nerdy genealogy enthusiasts just had to post, before blogging and HTML and Web 2.0 were cool—or even dreamed of. My best resource turns out to be the handiwork of a computer geek who escaped the agricultural backwoods of Perry County but nevertheless is still resident somewhere in the state. I know where—or used to remember, at least—because he turns out to be somethingth-cousin to my mother-in-law (another detail I've forgotten over the years I've known him).
Armed with all the details on his Perry County website, I began cross-checking my tree, adding what had been, up to this point, missing. Before I knew it, I was flying through the generations, working my way back down to the present, adding all the descendants of those Metzger ancestors. I saw surnames flash by my eyes as the work progressed, faster and faster. I saw Fink—a name intertwined with our Perry County families more than once over the centuries. I found Fenton, a new one for this tree. And then I saw Kline. That made me stop.
Somehow, in seeing surnames of strangers in this tree, I couldn't help but start thinking of others I knew with the same surname. Not those "dead people" that genealogists claim they like to "collect." But real people. From our own lives. Like my husband's good friend by that same surname, who recently lost his battle with a brain tumor.
That "What If" mood crept over me: what if good friends were also cousins, but didn't even know it? After all, we found an Ijams descendant emigrated from Ohio landing up in the very same California city where my Air Force brat husband eventually ended up. I've heard stories of best friends—who knew each other all their lives—discovering just recently that they were also cousins. It happens. A friend of mine emailed a Find A Grave volunteer, asking whether the volunteer might have more information than what he posted on her great grandmother's entry. "Wait. That's my great grandmother," the volunteer replied. They never knew each other, even though they grew up in the same town. This stuff happens.
Considering I might have entered into a feverish reverie, I thought better of trying to pursue that rabbit trail for the day. A little sleep might be in order. But I'll tuck that thought away for a better day. One never knows.
Above: "Autumn Roadside," 1918 oil on canvas by American landscape painter, Willard Leroy Metcalf; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.