Thursday, July 26, 2018
A Thought About "Searches"
When we are wrestling with those recalcitrant ancestors in our tree, we think what we are doing to turn around those brick-wall-worthy roadblocks is research. In reality, what we are doing is typing in a name or a keyword phrase and then pointing our cursor to click on a rectangular button containing the word "search."
But it isn't really a search. It's a point-and-click.
To search is to do what I haven't done for a really long time. The last time I found myself prostrated on the floor in front of the bottom row of books at a library—or the lowest drawer in a card catalog—was probably pre-dawn of (Internet) history. Since the advent of online genealogical resources, I have seldom had the need to return to that dusty archive floor. Yet.
Sometimes, though, there is a need to get back to that up-close-and-personal position. There is no way that everything we ever hoped to find via an Internet search will be there, at that click of the mouse. Granted, a lot of genealogy-worthy material is already digitized, but even of that monumental collection, not everything is indexed—prepared for the online hunt-and-peck process. But there are mountains of papers, records, manuscripts, books, photo collections, journals, and just plain stuff that has yet to be added to that wait list of material to be digitized.
Sometimes, we can't bring that mountain of material to us. Sometimes, we need to go to the mountain. And when we get there, what? Are we so handicapped in confining our research capabilities to point and click that we lose our ability to sort through those mountains of reference material? It is in that kind of effort that we begin to experience the literalness of the meaning of the word: search.
Read and discard. Read more and eliminate more possibilities. Read somewhere else and toss that, too. And finally—perhaps fifteen minutes before the close of the business hours on the last day of our research trip—we pull up the collection which holds the answer to our research question. That's searching.
I'm working on my southern roots right now. I'm a long way from Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee, so I'm confined to what I can unearth from online resources. But even here, I need to go beyond mere point and click genealogy. Even if nothing comes up when I type in a name and click the magic "search" button. I need to read, evaluate, learn and move on, better informed about the background and cultural setting of the people I'm researching. And I need to better handle those frustrating drawbacks of clicking to the end of the line of an online repository's collection with nary a promising lead.
Even in something as simple as exhausting all the possibilities of what befell our Mary of the Red Scarf, I find myself remembering to search beyond the realm of "search." I mentioned, yesterday, running across another Mary A. who was included in a census record for part of my family. Could that have been the missing Mary A. Charles?
This woman's name was Mary A. McLeran, and she was alone in a household with two girls who would have been Mary A. Charles' nieces. That was in 1870. After that, it seemed everyone went their separate ways. I could find the girls—by then grown up and married—but what became of Mary?
Looking in the listing for the extended-family cemetery in Wellborn, Florida, I could find several McLerans, but not any mention of Mary, guardian of the Charles girls. Neither could I figure out the connection between the McLeran line and that of the main family, the McClellans on whose property the cemetery was housed.
I started reviewing each of the McLeran burials listed in that McClellan cemetery. There were eight included in the cemetery listing, but I clicked through to each one to view it individually. That way, if a Find A Grave volunteer had been helpful, I might see some links to relatives of each McLeran and then follow those to see where they might lead.
Sure enough, one of the oldest of the McLeran memorials on Find A Grave did reveal a connection—not Mary McLeran, but a McLeran buried in another cemetery entirely! I had chosen to look at the oldest McLeran burials in the McClellan cemetery, and pulled up the memorial for Jesse Taylor McLeran. Jesse, born in North Carolina in 1832, had died in Suwannee County, Florida, in 1868.
The gem in reviewing Jesse Taylor McLeran's Find A Grave memorial was that it listed his parents: Nevin and Rebecca Tison McLeran. Nevin McLeran? I had seen mention of that name when I searched, line by line, through the county's 1850 census in search of any other members of the ill-fated Mary A. Charles' family. Not far from George Edmund McClellan's entry in the census, and close to the Charles household where George's future daughter-in-law Emma was living, was an entry for a Nevin and Rebecca McLeran.
What was interesting about this Nevin and Rebecca was the family which had married into the McLeran line. While I still am not sure just who Mary A. McLeran was—remember, she wasn't included in the burials at the McClellan cemetery along with those eight McLerans there—I now know how the McLerans tie into my family line: Rebecca McLeran was born a Tison.
Emma Charles, George McClellan's future daughter-in-law, was not part of the Tison line, herself...but her mother-in-law was. George's wife Sidnah was a Tison.
Of course, it will take more digging to figure out how this Mary A. McLeran was related to the Tison line. Perhaps such tangled relationships come from a small group of people living together in a small town over decades. I may find these surnames are related to each other in multiple directions. But I need to at least find a first mention of a connection between the Tisons and the McLerans. And that will require more searching.
I'm still not finding any further information on poor Mary Charles of the Red Scarf, but I have stumbled upon a lot of other Marys who have led me to previously-unknown connections in my family tree.