Sunday, August 12, 2018
Where There Isn't a Will
Now that I've been discovering long-forgotten details of my McClellan family in Wellborn, Florida, I've started making a habit of reading through all the wills I could find in Suwannee County. You'd be surprised at what I've been finding, just by being patient enough to read every page, not just of the wills, but of the probate records, as well. Especially when it comes to a small town peopled by extended family members, the names I'm seeking seem to pop up in the oddest places.
One thing I learned in the process, browsing through all the probate files in Suwannee County, was that the records of those who died intestate also made for productive reading. Don't let the absence of a will deter you in scouring those legal papers for your ancestors who died intestate. While there won't necessarily be one handy record listing the name of all your ancestor's descendants, there may be some gems tucked in the folder—as long as you are willing to take the time and look.
I'll discuss this more in the coming week, but for now—since this is the time for my bi-weekly progress report—let's just say that what I wasn't able to add in quantity of names I made up for in quality of depth of understanding.
Yes, reading through hundred-page probate files can cause research progress to come grinding to a halt—if all I'm doing is counting names in a database, that is. And while I certainly do more than just that, I generally try to keep tabs by those counts. It will be no surprise, then, that the rate of increase wasn't stellar, this time around.
In my mother's tree, the one I've been focusing on since signing up for the SLIG Southern research class next January, I added only 107 names to total 14,386 in her database. In the previous two-week sequence, I had added over three times as many names. But last time, I wasn't slogging through wills, trying to extract those minute but important details such as maiden names and deceased spouses' given names. It's the little things that count—at least, that's the way it's been this time.
I did, however, add a name to one other database. This was an exception to my research rule, simply owing to a special occasion: the birth of my cousin's grandbaby. How could I not take the time to enter that precious arrival into the record?! And then, in the process, I realized I was missing another one of her grandchildren, so I got to add a bonus name to the record. So, for now, my father's tree stands at 514, an increase of two names.
My other trees—the one for my mother-in-law and the one for my father-in-law's Irish roots—have stayed frozen in time with their counts at 15,667 and 1,490, respectively.
With my focus on the wills and probate records in Suwannee County in the past two weeks, I haven't even taken a peek at my DNA results. I had to take just one look this weekend, though, if for nothing else than to keep a record.
Having done that, though, makes me glad August is another DNA test sale month. I could use some fresh numbers here, as my match increases have slowed to a trickle. After the bump in numbers following the Father's Day sales, this past two weeks have brought only a few distant cousins into the picture.
One additional point to brighten that DNA picture: I'm hoping that finding new branches of the McClellan line, as my understanding of who belongs in the extended family crystallizes, will be an accelerating process with each new leaf pinned in its proper place on the tree.
That, however, will have to take second place to my current goal of reading through all the probate files I can find online for the McClellan home in 1800s Florida.