Thursday, January 31, 2019
Arrivals . . . and Detours
It's one thing to speak from afar about research plans and goals—desperately seeking online what can't be found in person, owing to the handicap of distance—and yet another thing to actually be there, getting one's hands on the very documents, themselves.
Well, now I'm here. Not exactly in Wellborn, of course, but I have landed in Florida. Soon, I and my intrepid travel partner ("I'm not a genealogist; I just carry the bags") will be able to report that we have, indeed, arrived in Wellborn, the land of my third great-grandparents.
I've already made plans to stop at some specific places. Even though a decent amount of court records from Suwannee County are already online, I want to look up a few details. For one thing, I'd like to obtain a map detailing George E. McClellan's property holdings through the years; some of which may be at Suwannee County, some of which I may have to seek out in Columbia County, the county which previously claimed the land that my third great-grandfather settled.
In addition to my search for more information on George E. McClellan—after all, besides being my third great-grandfather, he was one of the signers of the original Florida state constitution, and I'd like to find more information on his role in that convention's proceedings—I have other surnames to pursue in the area. If you remember my post about the legend of Mary Charles, the unfortunate young girl who was said to have been shot for having left her pioneer home without the protective sign of her red scarf, you know I'll be finding my way to Charles Springs. In addition, I hope to have a chance to interview the man who wrote the article in which I first found the legend mentioned. After all, I have Charles surnames in my heritage, too.
In my eagerness to make advanced connections with the folks I'd like to see in Florida, I had gone through my email contacts and prior messages. There are two DNA cousins I'd like to meet, if at all possible, so I wanted to send them a note. It's been a while since I had last exchanged family history emails with either of these matches, so of course I needed to refresh my memory on what we had last discussed.
Both of these DNA matches, when I first found them on my list at Family Tree DNA, were no surprise to me. Each of them descends from one particular relative, a daughter of my second great-grandfather, William McClellan, George's youngest son. Everyone I know among the older members of my family had always called her "Aunt Fannie." Even though I never met the woman, that's what I ended up calling her, as well. Thanks to DNA connections, I now am in touch with two of her descendants.
One thing about Aunt Fannie: she was a storyteller. I remember stories my mother told me, passed along from Aunt Fannie, about the early days of the family's settlement in Florida—which I now know to be during territorial days—and the stark realities of setting up a home there. The rugged conditions made for the kind of story a young kid would just thrill to hear. They obviously made an impression on me.
It occurred to me, after having just connected with the second of my matches of Aunt Fannie's descendants, that perhaps her storytelling genes might have been inherited by the person I was emailing—if not that, at least he might recall some of the "Aunt Fannie" stories I remembered from my childhood.
So, apparently, I had asked this cousin if he had ever heard the story of the former slave who came back to his hometown to visit our second great-grandfather and bestow upon him a copy of the man's life story.
And, apparently, this cousin had already given me the answer I was seeking.
Moral of the story: always re-read your email.
And now, I'm off on another research trail, armed with a potential identity for the man I've been seeking.