Setting goals makes you face up to your messiest research problems. At some point, you have to solve those problems—if that is at all possible. And even if it turns out not to be possible—at least, right now—difficult problems allow us the opportunity to dig deeper into the surrounding puzzle pieces.
That's exactly what I'm facing with the goal I simply can't put off for another year. For the third selection of my Twelve Most Wanted ancestors to research for 2022, I'm going to square off with my fourth great-grandfather, Charles McClellan. Supposedly born in South Carolina about 1775, he somehow made his way first to Georgia, and then over the Georgia state line into then-territorial Florida before 1830.
There are a lot of conjectures about my fourth great-grandfather. For one thing, no one has been able to determine the maiden name of his wife, thus meaning no one has found any documentation of Charles' marriage to Elizabeth. Despite having a large family, adding up over the centuries to many descendants, you'd think with that many people on his research trail, someone would have risen triumphantly, clutching a telltale document in hand. But no.
I realize I will likely not be any more successful than the many motivated researchers who have gone before me. But I take this as an opportunity to learn much more than just the vital details for the man. When I tackle this research problem in March, I want to peruse all that can be found on the history of the regions where he once lived. He has, as I've already discovered, left his name scattered among the records of others who were tangentially connected to the McClellan family. Perhaps, in addition to delving into local history, some attention to the McClellan F.A.N. Club may turn up a clue.
Research goals don't necessarily need to outline enormous, earth-shaking endeavors. For this longstanding challenge, my goal will be to learn what I can about the whereabouts, extended family, friends and neighbors of this man as a first step. We'll see where that first step leads us in March, and, who knows, maybe continue the pursuit in a future year, as well.