Sunday, April 10, 2016

Just What Was Needed

Just when it seems like every direction a stymied researcher turns pulls one up short against yet another brick wall, a breakthrough emerges out of nowhere. Of course, in some of those struggles, it helps to have friends. Talented, researching friends.

In trying to discover whatever became of the now-motherless children of the Reverend P. T. Wilson, I thought the most logical route was to check the families of his deceased wife's siblings. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any clues to determine which Mary Whitcomb would lead me to the right family. Likely, using the very same special Google sauce that conjured up those helpful hints for Peachy Taliaferro Wilson in the first place, I could have found what I was looking for. But did I think of that?

Of course not.

Thanks go to the ever-helpful Intense Guy for locating the "Memoir of Mrs. Mary Jane Whitcomb Wilson" online. With that discovery, I've spent the better part of a day pulling up records for the rest of the Whitcomb family.

The memoir itself confirmed that same date of death—May 23, 1874—that had led me to a Find A Grave entry for the wrong Mrs. Mary Wilson. In this case, however, our Mrs. Mary Wilson died in Springfield, Illinois—about one hundred miles east of the Reverend's childhood hometown near Quincy in Adams County.

In addition, the memoir provided Mrs. Wilson's date and place of birth: November 13, 1840, in Leominster, Massachusetts. From that, I was off, adding names, dates, places and details on the rest of Mary Whitcomb Wilson's family.

That helped swell the numbers on the count for my maternal family tree, of course—and just in time for my bi-monthly tally, so let's take a look. It turns out this month's first count was encouraging, for I have been so busy, I hardly thought I'd made any progress at all on my research. The numbers tell a different story—confirmation that this exercise is well worth the effort.

In the last two weeks, I actually managed to add 177 names to my maternal tree, increasing the overall count to 7,613. On my husband's maternal tree, the count was even higher: 353 in two weeks, bringing the total there to 4,151. And here I thought I hadn't done much at all.

Of course, absolutely no progress was made on either of our two paternal lines. But one surprise did surface there, even though I accomplished no work: there were two additional matches from Family Tree DNA on my father's line, a rare occurence, since there has been no increase in DNA matches there since the middle of February.

As for the rest of our DNA matches, the greatest increase in the last two weeks has been for my maternal line, where 17 additional matches brings the total at FTDNA to 1,095. Ten more for my husband's maternal line brings his total number of matches to 656 at FTDNA. Our Ancestry DNA accounts clipped along at a more modest rate, with his adding three more for a total of 107 matches, and mine increased fourteen to top out at 282 matches.

Not that I put any effort into the DNA side of the equation this time. I was not able to make any contacts whatsoever, other than to follow up on a couple email conversations that were already in the works.

When I see such gradually evolving progress, I have to remind myself that genealogy is often a painstakingly slow endeavor. We work and work on our quest, often showing nothing for our labors for days on end. And then, suddenly, a breakthrough opens doors to document after document. It's when we can barely keep up with all the stuff coming at us that we may be ecstatic, but in those standstill moments when we can budge that brick wall not one inch, keeping track of those numbers can at least award us a glimmer of hope that we are still moving forward. 


  1. Hopefully you have or will discover the story of Harvey Clendening and Mansel Wilson Clendening.

    I am assuming they are twins and were adopted - by someone.

    1. I saw those two enigmatic Social Security application entries for the twins at Ancestry, but for whatever reason, the entries were listed as if the surname was Clendening, not Wilson. Now I'm wondering whether the Clendening was an adopted name, since I can find neither of these sons in any other records under Wilson.

    2. There are several prominent Methodist Reverend Clendening's in the time period. When Mary the mother died, I suspect it wouldn't be unusual for another Minister to take the young ones under their wings.

    3. That's what I keep thinking, Iggy...but no solid clues, yet.

  2. I love your word choices. It makes me realize I need to improve my vocabulary. Today's favorite word combo was " special Google sauce"
    So creative!

  3. The one twin was not listed in the ships manifest IF I recall correctly. But that still leaves two of the three children. Yes it is a slow process but yopu are making progress! :)

    1. It does seem slow, Far Side. But then, after Iggy sent that other link, it seems like I've zoomed ahead. children other than daughter Mary can be found--so far.


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