Thursday, August 24, 2017

Sometimes the Best Strategy is to Wait

Seeing the difficulty I'm encountering in locating any information on the nearly-First-Families settlers of Tennessee, the Davis and Tilson families, you might have been tempted to conclude that I should just chalk this up as a "brick wall." Shut down the online searches, push back from the desk and call it quits on James Davis and Rachel Tilson. The Greasy Cove settlement is as good as non-existent, as far as the results I'm finding.

While I might have been tempted to sport that attitude in the past, that's not my experience lately. I've learned a different way to view such research roadblocks now. I now know that time will buy me some unexpected bounty, if I just content myself to wait—and then revisit the specific research question in the future. See? Genealogy can teach us patience.

This frustrating experience has dogged me before, believe me. I have many snags in my research progress, but I've learned to hold on, give the problem some time to marinate, and then make myself an appointment to revisit it later.

What I've learned, when I hold to this process, is that the unfailing verve of multitudes of other researchers—and the talents of those dedicated to providing multiple options for viewing historic records—has created an insatiable demand for access. With online venues multiplying—a warehouse-full of genealogically-useful hyperlinks, if you take a virtual stroll through Cyndi's List—and expanding their reach, what might not have been online today may very well be found in a search sometime in the near future.

Mega-sites—those go-to resources for genealogical research like or—are constantly adding new collections, whether indexes, transcriptions, or visual representations of the actual documents. It is only a matter of time before someone uploads the records that would be useful to me in my quandary over those early Tennessee settlers.

And if not, chances are excellent that some smaller organization may take it upon themselves to provide records that perhaps only they had access to in the past. My own local genealogical society has recently moved to our new cyber-home, and we are in the process of uploading many databases of records pertinent to researchers interested in the settlers in our county. This is not only happening in my corner of the country; many other societies are upgrading their digital digs and following their mission mandates to find and preserve local records of genealogical interest. Someday, that will include the Tennessee locations I'm most interested in for my Davis-Tilson pursuit.

Sometimes, the students in my beginning genealogy classes bemoan their lack of progress on one of their family lines. They say things like "I'm stuck with a brick wall" or "guess I'll have to give up on that one." But no roadblock is permanent. There is always a way around. The way may not open up right while you are working on the problem. It's okay to set it aside. Wait a while—but don't forget to revisit the dilemma. In time, either something else will pop up in the multitude of online resources, or you will be able to travel to the source and see what's available locally.

With time, sometimes the gift of revisiting a research dilemma isn't only the gift of the very document you've been seeking. Sometimes, it's the gift of seeing the problem with fresh eyes. A detail will stand out in a different light, or a new understanding may have evolved in the interim. Whatever the situation, learning to wait when faced with a research roadblock is never conceding genealogical defeat. It's just the wisdom of adopting a long-term research strategy, and the experience to know that some day, that answer may very well show up.


  1. You're so right, Jacqi! Since FamilySearch has digitized its microfilm of probate records around the country, I have been able to confirm and refute relationships that were asserted in county histories that I found in libraries in the 1970s. Yes, I could have been reading that microfilm back then, but I don't think I knew enough back then to make much progress in 2-hour sessions at Family History Centers.

    1. Marian, thanks for that observation! You bring up some valuable points. Yes, we gain insight as we deepen our research experiences over the years, which becomes valuable for upcoming projects. And who wants to crank through microfilm when we can point and click now?!

      It's interesting that you mentioned confirming and refuting relationships gleaned from old county histories. I've found our current era of digitized documents to allow a particularly interesting diversion of that very process: vetting the old genealogy books of one hundred years past to see what still stands up under cyber-scrutiny. In many cases, the published details are spot-on, remarkable considering the many handicaps encountered by researchers from that time period. For the points at which it turns out there were printed errors, we now can easily access verification of what should have been printed.

  2. Wow that is a great site! Kudos to you and your helpers!!! What a great accomplishment to have hat site up and running:)

    1. Thank you, Far Side! Glad you liked it. We were fortunate to obtain some great programming help, and dedicated volunteers here, as well.


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