Friday, February 2, 2018
Dashed Hopes and Doldrums
There comes a point in every family history quest when the hapless researcher feels as if the answer to that genealogical question simply isn't out there to be found.
That's where I am, right now.
My hope was to locate one of Alta Barnes' children—who, considering the possible dates of their birth, are quite likely to still be alive. But it appears that is not to be.
Still, Alta's own obituary had mentioned the presence of three grandchildren—not to mention, seven great-grandchildren—and those descendants are surely out there. Somewhere.
How to find them is the question that has stumped me, at least for the time being. Perhaps that answer will show up in the days and weeks to come. But I am not known for my patience. So I keep looking for alternate solutions.
What I'm working on now is going back and checking Ancestry.com's "hints" files to see who else has been researching those lines. Not that I haven't done that before, but long ago, I learned that it never hurts to backtrack and review what we've already done before. You never know when something "new" pops up—"new" because it was really there before, but not to blind eyes that needed to wake up to the fact.
When it comes to Alta Barnes' older sisters, Nellie and Mollie, I still can't find complete vital stats on them—and neither can any of my fellow Ancestry.com-subscribed Barnes researchers. I have an approximate year of birth for both Nellie and Mollie, thanks to the census enumerations, but no clue about any marriages that might bring the research along to find any records of their death—and thus, no telltale obituaries naming their descendants.
The haunting thing about struggling with the lack of information on those two older sisters is the realization that their nicknames might be telling us something. First of all, Mollie could be a nickname—or not. How can I be sure? A combination like "Mollie" and "Barnes" could be quite a false lead, considering how many of them there were in that time period, but assuming Mollie equals Mary, for instance, might become just as misleading a clue as choosing which Mollie Barnes was the right one.
As for the other nickname—Nellie—it struck me last night that Nellie was often used as a nickname for Helen. The problem with this fact is that parents Forrest and Clara Barnes subsequently had another daughter after Alta whom they named Helen. Could they have chosen the re-use of that name as a memorial to Nellie? Had she succumbed, like her older sister Hattie, to that fatal intestinal malady?
At any rate, these seemed to be likely explanations for why I was making no progress in finding any more information on Alta's two older sisters in the photograph. Perhaps that was why Alta—or her own descendant—had written so many notes about "Aunt Nellie." It makes me wonder whether, of the three sisters in the photograph I found, only one of them survived to adulthood—who wanted to insure that her descendants remembered those two missing sisters. From the lack of availability of records, it certainly seems so.
With thoughts like those swirling around in my mind, I began to wonder whether I'd ever be able to return this photo home to family. Getting stuck in those research doldrums can be a joyless sinkhole. That search through the hints file at Ancestry.com may have led to a different answer, though. Just like I had done the first time, I went through each researcher's work, looking to see two things. First, I wanted to find a well-resourced file; someone who does the due diligence of citing sources is serious about learning the truth about their ancestors. Second, though, I checked those pedigree charts to see how far from the "home" person the Barnes relative was.
In some of those pedigrees, the distance between Alta and the researcher's home person was the genealogical equivalent of miles. There's no problem with that, of course—I have put in considerable effort on auxiliary lines in my own trees, as well, with good reason. Though that thorough work represents a passionate family historian, it doesn't necessarily point me towards an immediate descendant who remembers the subjects of the photograph personally. And that was what I was looking for: someone for whom Alta—or Nellie or any of her siblings—was grandma or auntie. Someone close.
It took this review of the researchers to spot it, but I think I've finally found a possibility. I've sent a message, via Ancestry.com, and will hopefully hear from this person over the weekend. If the match is as close as it appears in the pedigree chart, perhaps Alta's memento of her two older sisters will soon find a home.