Friday, January 24, 2020
By the time you read this, I will hopefully be winging my way eastward on a research trip to Florida. Unlike last week's trip—when research meant pulling old books from stack after stack of genealogical resources at Salt Lake City's Family History Library—this type of research trip involves face to face meetings with relatives I already know. Questions are much different here, too: instead of asking myself just what kind of document I can locate to prove that my fourth great-grandfather Peleg Tilson was actually born—to parents from Massachusetts, no less—on the forbidden back end of colonial southwest Virginia, I will now be asking living people for their own recollections of family members they knew.
While my approach in discussing my mystery grandfather's line with my paternal cousin will take the approach of recalling specific names, with my maternal cousin, I'll stick to what I call overlapping timelines. Because my McClellan great-grandfather was one of at least nine siblings, that means quite a few second cousins might be among those names that ring a bell with the maternal cousin I'll be visiting next week. To zero in on the right names to mention, I'll be sketching out the timelines of all these overlapping cousins and second cousins. After all, not all will be in my focus for this experiment. Some of my great-grandfather's cousins died young, or never married, or never made it beyond childhood. Ditto for the subsequent generation. The ones which will fall into my cousin's memory will be those whose life trajectory crossed hers, if even for only a brief moment during her own childhood.
Then again, I need to remember that this is the family with stories. Aunt Fannie's heritage still lives, and this cousin I'll be meeting is a wealth of such memories. My visit with her will be spent with pen and notebook close at hand. There is so much to be remembered.
Thankfully, a cross-continental flight gives ample time for me to get those last-minute thoughts together, so I'll have plenty of time to line up all those cousinly timelines before we meet for lunch on Monday. As usual, it will be a time to look forward to. You never know when one surprise story will lead to new discoveries. Genealogy, after all, is a chain reaction just waiting to be touched off by the tiniest clue.