Friday, March 29, 2024

From Third to Eighth


Well, it might not seem as impressive as going from zero to sixty in less than five, but I did make it from third to eighth (great-grandmothers) in less than five—weeks, that is. And that was my research goal for this month. You can tell I'm satisfied, I'm sure.

The idea, at the beginning of this month, was to pursue documentation while piecing together the lineup on my matriline—that line of generations from mother to maternal grandmother to her mother and onward to each subsequent generation's mother. Thus I moved from third great-grandmother Mary Taliaferro to fourth great-grandmother Mary Gilmer, then to her mother Elizabeth Lewis, and her mother Jane Strother, followed by Margaret Watts. And then, onward once again to the woman I so far only know as Mary, wife of Richard Watts.

I had even noted, in my post starting this month, that we "may even land as far back as the beginning of the eighteenth century in colonial Virginia." We did a bit better than that: my newfound eighth great-grandmother, whom I so far only know by her given name Mary, was a woman whose daughter was born in 1700.

The real game changer for me was the FamilySearch Labs development of their Full Text search capability. That made working my way through those colonial wills with their fancy handwriting and extra curlicues less burdensome on my eyes—to say nothing of my patience. I can't help but think of all the other lines in my mother's tree which could benefit from such a review in upcoming months.

In addition, I was able to solidly confirm one of my mtDNA matches, based on what I was able to add to my records with the help of those newly-found wills and deeds. The other three of my "exact matches" are still a mystery, but a task to save for another day.

There are some months, as I work on my Twelve Most Wanted ancestors for each year, when the month closes without much of a sense of satisfaction. There is always work to go back to, the next time I pass that way in the family tree. The same can be said for this month's project. If eighth great-grandmother Mary was born in Virginia, there is certainly a good chance that I'll be able to identify her maiden name—perhaps, even, the name of her mother, as well. But I'll save that for another year's goals.

Somehow, in the cracks between the progress I'll be making on next month's Twelve Most Wanted research goal, I'll be able to squeeze in visits to the FamilySearch Labs site again to confirm more members of this extended family tree through wills and other legal documents stashed away in colonial court records. While research sometimes seems like progress moving ahead in mere inches at a time, it's the conscious, continuous addition of small victories that add up.

With the beginning of the next month—and next week—we'll turn from working on my mother's ancestry to spending three months working on my mother-in-law's tree. And that means, instead of wandering through the handwritten court records of colonial Virginia, in April we'll pick up on a research project from last year to review the family records of neighboring colony Maryland.  

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