Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Most Rewarding Genealogy Moment (Moment 2)

In my last post, I related the story of discovering two of my mother's first cousins, Phyllis and Barbara, who were instrumental in advancing my research of my maternal ancestors. In this story I want to tell you how Barbara again was the key player in my second most rewarding genealogy moment.

A member of my husband's family began the study into his ancestry in the middle 1970s, nearly 20 years before I met him. She established the identity of nearly 5 generations of his family, but ran into a brick wall when she reached his Jamison great, great grandparents. She identified them as Samuel S. Jamison and wife Rachel McKern, both born and died in Pennsylvania in the 1800s. Her research stopped in the 1980s and the papers were all packed away.

By 2004 or so, I'd been married to Larry Jamison for a decade and had picked up the genealogy bug. During my first two or three years of research, I expanded Larry's ancestor tree by many generations, but that Jamison line was still the shortest branch on the tree. I spent dozens of hours scouring the internet for anything I might find on Samuel and Rachel Jamison, or any McKern family in Pennsylvania. I found nothing! I was so discouraged that I reluctantly reached out for help. Remember, I said in my last post that it was difficult for me to ask for help from others or to share what I'd found in my own research. I was very insecure about my research skills. And I did not subscribe to any web sites that offered census or vital record data. But I sent a quick email to my cousin Barbara (okay, to be proper, my first cousin once removed), who lived in California. I didn't ask her to find information for me, I just asked for advice on where to look next. With her decades of experience I knew she could offer some valuable suggestions about how to pursue this search. Within minutes Barbara emailed me in return and said she'd found Samuel and Rachel Jamison in the 1860 census for their county of residence in Pennsylvania. She emailed me the household listing. She did have the subscription to a web site that offered census images.

I couldn't believe it! I had searched for 2 or 3 years and within minutes---literally no more than 5 minutes, she had found their household and I was reading it in print on my computer screen. I ran down the stairs to the kitchen where my husband was cooking our dinner (what a guy!) and had tears rolling down my face. He asked if I was happy or crying. I said "Yes!" I was happy and crying! Barbara had found Rachel and Samuel for me.

After I regained my composure, I emailed Barbara and thanked her. She quickly offered to send me a hard copy of the census image and I accepted her offer, thinking it should go in the file as supporting evidence.

I was feeling so victorious over simply finding the residence location of this family and the listing of their household members. Barbara had sent me the names of the father, mother, and six children in the household.

It was only 3 or 4 days later that I received the hard copy of that census image in the mail. I casually opened it, thinking it was just evidence for the file folder. But I gasped when I read the listing for that household. Not only were Samuel Jamison, wife Rachel and children Mary, Angeline, Curtis, Robert, John, and Emma listed, but the final household member listed was Samuel's mother-in-law Elizabeth McPherrin. McPherrin----NOT MCKERN!

For 30 years my husband's family and I had been looking for Rachel McKern. Samuel and Rachel's son Robert was my husband's great grandfather and on his death certificate his widow, the informant, supplied the name of Rachel McFern as his mother. The "F" was recognized as a "K" and we'd been looking for McKern instead of McPherrin.
This experience taught me several lessons: (1) don't be afraid to ask for help (2) always secure a hard copy of the supporting document--besides evidence you might find the ONE secret that will break open your research, (3) it's worthwhile to subscribe to web sites that offer census records and other supporting documentation, and (4) never give up!
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