Thursday, November 10, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moments - Finding Books in Unexpected Places

This week I am posting two serendipity moments that occurred in the last two days. First, I will start with today's find at the Genealogical Forum of Oregon. I met this morning with a client to share the results of a current research project for her family. We had a pleasant meeting and it was exciting to see her appreciation of the information that was gathered. After we parted, I returned to the GFO for some reading materials I will be reviewing for our publication. Because her project intrigued me so much, I stopped to see if there were family histories in the books for two of the families.

Of the two families, I thought it most likely to find a book for the large family of slave owners from Maryland. There was one book, but it held no information for the family being researched. What I did find was a book for the large Quaker family from Pennsylvania. It was a phenomenal find. It covers the immigrant ancestors and their descendants from 1683-1885, and was published in 1885. This information directly connects to the great grandmother of the client who was born in 1884.

Within the book are pressed dried ferns and flowers, and a pass to a ferry boat for the Oregon and California Railroad dated from 20 Feb. to 20 May 1888. There is a map of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, pictures of four early meeting houses, three homes and a mill. Twenty-four pictures of men and two of women are rare finds in this time period. There is a good index, but it does not include all of the spouses or list the pictures contained. I can hardly wait to share this information with the client.

Now, serendipity moment number two. Yesterday I had lunch with a friend and a relative in Sherwood, Oregon. This is the small town where my grandparents met and were married. After lunch we visited the Heritage Center and toured their collection of artifacts. We toured the main floor and then decided to descend into the basement. The main room had the old post office boxes and three boxes of old ledger books from the post office.

The first book I looked at was the record of money orders sold at the post office from 1920-1921. Many of my ancestor's names were within the book. The next book was not so useful for genealogy purposes, just a listing of sales amounts. Then we found the book for the 1910-1911 money orders. I was very tired by that time, but soon I want to return and really go through the books in all of the boxes. I have often wondered exactly what year my grandmother came to Oregon and these books could provide that answer for me. The room was damp and musty and I encouraged them to move the books upstairs where they would be better preserved.

All the books that I used in both places were showing the wear and tear of the years. The pages are deteriorating and becoming more fragile as time passes. Mold is a major enemy, as well as insects. So many pieces of our history are slipping away and we need to be vigilant in their care. As I look at the pictures of the people on the pages or their names carefully handwritten, I come to know my ancestors on many different levels. We need to encourage everyone we work with to take advantage of every piece of information that they find. I hope you find some pieces of information for your families.

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