Thursday, January 12, 2012

Genealogy Serendipity Moment - Dreams Do Come True

Last September, during what became a very crazy time in my life, I began working with someone I met in our local family history center. We found some great finds for her on that first day. Later she came to work with me at my home office. She was very anxious to break down some long time brick walls in her family history research. We discovered that one of her relatives, John L. McSweeney and his wife Eliza, had a Civil War Pension file, which she ordered and found great information for this family. Then I fell and broke my arm and could not drive for two months; this limited our contact, as she does not drive. During the holidays we never seemed to connect, but finally last week we were able to meet again.

We went to the Genealogical Forum of Oregon, anticipating some further progress on her family lines. On the way there, she told me about a dream she had the night before, that she was going to find the death information of her grandfather, who according to family, died in Portland, Oregon. When we entered the facility I had some things to do for my volunteer work as one of the editors for their quarterly magazine. I turned to the volunteer research assistants and asked them to assist her. She wanted to look for material in the Oregon Death Index and then in the Oregonian newspaper. Sometimes it is best if we start fresh with someone who is familiar with the resources available.

When I finished my projects and found some books I needed for upcoming research articles, I went back to where they were working. She again reminded me of the dream she had and was feeling frustrated that she had not found the information she was looking for. As she related to me a bit more information about the family, I suggested she search for the marriage record of her grandparents. Then, seconds later, they found the marriage record from a search on This tie took them to the BYU Idaho Western States Marriage Records Index. Found in the index are pre-1900 marriages for Arizona, Idaho and Nevada. Now she needs to send for these documents.

Then a light bulb went off in my head. Vancouver, Washington being just across the river from Portland, might be a good place to search. I mentioned the Washington Death Index found online at
Lo, and behold, what should appear, but the death record of her grandfather, who by the way died in Seattle, Washington. Then, she informs us, that is where the family lived over a period of years.

The main benefit to this research is that she and the research assistant are now aware of these indexes. She was ecstatic to find this information, which now opens up more research possibilities. Now she needs to send for this document.

Truly a serendipity moment, as she gave me a hug while we waited for the elevator. This is truly what makes family history research so rewarding. The lesson learned is to get all the family facts available and create a research tool where these facts can be used as a road map. But in the end, you will find the records when you are meant to find them. Obviously, this was her day to find these records and dreams do come true.

1 comment:

  1. What a great experience! Of course, serendipity works best when there is some expertise to help it along.