Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Genealogy Serendipity Moments - The Drake Family

Part 1
The research for the Drake family began back in January 2010. The client visited our church nativity exhibit in December 2009 and had a quick tour of the family history center. When she returned in January she only wanted to answer one question - Who were Joseph and Mary Howe who were buried in Chicago? According to family information they worked in the Underground Railroad. This information had been passed onto the client by her grandmother on a little slip of paper that in the frenzy of moving was thrown away.
In the clients hands was a book written by her grandmother providing the family history in a very disjointed fashion. Grandma actually had written at least five of these books for her children and grandchildren. Overtime we have been able to access two other books and there is at least one more that we know of. One was lost when someone moved and it was left behind with their belongings. Each book varies in contents, so each has to be read while taking notes to understand and compile the history. It appears that as grandma progressed in the book writing she gained additional information. She notes that she had documents, but these have eluded us in our research.
Once we finished her book we began to build a computer database and do online research for these families. The census helped to clarify what grandma wrote. The Chicago vital records online were very helpful. Then we moved on to Kentucky records and discovered what appeared to be lines of 1850s German immigrant ancestors. This matched the information on the family found in the book.
The work has all been pro bono on my part, but the client has been very involved. She is learning to be a researcher, making phone calls, contacting cemeteries, libraries and possible cousins. The only thing she does not do is computer work. It has been a very fun project for both of us. We even made visits to family members to share our information.
The serendipity moment I will share with you today is the result of cleaning up my cryptic notes. It is a very bad habit to have such notes. The little piece of paper I found in the research notebook sent me looking to the computer database. I had entered most of the information on the note, but neglected to create a file for Jasper County burials for the Drake family.
When we originally searched we did just a surname search for the county, but when I looked a second time I went into the cemetery listing and searched for the Drake name. This time there was an obituary for a more recent family burial. In wanting to make contact with the family I emailed the funeral home and requested that they help us contact the family. Within minutes we had the name and phone number of the spouse.
At this time the client and I were driving to meet with another relative and she insisted we call him on our way. He was very comfortable in talking with us and provided the phone numbers for his wife's mother and sister. We then contacted each of them. The mother is in her 90s and was a little hesitant. She wanted us to talk with her daughter. The daughter was not answering. We went on to dinner. Then the daughter called us and we spent most of the evening visiting with her on speakerphone. Thankfully the restaurant was not very busy. The mother is actually the sister in law of the client's grandmother. I hope you are not totally confused, but this was a most amazing experience. Sometimes bridges between families have been burnt and it can take a huge effort to rebuild, but if you don't rebuild there are family resources that are lost forever. This family shared a phenomenal amount of information and pictures with us. So, the challenge for this week is to locate a relative and share the joy of this work!

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