I know that I’ve become annoying about my new favorite pastime, genealogy. It’s fascinating to me, and I wish I’d gotten hooked 20 years ago because in the years I have left I can never investigate, solve or even know, all the mysteries of my family.
Recently, frustrated with one family line that keeps running me headfirst into walls, I just started flipping through what is called my ThruLines on the website of Ancestry.com. As I understand it, people at Ancestry.com or the software they have devised, or some magic I can’t understand is triangulating information from other family trees to introduce me to potential ancestors I may not yet know about.
I very quickly met a maternal ancestor who had lived in the same community several of my paternal ancestors inhabited. Both sets of ancestors lived near each other in the 1750s, long before my mom and dad met and married in Indiana in the 1940s. It seems this was a very small world in the 1700s.
I met a potential ancestor (James Barrett) who was a farmer in Ontario, Canada. He was born there, lived there, and died there. I did not know I had family in Canada, and I do not know how they came to be the family I know in Indiana.
I met another potential ancestor (Arabrella Bailey) who was born in Maryland in 1707 but died in France at the age of 35. How and why did she go the opposite direction from all my other ancestors to end up in Europe? And even more puzzling, she is reported to have died on the very same day that her husband died…back in Maryland! There must be an amazing story there or some serious dating errors that need to be corrected.
There’s also a man named Nathaniel Burdine with the word “slaveowner” attached to his name. He was born in 1738 in Virginia and died in Tennessee in 1823. In that time and those locations, I have no reason to doubt he was a slaveowner, but why was his ownership so significant that he is listed in his family tree as Nathaniel Burdine Slaveowner? The same designation was given his son, Ezekiel Burdine, a title that was apparently as important as his other title, Reverend. I need to look into that, too.
And there is Elsbeth von Ochsner born in 1707 in Switzerland. She seems to be the Immigrant in that particular line of my mother’s ancestry, yet the dates are very confusing. She is shown as arriving in North Carolina in 1738…yet giving birth to a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1739 and a son, Jacob, in 1740, both in Switzerland. Finally, daughter Anna was listed as being born in 1742 in Bucks Co., Pennsylvania. Either Elsbeth was a brave, two-way traveler (remember this was the 1700’s) or someone somewhere has made a grave error.
These are just a few of the mysteries I dug up in a couple of hours of flipping through possible ancestors that somehow link to my own. You see why I can’t stop looking?
I am planning a trip this summer to one of the areas where I know my ancestors lived before coming to Indiana. I don’t know what I’ll find there or even who I might find, and I’m not even sure what I hope to find. It might be enough to just walk along the river bank where I think they walked, to see the area where they worked the salt lick I know they worked.
I certainly don’t miss the irony of being able to reach the area in less than two hours by driving an interstate highway on a route that took them days to walk as they sought a new future in a new land that would ultimately cost them almost more than they could bear.