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ELIZABETH'S GENEALOGY GEMS
The True Story of the Clarks (1837-1955): A Cutlery Village Family can be purchased in both paperback and Kindle format by following this link to Amazon.com: Link
I received a call a few days ago from a neighbor I have never met. As it turned out she lives on the next street. I can see her house from my back door. After reading a news item about my recent book, The True Story of the Clarks (1837-1955): A Cutlery Village Family, she felt she needed to connect with me. “I think we have something in common,” she told me. “My grandfather lived in Bay State (Village) and worked in the cutlery, there.” I realized that her grandparents undoubtedly knew my ancestors. As our conversation continued, we realized that both families also lived in Buckland, Massachusetts in the same period, as well. I felt like I was talking an old friend. We are planning meet for a cup of tea and what I am sure will be a very long conversation.
It was that conversation that brought to mind the attention getting headline real estate professionals often use when advertising property: Location! Location! Location! I found myself thinking about that marketing “come on” as I began to write this post. Often, it is our location, the place where we make our home that influences the quality of our life. Location also played a part in the quality of life for our ancestors.
There have been times when I believed I had compiled all of the information available about my family and there are times when I have performed client research and thought there was nothing to be found beyond vital records. In truth, there is an abundance of information available about our ancestors, if you are willing to go an extra mile to find it.
Families are connected by a surname, ancestors and DNA, their history and shared experiences. However, they are also connected to a geographical area, a town or city and the neighborhoods in which they lived out their lives. While birth, marriage and death records are vital and basic to genealogy research, putting an ancestor in historical perspective through research of the places they lived, the events that impacted their lives and even the people in their neighborhood can provide a wealth of information about who they were, their traditions and how local and world events affected their lives.
Where they lived influenced where they worked, their socio-economic status and the opportunities to move up and foreword in their lives. A man in New York did not have the same opportunities and life experiences as a farmer living in the West.
When researching your family history ask yourself: Did my ancestor live in a city or rural area? Who were my ancestor’s neighbors and what were their professions? If they owned a house, was it passed to them from a former generation or did they obtain the property by way of a land grant? How many wars and economic downturns occurred during their lifetime? How did those events affect the local economy? What epidemics occurred in their geographical area during their lifetime? Answering just a few of these questions will add depth and richness to your family history.
When digging deep into the lives of ancestors, never overlook the history of the place they lived out their lives.
The True Story of the Clarks (1837-1955) is now available at Amazon.com.
Some of the most interesting research I have performed. Follow the link to read the Daily Mail (UK) article: Link Elizabeth
Last week I was busy researching Ben Affleck's ancestry for the Daily Mail (UK). You can find the article by following this link: Link
The faces and names may be different, but the stories of those who came before us are as old as the sun. E.B.
Most of my readers are aware that I have recently completed a soon to be published family narrative history entitled: The True Story of the Clarks of Bay State Village. My research spanned more than a decade; writing the narrative took over a year. The project has been rift with delays from the start and publication of the book has been postponed until later this year. Despite ongoing issues that left me frustrated and discouraged, I was determined to complete the project.
My intention when I began this project was, as the title implies, to write a fair and honest account of the lives of three generations of the Clark family. However, as the project came to a close, my intentions and principles were put to the test by a dilemma that tugged at my emotions and kept me awake for several nights. The issue at hand was whether or not to include negative information in the narrative about a well-known and highly regarded uncle. A relative who had been close to him before his death in the early 1970s was not happy about the disclosure and the more I thought about it, I found myself questioning the wisdom of my decision.
My uncle was a good man. He was a prominent figure locally and is still remembered by many for his good works for the communities he served. However, no one is perfect and in the very distant past he was known to drink heavily. This indulgence nearly cost him his marriage and had he not curbed his alcohol habit, his contributions would have been few. However, he was a stubborn and strong personality. He won the battle with the “bottle” and moved on to a productive life.
I heard about his hard drinking days from my mother many years ago. However, when writing about his very large life, I had forgotten that once upon a time, for a short period, he was known within the family as a “drunk”. When compared to his many good works, his Achilles’heel was a small flaw in an otherwise stellar life. From my perspective, his alcoholism did not define him. It was a transient problem and I did not consider disclosing it in the book.
However, at the prodding of a relative, I contacted an extended family member to interview her about my uncle’s wife and their married life. Her most vivid memories of the family were connected to my uncle’s drinking days. She had personal knowledge of his affliction and how it affected those closest to him. Her stories were supported by information I received from other family members. I was stymied as to how I should proceed.
For me, the issue was not about preserving my long deceased uncle’s image as a public figure. It was about the living; the few surviving people, who loved him during his life and still held him in esteem because of his good qualities. Certainly, he had worked hard for his family and for his community. He had earned the respect he received both in public and in his private life. I asked myself if I was being unfair to him and his loved ones by making public this little known fact. Moreover, I was writing history and for better or for worse, what I wrote would be read by generations to come. Still, another part of my psyche shouted that this was a story of redemption; a story of a man who had fallen from grace and found his way back to a better life.
Apart from grappling with my principles, I also knew that if I did not include this negative piece of information, readers in the “know” would question why I did not write about “it.” Omitting the information would bring into question the veracity of other information I presented in the narrative.
I concluded that since alcohol abuse was prevalent in the Clark family and because I spoke of it freely when writing about other generations, to omit the information pertaining to my uncle’s drinking days was at best disingenuous, if not dishonest. Family members knew the truth. Furthermore, omitting that brief, dark period in his life would belie the title of the book and my objective in writing the narrative in the first place.
To write about it or not, I asked myself for the one hundredth time? I sat down at my computer and began to tell his story without judgment and without prejudice. My uncle’s transient issues with alcohol were covered in two short paragraphs.
When I completed the biography, I felt I had created a balanced accurate portrayal of my late uncle; the man he was and the man he later became.
I knew the depiction of my uncle as a young alcoholic was not going to get favorable reviews from a few family members. However, it was just one of many portrayals of my less than perfect and all too human ancestors. No doubt readers will not envision any of them floating above the ground with halos over their heads. What they will envision is individuals and families over a century ago dealing with the eternal issues that have plagued humankind since the beginning of time.
At the end of the day, alcoholism is written about and discussed freely in the media. It is not a new affliction and as I have thought to myself so many times when researching my ancestors and the ancestors of my clients: The faces and names may be different, but the stories of those who came before us are as old as the sun.
This is a repost-
THE ELUSIVE ANCESTOR: HIDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF MY FACE
I know you’re there! I just need to find a way to find you. - E.B.
The proverbial brick wall can be likened to a nagging headache that continues unabated until it broken down. I don’t know anyone who engages in the business of genealogy, who doesn’t have at least one pesky ancestor, who wandered away from the fold and vanished into the ethers.
There are people who die and are never identified. There are those that vanish by their own volition, change their name and disappear into the crowd, but not very many. Almost everyone has a paper trail. If someone is looking for them, they will be found.
I experienced my first brick wall when searching for a long lost uncle, who boarded a train and eventually lost contact with his family. I remember sitting at my desk day after day, staring at his vital statistics. No one in the family knew what happened to him. No one had a clue. I believed the answer to the mystery was hidden somewhere on that page and indeed it was staring back at like a huge red flag.
My missing uncle served during the Spanish-American War. After some research on military records and a flurry of phone calls, I was able to retrieve a copy of his military pension file. The mystery was solved. The pension file was a road map of his life after he left Northampton, Massachusetts. Affidavits told the story of his travels through the West and his encounter with a stranger, who attempted to steal his identity and his military pension. Most touching was the hospital records that documented the details of his death and the funeral home records that described the suit he was buried in.
At the end of the day, I came to realize that a good working knowledge of resources and well-developed analytical skills are the keys to finding an elusive ancestor. When I consider all of the trial and error internet searches, phone calls to relatives and days spent pouring over the same information, I shake my head. Everything I needed to know was on that tattered sheet of paper.
When confronted by a brick wall, think about other resources that might contain the information you are seeking. As an example, instead of relying on an internet search or census records to locate children, consult the parent’s will or probate record. Research newspapers for obituaries for known family members, which will name next of kin.
Stick with it. Your elusive ancestor is hiding right in front of your face.
Need assistance with your genealogical research? Go to: http://www.eabanasgenealogyservices.com or write to Elizabeth Banas at email@example.com.
Check out the September issue of Family Chronicle Magazine to read my tutorial and article to finding your ancestors homes though deeds and other sources.
It is nearly June and I am still waiting for the copyright certificate. There is a reason for everything and I suppose the reason this is taking so long will unfold in the future. In the meantime, I am organizing material for my next book. God Bless! Elizabeth