By Donna L Beals
Genealogy is the most fascinating addiction anyone can get into. It is also one of the most potent drugs that affect many as they get older. Once hooked, it is a hard habit to break – but then, why would anyone want to. It is one hobby where you can be part of the family, socialize with new kinfolk, trespass through the cemeteries, and get to be the Inspector Clouseau of one’s family when suddenly faced with brick walls, unlocking the doors to the elusive ancestor.
Ah, yes! Those hideous, yet intriguing brick walls that anyone researching their family history is bound to find in their family. To best illustrate how to unlock the doors to your elusive ancestor, I feel that it will be more helpful to introduce my own brick wall to reveal the more frustrating side to genealogy. So, at this time let me introduce my elusive one of my three times great grandfathers, George Himes.
Public recognition of an elusive ancestor for me has been one of the hugest keys to unlocking the door and getting behind the brick wall in my own genealogical experience in the past when I was at wit’s end on my maternal grandfather’s line. That particular ancestor died in 1976 before my genealogical bug was born, and knowing very little I put together an article on another blog site you may have heard of called, Hub spot. I wrote an article in which I basically exposed all I knew about him and asked for help hoping to connect with another person in the same place researching this line. I will get back to this story later in the article.
Face with another brick wall, I want to learn more about my three-time great grandfather. I cannot find him ANYWHERE. The only information I have is verbal that has been passed down through generations or through limited resources. I will use this and demonstrate this method I found. This elusive ancestor is George Himes. He was born in North Kingstown, Rhode Island in 1788, and married Mary Ann Nye of Jamestown, Rhode Island. He was said to have been a ships carpenter, and his wife was a took care of their house and children. One of his children was my third great grandmother, Adeline Russell Himes – he had others, as my grandmother said Adeline named her son after her favorite brother, Alexander Barton Luther, who is also my one-time great grandfather. My eight times great grandfather has sudden temper that would flair up and be over quickly. I realized I may have inherited this from my grandpa Himes, and have learned to control it. Let me outline this method for unlocking those brick walls in our genealogical research I have found successful:
- Outline Connections from You Up. Anyways, let us get back to my three-time great grandfather, George Himes, and his wife, Mary Ann. The first thing I do is to take a manila file folder and open it up; I put myself on the bottom and work up to the line I am addressing. I put copies of any original documents in the folder as you should NEVER carry your originals with you. This way, if you lose them or something happens, you still have the originals safe at home. I am pretty comfortable back to my two-time great grandmother, Adeline, but then I come to her parents. Who are these two strangers in my line? Now, I need to record everything I remember hearing about them from my grandmother – perhaps this will reveal a clue to the next step.
- Record All Memories and Stories Heard. George Himes was born in 1788 in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. He married Mary Ann Nye, born about 1803 in Jamestown, Rhode Island – unknown exact date or where. He died in Rehoboth, Massachusetts on the twenty-sixth of March 1866 from cancer of the face. It is said he wore a black cloth over the side of his face all the time and would keep a piece of steak tied to it. It was thought in that time the cancer would eat the steak and not his skin. He would sit and cane chairs, and sing hymns all day. My grandmother would tell that it was said George bled to death when the cancer ate into his jugular vein. Unknown exactly how many children he had besides my two-time great grandmother, Alexander S. Himes, and a daughter, Mary Himes, who was said to have married a Dr. Miller and moved out to California after they were married. There is supposedly a boatload of descendants out there by the Miller’s out there in California. Beyond this point, I know no more.
- Note Any Places You Recalled. I checked out North Kingstown and learned all the records were lost in a fire way back. I found proof of his death in the vital records at Rehoboth, Massachusetts to verify his date of death and learned the names of his parents, my four-time great grandparents who were George and Eunice. This record also indicated my three-time great grandfather was seventy-eight when he died. This proves the year of his birth. I wrote for any military records from the Federal Government and they were unable to locate any – which may or may not prove he never served. Well, there is Jamestown, Rhode Island – guess we will start there and do some digging on his wife and perhaps do some land searching in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
- Time to Make A Field Trip or Hire A Professional The frustration of unearthing an elusive ancestor can be overpowering at time. Since this is my pastime and I have a full-time job, I contacted Marjorie Schunke – a researcher in North Kingstown o is now deceased to dig into the remains of the burned records. She found a probate record dated the twenty-second of April, 1802 stating George Hiams deceased, Town Council appointed son, Stukeley, as administrator on that date. And another entry for John Hiams (son of George, lately deceased) a minor, chose his brother Stukeley Hiams as guardian. This would be my four-time great grandfather, who I also learned served in the Revolutionary War from November 10, 1778 to December 6, 1778.
- Finally, Take All Information and Share Publicly. After all leads exhausted, take all your information as I have done here and share it in a blog post. I did this with another line that I was stuck on and today I am meeting living relatives as a result, and all I must admit are the greatest. Do not expect an instant find for your post – it took my blog post three years of just being out there and finally I got a response. It was a grandson of my grandfather’s youngest brother and their things just started flying in at me.
In conclusion, let me go back to my first brick wall to show how public recognition helped me realize this tool I had found quite by accident. It was about six years later, I opened my email and my mouth dropped in excitement as I found a reply from a young gentleman researching his great grandfather. His great grandfather turned out to be my own grandfather’s youngest brother. Today, I have connected to the rest of this family line and working on putting together a book of that research for all members of that line to have as well as hold a family reunion to form an association to keep us together. Here I exposed another of my elusive family members, and showed you how I do it by putting everything I know into a blog post and publicly sharing it. Now it is your turn to try this method with YOUR elusive ancestor. Make sure to leave your contact information in the resource box and wait for the right eyes to find it. Suddenly the heavens will open up to an abundance of new leads and connections as it did for me. I hope this will help you unlock the door to your own elusive ancestor. Wishing you much success as you get ready to climb publicly over YOUR brick walls!
Donna has been doing family genealogy since 1976. She has seen it all, experienced more than you can imagine and she just keeps digging. If you can help her find this line, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.