When the topic (living-relative connections) was announced for the mid-January Carnival of Genealogy, my mind immediately wondered back to all the cousins I've found over the years. I remember posting queries on various mailing lists, hoping for a cousin to say that they'd gotten past the brick wall I was at. Frequently at that early stage, my brick walls were from lack of experience in researching or lack of knowledge about resources that were available. I had some basic research skills just because of my training as a librarian; however, I still did not know enough about the resources for genealogical research that were available for different areas at that time. Sometimes I just didn't know about the tricks of soundex searching and the weird spellings and indexing that enumerators used on censuses. I didn't know the trick of reading through censuses. I didn't expect my ancestors to travel "back east" after moving west. There were just a lot of things I didn't know when I first got started. [When I first started researching, I was researching my maternal line because I really started to explore Mom's family because she'd kept saying she was interested in finding out more. She was especially interested in the Walton Harris family. His wife was Margaret Mosley. She'd known that he came from Kentucky. The family story was that he'd met Margaret when he was on a cattle drive, and they had stopped to water the cattle at her family's house. She was supposed to have been lying on a table in her petticoat. He'd fallen in love and after taking the cattle to their destination somewhere in the Starkville, Mississippi area, he'd returned to her home in Tennessee and married her.]
I remember finding a cousin who was researching the Mosley surname and who matched my line. She had done quite a bit of research on the line and had a copy of one ancestor's Revolutionary War pension file. As luck would have it, we were able to meet shortly after we connected online, and she brought me two spiral-bound books. One was a copy of the Revolutionary War records; the other was her research on the family. For a relative newby, this was a wonderful acquisition. However, it showed me how wonderful records beyond the census were in research.
The Harris line proved to be a difficult one to research. While I can build a case that meets the genealogical proof standard (and have found no contradictory evidence), I don't have the type of evidence I would truly love to have for Walton Harris' father. However, as a newbie, I didn't have the type of focus that I would have liked to have had, and in reviewing my records on this family in the last few days, I've seen all kinds of gaps that were left in my research because of my inexperience. I'm beginning to work on some of those gaps (while trying to keep most of my focus on preparation for my upcoming New England research trip). I've met cousins of this line online. In fact, I blogged about one such connection here. Another cousin I've met on this line has proven to be a good research friend with whom I correspond regularly about local history.
After I was meeting such a dead end on the Harris line, I decided to try my hand at the Taylor line. I've blogged previously about my initial interest in this line. I had very little information to go on with this line, and I had somehow overlooked something in my process. I got back to Laura's father being Stephen Taylor, but I had no idea where to go from there. I received an email from a Taylor researcher in Pittsburgh who immediately recognized my family but he was brickwalled not far beyond where I was. He gave me enough clues that I was able to take my family back to the point he was brickwalled, but he didn't really share his research with me. I've lost touch with this gentleman over the years. (We all know about email addresses that fail.)
I was able to take my research back to the point where he was brickwalled. I know he believed that the family would eventually have New Hampshire roots. I've wondered if he or another cousin to whom he introduced me has tried to move past that brickwall through DNA testing in the last few years. This other cousin was able to provide me with all sorts of photographs and letters he'd scanned. Another cousin I met on this line had one of my great aunt's photographs and sent them to me, making copies for himself.
These are just some of my earliest connections. I'm far less dependent on connections than I once was, but when you find someone with whom you can corroborate to resolve a problem, then you've made a wonderful discovery.
This post is submitted for the 40th Carnival of Genealogy which will be hosted as Creative Gene.