Sunday, July 22, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy - Week 30

Week 30: Genealogy Serendipity. Every genealogist has tales of surprise findings or coincidences when climbing the family tree. What is your most memorable serendipitous discovery? Did it involve ancestors in your tree, living folks or both? How did this surprise affect your research and does it still impact you today?

I already had a lot of information on my family tree when I began researching seriously and in depth, but almost nothing on my husband's family.  Helping to clean out his parents' home after they died and discovering some many interesting letters and documents, led me to really begin the journey.  Our families had arrived in Arkansas by very divergent paths.

As I delved deeper into the past, I discovered that our families had lived near each other in Missouri before the Civil War and that both had arrived there from Kentucky.  The trail led eventually led back to the same county - Goochland - in Virginia and the families had some of the same neighbors.  I often teased my husband that we were cousins.

His 4th great grandmother was Ann "Nancy" Johnson who married William Haden, 1775, Goochland, and recorded by the local Anglican minister, Rev. William Douglas - now transcribed in the book known as The Douglas Register.  She was baptized same place, so I also knew her parents names, Joseph Johnson and Sarah Harris.  In the baptism record she was listed as Ann - the marriage record had Nancy.  I had Haden family information showing either name.   A third party put me in touch with a longtime Johnson researcher who had considered the infant Ann to be a mystery - he wasn't sure she had lived to grow up.  I assured him she was the bride "Nancy" - he was little embarrassed to have missed that as he had noted the marriage record early in his research, likely before he knew Nancy was the common nickname for Ann.  He was thrilled to have this little problem solved.

However, the researcher also knew and shared the name of Ann Johnson's paternal grandmother - and had the paper trail - and she was Mary Pledge, wife of John Johnson.  As soon as I saw the Pledge surname I knew.  I was going to discover that I had married my distant cousin.  And I found it - Mary Pledge was a sister to my 7th great grandfather, William Pledge.

It's probably been 15 years since I made this connection.  My husband, my best friend, and my cousin and I were married 45 years before he passed away in 2004.  Sometimes I think this one find was worth every hour and every penny pored into genealogical research over the past 20 years!