It is well and truly spring, and the garden beckons ... when will there ever be time or inclination to sit down and work on family history? When the days are beautiful and mild – like today – I am much more interested in putting on my outdoor shoes and going out to plant something. How about you?
But you know, when you are involved in these other activities, your mind can still be working on a knotty research problem. Activities that don't require total engagement, like deadheading blossoms, weeding, or feeding the potted plants, offer time for contemplation. So can waiting for an appointment, driving with the radio/music off, even lying awake in the middle of the night. I like to hang out my laundry when it's sunny, and that provides another chance to mull over ideas and consider new search strategies.
Sometimes an obvious solution to the most troublesome problem presents itself at times like these. We are removed from the scene of the crime, so to speak – away from charts and notes and the ever-present computer – and can literally step back, getting a completely different perspective.
I have been trying to connect the one heir in a relative's 20th century probate file – same surname as the relative but someone I never ever heard of before. I tried tracking this heir by the usual means with no luck. He had an unusual pair of middle names -- Durbin Kinsely -- and it occurred to me, in one of these out-of-the-office reveries, that he likely was named for a relative. Sure enough, I found a Durbin Kinsely born in 1879, died 1910, in the International Genealogical Index, or IGI. The place and date of birth led me to the 1880 census, which confirmed at least that much. Now, with the IGI's undocumented death date, I have a query in to the genealogical society in that Ohio county to see if they can locate an obituary for me. One would hope the obit might give names of other relatives, and possibly a clue to my known relative, whose surname is Thompson.
The addition of Ancestry.com to the offerings of the Sonoma County Library system has aided greatly, since they have a complete index to the 1930 census, as well as city directories, and vital records that are not readily available elsewhere. If you haven't tried that free service at the local library, you may be missing a great opportunity.
NPR had a story this morning about Ancestry.com allowing free searches of its extensive files of military records, from the Revolutionary War forward. The offer stands until June 6, and is, they say, in honor of the D-Day Anniversary which falls on that date.