Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Serendipity in Genealogy

Today we begin a new feature at the Ancestry Insider. We call it serendipity in genealogy. It happens to individuals of all religious, cultural and intellectual persuasions. Almost all long-time genealogists have experienced it in one form or another. It can be as simple as a thought or feeling. Many times it is manifest as extraordinary luck or fortuitous coincidence. Genealogists have experienced guidance as simple as facts popping into their heads or as dramatically as post-mortal visitations. Explanations are as varied as those that experience the events, but their prevalence testifies of their reality.

Something Kept Drawing Me Back

Dora J. Fisher had been searching all her life for information about her father's youngest brother, believed by most to have been stillborn. An aunt told her she remembered the boy was born one evening about 1926 near Bothwell in Kent County, Ontario, Canada. He died the following morning. But no one living knew his name.

Fisher relates that "on February 17 I was indexing" with FamilySearch Indexing. "I would download a batch of 24 Ontario Death records, index them, and send them back. Then I would go do a load of laundry or something, but something kept drawing me back to the computer." Volunteer indexes have little control over the particular batches they are asked to transcribe.

After about 10 batches the names of her grandparents jumped off the page. They were listed as parents of a deceased boy:

Name: John A. Taylor
Born: 20 Jan 1928
Died: 21 Jan 1928

"I scared the heck out of my husband," says Fisher. "I threw my arms in the air and hollered, 'I found him!' Then I cried." And then she called her two living aunts—John's sisters—to tell them his name and other information contained in the record.

"If I had stopped earlier in the day, someone else would have gotten this batch, and I wouldn't have the information," comments Fisher. Serendipitously, something kept calling her back to the computer.

(Source: Dora J. Fisher, "Ensign article," LDS-WARD-CONSULTANT [email list], 28-Jul-2007, accessed 1-Sep-2007, <http://archiver.rootsweb.com/th/read/LDS-WARD-CONSULTANT/2007-07/1185619363>)

We take the title of our series from Psychic Roots: Serendipity and Intuition in Genealogy, by Henry Z Jones, Jr., F.A.S.G. The book "is all about the influence of coincidence and serendipity on genealogical research," according to the back cover, "the chance combination of events over which the researcher has no control but which nevertheless guides him to a fortuitous discovery." If you have serendipitous experiences to share, send them to AncestryInsider@gmail.com.

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