Friday, June 24, 2016

Serendipity in Genealogy: Luckiest Researcher in the World

Obituary of Mrs. M. J. AlexanderIn 1997 David Rencher attended the Federation of Genealogical Society’s conference in Dallas, Texas. While there he was doing research in some surrounding counties. One place he wanted to go to was a small, little community called Mount Calm in Hill County.

“Mount Calm does have a stop sign, but It has no stoplight,” David jokes. “It does have a small public library.” Small town public libraries are good places to find local genealogical information.

Conference badges identify the attendees’ names and home towns.  A colleague, Dean Hunter, happened to see one with a home town of “Mount Calm.” He told David that he needed to find her, but with eighteen hundred people at the conference, that was not going to happen. Instead, they went to dinner.

At the restaurant, the person in line in front of them turned around and David clearly saw her name badge: “Nancy Franklin, Mount Calm, Texas.” They started talking.

“Not only was she from Mount Calm,” David says, “she was the librarian in Mount Calm. Not only was she the librarian in Mount Calm, she was the genealogist in Mount Calm. She knew a lot about the families that I was looking for.”

David went to the library and shared what information he knew and what information he hoped to find. After returning home he received a package with information and a note.

“You must be the luckiest researcher in the world,” Nancy wrote. “The only loose obituary in the library and it belongs to the woman you are seeking.”

We call that Serendipity in Genealogy.

Adapted from “Faith in Finding,” David E. Rencher (fireside presentation, The Center for Family History and Genealogy, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 12 November 2004); online transcript ( : accessed 5 March 2016). Thank you, David, for permission to share your story.

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