Thursday, August 15, 2013

Serendipity Strikes Again

Serendipity Strikes Again

Well known actor and genealogist Hank Jones has an interesting presentation wherein he gives great examples of the role of serendipity in genealogy research.  My story isn't of  "Hank Jones caliber"; but I hope it makes for interesting reading.  I recently read Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings Blog, which I do every day, and was interested in his account of finding some very helpful data on one of his ancestors by checking the "Suggested Records" column that appears whenever you do a search and open up one of the records for an individual.  For instance, if I searched for census records for Spear Dean and it listed the 1850 census.  When I then select that census and click on "view record", the census record will appear and a column titled "Suggested Records" will also appear at the right edge of the screen if there are additional records in the data base.  In this case there were eight additional records that appeared, all valid records for Spear.  I looked at the records and felt that I was already aware of them; but I did notice one that I thought I would take a look at--Texas, Marriage Collection, 1814-1909, and 1966 to 2011.  When it opened up. it correctly listed his spouse as Sarah M. Jones.  But, more importantly, at the top of the "Suggested Records" list was the following:  Sarah M. Dean, U. S. Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958.

When I opened the document I was convinced that this was indeed my gggrandmother, thus, Spear Dean, my gggrandfather, must have fought in the civil war for the South.  I had never know this before.  I knew he lived in Texas and I remember going through the men's ages of major paternal and maternal lines to see who might have been in all the various wars; but I must have missed checking on Spear.
Widow's Application for Civil War Pension

I was elated with this information; but had some errands that had to be done today, so I took about 90 minutes for that purpose.  When I returned home, I checked my e-mail to see what might have come in of interest.  "Family Tree Magazine--101 Best Genealogy Websites for 2013" caught my eye as the title of one of my e-mails, so I proceeded to open it up to look at the list. They broke their list into several 
 categories, so I examined a couple before selecting the Best US Genealogy Websites of 2013.  As I scanned down the list of sites in that category, number 4 was Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System as highlighted in yellow below.  Since it had a hyperlink, I clicked on it and it took me to the site--aren't hyperlinks great!

Up came the site with an explanation about the data base and then. by clicking on the Soldiers photo, it took me to a very simple search box in which I entered just the name Spear Dean.

Much to my surprise the below screen opened up with the details about which Regiment and Company he belonged to, his rank and the film (microfilm) number.  It had another hyperlink for the regiment which took me to a page with more details about their involvement in the war.  It appears they were still in existence at the time the South surrendered. 

 I still need to explore more to find out the dates of his service, which I am surprised the records didn't show, and more about the campaigns in which he was involved.  

However, I am elated that I now have this new information that came about because I happened to read about "Suggested Records" in Randy's Genea-Musings blog, I then happened to choose Spear Dean to try out the "Suggested Records" feature, I happened to then choose to investigate the Texas Marriage Collection, which then listed "Sarah M. Dean, U. S. Confederate Pensions, 1884-1958" at the top of the "Suggested Records" column.  Additionally, when I went back to recreate the events to make the screen shots, I thought I had used Sarah M. Jones as the entering search argument when I found the pension file.  I tried all combinations of her name; Sarah M. Jones, Sarah Marshall Jones Dean, Sarah M. Dean and Sarah Dean; but couldn't replicate the chain of events.  Only when I remembered that I had chosen to look at the Marriage Collection while researching Spear Dean did the Confederate Pension appear in the "Suggested Records" column!

We have all heard the term "Better to be lucky than good".  I think that may have been very true for me today; but to think there was a little serendipity involved makes it a little more intriguing!

The real lesson hear, however, is take Randy's advice and pay close attention to the records in that "Suggested Records" column whenever it appears.  In the past I would give it a passing glance.  Based on my experience today, I will pay very close attention to it in the future!