Sunday, March 7, 2010

Detective Work

It seems only fitting that the first detective came to the public's attention in 1841, when Edgar Allen Poe wrote "Murders of the Rue Morgue." His character Monsieur C. Auguste Rupin had an analytical mind that allowed him to observe details and come to intelligent conclusions.

A genealogist must be a detective of the first order.

It is one thing to rely on the internet and ancestry.com. It is another to go another step.

First, I made all uses of the internet and ancestry.com. I met and built relationships with other researchers, some of whom turned out to be not-to-distant relatives.

Then I hired a researcher through the Kansas Historical Society web site. Mary Jane did a fantastic job coming up with copies of land deeds and obituaries. Those obituaries gave me the names of descendants that were too "modern" to appear on ancestry.com public records, such as census and so on.

From those obits, I determined names and then sent out letters when I found a few names on the internet White Pages, which meant that some relatives still had listed phone numbers! Those kind relatives turned out to be even closer relatives - cousins to my late father! What a wealth of information they provided. Leads to other close relatives. Photos, stories, and more. This culminated in a wonderful visit to Kansas, where my sister and I met these cousins of my father.

Next, I began hunting down the descendants of other relatives. For one case, I just put in the relative's name, and came up with a genealogy message board message where someone was looking for that relative. That gave me an email address, and although the posting was from 1998 and the email was no longer valid, that email gave me the descendant's name. The social networking My Space web site provided the contact.

In another case, I came upon the wife of a descendant, and then their child. The child's name was on My Space, but she did not reply. Her name came up as an editor for a newspaper, and when I sent a copy of her ancestor's chapter, she and her mother contacted me.

A 1944 news article provided the names of children of one relation's children and their children. I plugged those names into my family tree, and an ancestry.com member and I connected, and her Uncle provided the names and addresses of those relations.

Everyone was always curious but had not known how to go about finding information. They were all excited to know about the Copeland family, and to be part of my ancestry project, as well as my book "An American Genealogy: The Copeland Family of Montgomery, Kansas."

A curious email to the Indiana historical society led to the Rockwell Library, who researched and found obituaries for me. From an obituary of Abner Copeland's sister Nancy (Nacy) who died in 1908 one year before my great grandfather, I found out two facts:
  1. The Copeland family came to Indiana in 1851, NOT in 1860 as thought.
  2. Abner Copeland had 3 sisters who must have died in infancy, and 2 other brothers who must also have died in infancy.
If so, Abner's father must have died in Indiana, not North Carolina as previously reported on another person's family tree.

The difficult thing about dealing with the late 1700s and early 1800s is that the Copeland family seemed to use the same names in their families - from cousins to cousins and so on. Trying to figure out who is who, is yet another challenge.

I love being a detective!

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