Lesson Learned: Track Down Every Clue

Did you ever have a moment in your research when you realize you made a mistake?  A rather dumb mistake?  Well, bloggers aren’t afraid to publically humiliate themselves by drawing attention to their mistakes, because our dumb mistakes can serve as a lesson to others.  What’s past is prologue, right?

I recently wrote about the sister who disappeared.  She ran off and got married to someone, name unknown, and never contacted her family again.  Or at least that’s the way the story went.  The truth is – she never contacted her brother James again, my grandfather. But she apparently kept in touch with her brother Joseph!

When I heard from Joseph’s daughter, my father’s cousin, I asked if she knew anything about her missing aunt.  She knew very little – except the aunt’s married name!  Where did my cousin get this information? From her father’s death notice.  As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”

Since Joseph, my father’s uncle, died on my father’s birthday, it was one of the few family death dates that my father knew without a doubt.  I used that date to obtain a copy of Joseph’s death certificate, which provided me with his birth date (that was later verified through other records). So why didn’t I ever search for an obituary or a death notice?  Probably because I’ve rarely found one for any of my relatives. Or, I didn’t think it would tell me anything I didn’t already know.  That would be the genea-understatement of the decade.  If I had searched for one twenty years ago at the start of my research, I would have learned the missing sister’s name and place of residence in 1953.  I also would have learned the married names of my father’s two female cousins – something my father either did not know or did not remember.

So now I know.  Finally.  Let this be a lesson to you, kids – search for every piece of information you can. 

As for the sister who disappeared?  Jean Hynes.  More to come on Aunt Jean in the future.  I’ve learned a bit about her life since finding out this vital piece of information, but I still have not discovered anything about her death.  Once I do find her death date, I’ll certainly be sure to look for a death notice or obituary!


9 thoughts on “Lesson Learned: Track Down Every Clue

  1. Just think Donna. If you had known this information all along your great post on a missing relative would have never been written.

  2. If I had a dollar for every time the critical piece of information was already in my hands or within my reach but I didn’t realize it at the time, I’d be … well, about $60 or $70 richer. At least there is the comfort of knowing that we all do this!

  3. Thanks Donna ~ for making those of us who have also done these things realize that if nothing else we are in good company!

    You are right about blogger being willing to publicly humiliate ourselves – I’ve written a number of posts like that. Let’s see, I “assumed” a great-grandmother had died in Colorado where she lived and was buried there….WRONG. I used a data on a wedding booklet rather than obtaining a marriage record – WRONG. And the list goes on…but at least we write about it so others can re-think some of their assumptions.

  4. Well, it’s nice to know we can all form a Stupid Genealogists Club…lol. This isn’t the only dumb thing I’ve done; I’m just glad I am not alone in these experiences!

  5. Yep, not only have I been there and done that, I just did it AGAIN this past weekend!! All you can do is be glad you did finally figure out what you needed to!

  6. Donna, this is something I can certainly relate to! Time after time I just shake my head and wonder, what was I thinking? I really enjoy reading your posts. It gives me great pleasure to give you the One Lovely Blog Award. You can find the details at my blog, A Sense of Family: asenseoffamily-sb@blogspot.com

  7. Hi Donna! I love your blog so I’ve shared the “One Lovely Blog” Award with you! Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge with us. See my blog for the mention and award info.

  8. We have to give ourselves a pat on the back for also the smart things we did in tracking down our unsuspecting relations as well. I am sure it weighs evenly in the end !

    I really enjoy the comic relief in this blog !

    Maggie ( not a blogger but hoping to share my end of things sooner than later or else the boxes full of genealogical papers that I have collected for 30 years will fade away or my descendants will throw them out by error !).

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