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Don'tBeatRemember that old expression, “Don’t beat a dead horse,” the point being, no matter what you do to a dead horse, you can’t get him to move? Or anything else for that matter. It means whatever you’re trying to do, it’s pointless, you’re not going to change the outcome. Or it’s a waste of time because it’s considered a dead end.

Hmmm, dead end = brick wall in genealogy. So when you hit a brick wall in one of the lines of your family tree, don’t give up. Go back to that dead horse and beat him harder! Meaning, go over all your records. Not just the transcribed text. Actually look, and examine, and study the original records. Recheck all your sources. Usually when I do this, I find some small detail I’ve missed. One of those details could be the magical key to a whole new branch of your family tree.

Here’s what happened to me over the week-end. I had a great Uncle who was “lost in Canada.” Family lore says he went to Canada. Could I find any proof of that? Not really. Two years ago I had located a tombstone through a Google search. I happily took down the info, plugged it into his profile and figured, “Well, that’s that.”

The assumption was I found all I could. There he sat for two years, patiently waiting for me to come back. Over the week-end he came to mind, so I studied all the records and sources, examined the particulars and couldn’t find anything new. Seemed to me the only thing I hadn’t done was investigate the website where I found the tombstone (it was not Find-A-Grave or Billion Graves).

Looking more closely at the home page vs. concentrating on the page with all the photos, I discovered the website was not done by a society as I assumed. It had been done by an individual, who said if we needed a larger file of any photo, to contact her. An email was sent requesting the larger file, and a brief question, “You wouldn’t happen to have anything else on him?”

Ooh my goodness, it was like opening Pandora’s box. Things started flowing in, good things, great things! I found out he had a wife. Didn’t know that. Found out he had 4 kids. Didn’t know that. Started doing research on the kids, hoping against hope, one of them might still be alive.

Sadly the youngest son died in 2012.  I couldn’t believe it. The very year I found his tombstone. Had I looked more closely back then, might I have had a chance to talk to the son? Don’t know. Never will know. But I do know if I had continued to “beat a dead horse,” I wouldn’t have to wonder about that possibility now.

There is more to this story. The same lady who put up the tombstone photo looked through a town book and found a nice write-up about my Uncle. His previous residence, the kids’ names, even his occupation was in the article. It also said he was “a very interesting person, very well liked.” Well, I liked him a lot better now too!

A little later an obit for one of the kids arrived in my email – Then biographies of the two girls. She has also put me in contact with two descendants, second cousins, who are willing to correspond with me. I can’t wait to see if they know anything about my 2-g-grandmother, our overlapping relative.