SERENDIPITY: the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for
I believe in genealogical serendipity -- it's happened to me more than once. Today I'd like to take you on a trip back to the technologically different days of the year 2000 when serendipity came to me in a big way.
In 2000, there were no smart phones and no tablets. Most people used desktop computers, as laptops were expensive. PDAs like my Palm Pilot were more common and I had a pager. Remember pagers? If you did have a laptop, internet and e-mail access from a hotel meant using a slow dial-up connection. From our perspective in 2013, that seems like the technology middle-ages!
That year, I spent a week in a hotel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in mid-December. Ice and snow turned driving into a nightmare. Waking to six inches of snow one gloomy morning, I opted to take a vacation day. The company computers were behaving nicely, and I had my work laptop and pager and cell phone if the boss needed me to dial in for a crisis.
How would I spend the next 16 hours? The vast wasteland of daytime TV was not attractive, especially with the hotel's limited channels. So I decided to trudge through personal e-mail folders and do some clean up.
You know all those e-mails you plan to read someday? The newsletters on crafting, genealogy, technology, business, or home design. Everyone wants to send us newsletters and they just pile up. I use filters on my e-mail -- behind the scenes Yahoo looks at the subject or the sender and drops new email into folders for me. I don't even see many newsletters unless I look at the folder.
That day I decided to just start at the newest genealogy newsletter and go back in time. I opened one, skimmed it, checked any interesting links, then deleted it. Rinse and repeat. After just a few, I saw an item that stopped me.
A gentleman named Jeff had created a website that was an electronic copy of an old family book on the Pefley family. Hmmm. I had seen that name before. I looked at the family tree that I carried in my Palm Pilot and there it was. A family member (a collateral line) had married a Pefley. I did want to find the death and burial information for the parents of Mary Hannah Bosseck Pefley.
These books on a particular surname are very hit and miss, but I had time. That slow dial-up made the website unusable. I e-mailed Jeff and he kindly sent me a copy in Word format right away.
I searched for the name Bosseck inside the book and was puzzled at the first find.
- [person] 663 -- Elizabeth Rettinger (dau. of No. 7) married ... Christian Peter Bosseck (see No. 1424). Issue ... Mary Hannah Bosseck ... (Perhaps others).
Wait a minute. Why is Elizabeth Rettinger in here as a daughter of someone and where are all the other Bosseck children? I'm just looking for information on Mary and her husband. I remember my utter bafflement. I searched for the next match on Bosseck.
- [person] 1424 -- George Mangus Pefley (son of No. 1324) married ... Mary Hannah Bosseck ... (see No. 663) ...
My head was spinning. I went back and forth between the two, the only references to Bosseck in the book. Finally I took out a piece of paper and started to draw a bit of a tree, following the son of ... and daughter of ... links to parents and beyond.
The Tree Grows
When I reached the top, I was amazed. I had five new generations to add to my tree. I, myself, was a descendant of Nicholas Pefley, person number one in the book. Mary had married her second cousin once removed!
I had not been looking for anything other than where Mary had died so that I could find her grave and maybe an obituary. I was looking simply for the graves of her parents, my 4th great-grandparents.
Not only did the book provide a place of death for Mary and five new generations, it also yielded a Revolutionary war veteran (DAR-worthy) and an understanding of the ethnic and religious roots of this Swiss-German branch of my family, along with their migration patterns.
I visited Mary's grave in eastern Kansas the following year. The graves of her parents, my ancestors, are two markers away from hers.
|Pefley photo courtesy of Julie Wollard Trout. Recollections digital kit by Joanne Brisebois Designs for Digital Scrapper (formerly Scrapper's Guide)|
The Cycle Continues
I added Mary's husband's ancestors to my database, as well as my own ancestors. That recently paid off. I was able to suggest this book to another person to further their research on one of George Pefley's ancestors named Graybill.
Thanks to a miserable snow day and a genealogy newsletter, serendipity brought me a book I would likely have never looked at otherwise. And serendipity allowed me to pass it on when I saw the name Graybill and the location Ladoga, Indiana, in the tree of another researcher.
Watch for those gifts -- I know the universe has some for each of us.