Don't listen to the Ancestry.com ads on TV. Your family tree will
come together with just a few clicks of your mouse. Genealogy is more often a story of gradually piecing together disparate bits of information into a coherent whole. That's how it works for me...a census record might include a child with a different surname, which leads you to a previously unknown marriage, which leads to a newspaper story about another unknown child who moved west, and
child's death certificate identifies the parents' places of birth.... you get the picture. You rarely find the prize without gathering a lot of individually unimportant clues. However, even this kind of detective work can mostly be done online.
Sometimes old-fashioned, boots-on-the-ground legwork is what it takes to get results. I saw a great example of this in action just the other day. I have been working with another descendant of Lazarus Spears of Hawkins County, Tennessee to find documentation for Lazarus' children. I have written about this family
; they are one of those you see all over the internet, lacking any clue as to where the information came from and how reliable it is. My cousin had his own copy of the ubiquitous family group sheet -- with one difference. His copy had an off-hand notation: "Bible owned by Mrs. XX."
The first thing he did was go to the Tennessee
to see if there were any people in Hawkins County with the same surname as the owner of the Bible. He found one, so proceeded to look up a marriage license for that person, which led to a surname that is often seen in the family we are researching. He continued to search the family of this person, using the census and other public records until he found the names of living family members.
That was all he needed to pick up the phone and start dialing. As he put it, the first person he called: "knew nothing about being related to the Spears' but he gave me the number of another brother who also knew nothing but gave me the number of the third brother. The third brother thought they were related to the Spears family but that was about it, and gave me the name of the sister. So I called her and she knew they had some Spears information but didn't know much about it. She promised to go up to "the old home place" and get some of it and call me back and she did last Thursday..."
first page from Mary Elizabeth Amis Spears' Bible
Mr. James Spears' photo used with permission
That's what I call persistence! And
a prize... now there is a source for all those names floating around online!
I would like to express my gratitude to all the hard work done in this case by James Spears -- a truly indefatigable researcher!