Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Something from Nothing

This story is one of my favorites because it was one of the most challenging. My student, Derek, is an emancipated minor. He has no contact with his mother and his father died in 2001. He chose a different project but challenged me to find anything about his family. All he gave me was his father's name and date of death. I started by looking for an obituary for his father and that gave use his grandparents' names. We progressed along his father's lines and rather quickly added more than fifteen direct line ancestors. The records that were the most useful were marriage records, death records, and census records. We took his father's family back to the early 19th century on all lines and found out all the branches of his father's tree were in Meigs County, Ohio during this time. The Bodkins are one of the families in his tree:
Ohio Bodkins in the 1880 Census
He also knew bits and pieces of his mother's family. He knew his uncle had died and found an obituary for him. He also knew his mother had an Aunt Clara and he found her obituary. Using the names from those records, he started piecing together the records and clues to find more distant relatives. As he searched, he found memories coming back to him of things he had heard throughout his life. His mother lost contact with her father when she was about four years old. However, we found him using Derek's memory of a few details - including the fact that he was in the Air Force. It turns out that he was a pilot in World War II.
Courtesy of Newspapers.com - The Fresno Bee, Monday, January 8, 1945
Needless to say, it was great to see Derek's enthusiasm grow. He proved to have great detective skills and was able to come up with clues to help move his research forward. On some days, he was in my room multiple times just to share what he found or check and see if I found more information. He really liked doing the detective work and putting together evidence to make a case for a particular relationship. In the end, he switched from his original project to the family history project. As of now, he has 70 ancestors with 183 census, birth, death, marriage, and military records documenting the connections.
5th great-grandparents - Jonathan Adams served as a Dragoon in the Revolutionary War.
Margaret, his widow, received a pension of $50 every six months.

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