Sunday, September 25, 2011

Finding Martin

I often hear these inspiring stories of individuals engaged in genealogy and no doubt getting help from the other side and being led to the the documents, or headstones, etc. that they need to find or long to find.

I have never doubted those stories are true. I have often felt how thin the veil between this world and the next can be when engaged in family history work. I know that families are forever, and while we often think of death as a temporary separation, I believe they're still with us. We just get so caught up in the things of this world that we tend to ignore theirs. I have felt my ancestors with me at various times, But until recently, they've been less than helpful in my searching.

Soren Martinus Nelson is my husband's maternal great-grandfather, so I guess technically MY ancestors still aren't that helpful during research, but I didn't just marry the man, I married the family, so we'll call it good.

After dh and I got engaged, I had the opportunity to have some pedigree wall charts printed up for us, professionally, by FamilyChArtist. We even displayed them at our wedding and was even a little surprised by how many guests poured over them. But there's one couple on the chart, Martinus's parents, that tend to irritate the perfectionist I keep duct-taped up inside of me, because I only have death years for them. While they did die before vital records were mandated in their area, it was still the late 1800's, so you'd think there would be something around that would give a more specific date.

But I haven't found it yet.

I've done numerous searches, and have always come up empty. Then I get side-tracked, jump to another line, and put another layer of tape around the perfectionist.

But the tape came loose again the other day. So I started doing what I'd done a dozen times before, and just retrace my steps on the whole line, re-examining the records I had for my dh's mother, then grandparents, then...

I even created a timeline, which is when it finally hit me that Martinus didn't die until 1944, yet the last census record I had for him was 1910. By the 1920 census, dh's great-grandmother was the head of household. I hopped on-line and started searching for him in the 1930 and 1920 censuses, but again came up empty-handed. So was his death date wrong or where was he in 1920? I then searched again for the 1920 census record I already had, in the hopes that a newer copy may also be an improved copy.

Bingo! On my new copy of the 1920 I was able to discern that ggma was divorced. So he could still be alive. But where? So I searched for his son, and found him nearby, living with an M. Nelson - the same age as Martin. I found the same thing in 1930.

But divorced in 1920? Why? Just Who was this mystery guy?

Apparently I'd been asking the wrong question before. Because now when I did another Google Search, I discovered Martin in a book about his brother. Interesting enough, a book that the website I help administer, hosts.

The really interesting thing, for me anyway, is that I distinctively remember seeing this book before with work. And I remember feeling a strong pull to stop and read it, but resisting. The book had a simple cover, the brother's name is a common one, and he spelled the surname differently, so I didn't think there would be any real reason for me to read it.

Now I had one, I dove in. The read was a fascinating one, perfect for Hollywood. If it weren't so well sourced, I'd have a hard time believing its accuracy. (Of course, still working on verifying the sources). I'll save his story for another post. I'm still both overjoyed and humbly grateful for the divine help that led me to the story. The power that comes in doing Family History work never grows old to me.

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