Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Patience, Passion, Persistence and Planetary Alignment

Want to know how to find a "long lost relative"? In my experience, it requires a large dose of patience, passion, persistence, a little "outside of the box" thinking and a strong influence of planetary alignment (aka luck). Sounds easy right? In no time at all you can start finding those long lost relatives. Albeit, for a family genealogist, this is where the fun really is. Before the advent of the world wide web and other tools, it was of course 1000 times harder to find them, but even today, it can be a bit challenging.

Recently, there was some excellent planetary alignment, etc... and I found a "long lost relative". This was (is) very exciting for me, but I have found it isn't true for everyone. Thankfully I have an understanding and considerate wife, whom I usually bore with the details of my latest "find". To help relieve her, I am capturing this in writing, so that I can also share it with her (and others) and save some time. I hope not to bore, but instead share my techniques and tricks I used.

A "long lost relative" is someone that can be living today or be from the distant past. For example, I recently found several long lost relatives (6th cousins) on FACEBOOK. Amazing, I know!! As you will see, finding cousins may help you in more ways than you might know. Sometimes, it is just that one puzzle piece that can lead you toward completing the picture.

The story of HOW I found a recent "long lost relative" starts off with an email I received about my family genealogy website from a cousin of mine - Robert S. He said he had a document that could help with some details in my research on the Foy family and would send it to me via snail mail. A few days after Christmas, I made it to the mail box and collected a large manila envelope containing some 50+ pages from Robert. At first glance, it was the usual family tree details, with lots of names in several branches not listed in my database. However, as I started to look through the lists of names and generations of the Foy family, I came upon a page that was a "letter", written by the granddaughter (Selia A. Turner) of Ruth Foy-Thorpe about a trip made in the spring of 1819. Ruth Foy-Thorpe (1797-1874) is my 5G aunt, sibling of William Foy (1791-1869), my 4G maternal grandfather.

The story is too long to put in here, but I added it as a standalone blog, here at "In the spring of 1819". The summary of this letter was a 1st hand account, about the difficulties of traveling in the early 19th century, from Vermont to western New York by Ox! I was aware of this trip, but only through many years of research and only a few minor references in history books. Keep in mind that in 1819 the area from Vermont to New York was a true wilderness and these pioneers were traveling some 500+ miles through forests and over rugged terrain. They also had to deal with wolves, bears, and hardships that few of us can relate to today. You had to be pretty strong to take on this adventure! Just to give you an idea, the same distance today, via interstate and paved roads, takes about 10 hours. For them, it was likely closer to a month!

What was so critically important in this letter was that it confirmed what I had suspected (theorized) in just one sentence. A few cousins and I have been looking for this "next generation back" for years!! The sentence which held so much information in the letter was as follows: "In the spring of 1819, SARA Foy, a WIDOW with five sons; William, Benjamin, David, Jonathan and Samuel and two daughters, Ruth and MARIBEE, left LYNDON, Vermont to go to Napoli, Cattaraugus county, in Western New York State."

Previously, we knew simply that
a) "...Samuel Foy [Jr] came to Napoli, NY with his mother in 1819" based on history book.
b) a tombstone for a Sara Foy, buried close to Ruth Foy-Thorpe in Napoli, NY, had an inscription "Wife of Samuel", linking Samuel [Sr] to Sarah.
c) "William Foy and his brothers Benjamin, Jonathan, David, Samuel and sister Ruth, located in Napoli, NY." based on history book
d) Samuel Foy from Lyndon Vermont existed, along with 3 other Samuel Foy's in Vermont, based on census records, and tax records.

Based on this, we could connect Samuel and Sara Foy from Lyndon VT as the possible parents of William Foy and his siblings. In addition, we assumed that Samuel Foy had died prior to 1819. So, the letter from Ruth Foy-Thorpe's granddaughter is just another corroborating piece of data, but increasingly supports the current connection of Samuel and Sarah Foy as my 5G grandparents.

All that is amazing, but back to the long lost relative! The last word capitalized in the paragraph was Maribee. This is a NEW name that I did not have in my database. Finding a new name may not sound like a big deal, but for those of you who have done genealogy research will know what I am talking about - it gets more difficult to find people the further back you go. It is also extremely difficult to locate the female names, simply because marriage records were not always kept AND prior to 1850, census records only listed the head of households.

Starting with this name, I through it would be great to see if I could find out what happened to her. I already knew there we 4 unknown female siblings of William Foy, based on census records. Therefore, I started on Ancestry.com census records and other Genealogy websites that had previous details about the Foy family during the era she would have lived. Looking for the name Maribee was not going to be easy, but I began with the obvious. This resulted in a lot of nothing. I expanded my search parameter to just a first name "Mar Foy" and got a hit, that had some promise - SeelyBio. Note: Sometimes it is easier to find more with less information in the name!

If you looked at the link, you will see that her name is spelled a bit different - Mariba Foy, and her husband's name is Jeduthan Seely. It's not too much of a jump to say this is the same person! Besides, names are mispelled a lot of times, much worse than this. The family had located in Whiteside County, Illinois in an area that I knew one branch of the Foy family had migrated to after 1839. From this biography, about Jeduthan Seely, I figured I could find Mar Seely, but as it turns Seely is also hard to spell! Because of transcription, translation, and transmogrification issues, it took a few days of solid searching to finally come up with a complete picture, but only when I started thinking "outside the box". One trick for finding families is to look for a common FIRST name, no last name and a VERY narrow geographical location. This will get you closer all the time... then you can translate the mispellings!

This is exactly what I did. I searched for a William, in Whiteside County, Illinois and found a William (Seely) in the 1850 census living with his siblings and 2 adults - Michael Eldred and Maybel Eldred. Who?? Looks like Mariba remarried after 1840. Well, with this data in hand, I looked for Maybel Eldred, my long lost relative, in the 1860 census, which ended up taking a while to find since they misspelled here name as Marybe Eland (Eldred is another surname hard to spell!) and Seely was misspelled as Suby. Again, I found this with a FIRST name only search using the youngest daughter Celeste, which was listing in the Seely Bio! I was on a roll and for the 1870 census, you guessed it, I found another misspelling - Marylee Eldred! By now you are getting the idea. First and last names are not always spelled the way you think they are and sometimes it helps to search for just the first name, or part of the first name and especially ALL family members in different combination's, with a narrow search location.

So far, I had the following: Mariba was married twice, had at least 4 children, and lived in Illinois from 1850 to 1870, based on 3 census records and a cryptic biography. Well, must keep moving on: what happened to Jeduthan Seely and when did Mariba Foy-Seely marry Michael Eldred?

In the 1840 Federal Census, I found Jeduthan Seely listed as head of household, with the appropriate number of kids and a wife (aged 30-40 years) which would fit Mariba and family. For the marriage to Michael Eldred, I looked on the Illinois vital records database and found a marriage license in 1847 for a Mirebah Seeley (again with the spelling!) to Michael Eldred. This now provided a time frame for Jeduthan Seely, who likely passed away between 1843 and 1847.

On the Genealogy forum, I searched for Jeduthan, Mariba, Seely, Foy, Eldred (and various combination's) and found a few matches that helped tremendously. In fact, one was the obituary for Michael Eldred, which linked Foy and Seely. Another, on NY Historical society website, had more details on the Seely family, talking about early pioneers in Napoli New York. Well, this is where the Foy family migrated to in 1819 (remember that letter above?). So, this must have been where Jeduthan Seely and Mariba Foy met and married. More research should focus here for any marriage records, tax records, etc.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article about how I found a "long lost relative" and that our cousins are very important to any quest to the past. Mariba's story is important, not just to me, but to her descendants in more ways than you can imagine. Hopefully, there was also a few "tricks" that will help you in your research when you hit a brick wall, but always remember, to find those "long lost relatives", it takes patience, passion, persistence and the right planetary alignment.

To complete this, I have summarized what I know so far, of Mariba's story. Enjoy!

Mariba Foy-Seely-Eldred was born about 1810 in Vermont to Samuel and Sarah Foy(e). She grew up in Vermont, but in 1819, moved west across the great state of New York, a rugged and vast wildernesses, to Napoli NY, lot 57. Land was cleared for farming and raising animals. Sometime before 1830, she met and married Jeduthan Seeley Jr, whose family had also migrated to Napoli, NY in the late 1820's. They were blessed with a child in 1830 and named him Marvin. Another child, this one a girl, soon arrived around 1832. With the promise of cheaper lands, milder climate, and better growing conditions, the family decided to move west to Illinois. Jeduthan made a trip out to Illinois and secured a plot of land then came back for his wife Mariba and 2 children. They were soon settled in Illinois and were blessed with several more children, with only 2 surving - William F, born 1837 and Celeste in 1843. Sadly, Jeduthan Seeley Jr passed away after 1843 and with 4 children ranging in ages from 17-4 years old, Mariba remarried in 1847 to Michael Edlred, in Portland, Whiteside County, Illinois. She spent the remainder of her days in this place until her death in 1876.


Steve said...

Cool, interesting, and funny.
Thanks, Dad

Dawn Kirkpatrick said...

Interesting story. Love the first-name-only search trick. Thanks for that! :)

Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I'm fairly new, as well, and have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

Keeping telling your ancestor stories!

Dr. Bill ;-)
Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"