Gene Notes

Some random and some not-so-random thoughts on family history.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What's Your Story?

Older daughter has loaned me her Nook so I can test drive it so to speak. And as a gift, added a book for me - "Sins of the Fathers" by Patricia Sprinkle. The book is part of her Family Tree Mysteries series, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. In the first book, "Death on the Family Tree" chronicles the main character's first foray into genealogical research. This second book, an acquaintance, is trying to verify that a burial belongs to her great-grandfather. She utters a great line "... the dead can't take their money with them, but they do take their stories with them," explaining succinctly why we might know the facts, but we don't always know the why of it.

There have been so many times, in the last 24 years of family research that I've wondered why something happened. Why did the Percivals move from Massachusetts to Kentucky and Indiana? Where did my great-great uncle Joseph Zimmeth go between Michigan in the 1860s and Minnesota in the mid 1870s? And why? What really happened to Herbert Percival? Yeah, it usually does get back to Herbert at this point.

My great-great-great grandfather, Dr. John Stearns Percival had two wives. His first wife, Matilda Fleet Hinton Goodridge died before 1822, leaving him with two children, Elizabeth and Egbert. Egbert married Fanny Banks in 1848 in Rising Sun, Indiana. They made their way to California via San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. In 1870, Egbert is listed as an invalid on the census. He had been a hotel-keeper, and possibly a miner. Why was he an invalid? What happened to his son Henry, who disappears after 1880? Fanny, Egbert's widow remarries C. W. Humphreys in 1873 in Truckee, California. They are still in Truckee in 1880 but I've found no later record of them. While they aren't my ancestors, Henry was a first cousin albeit 3 times removed.

I'm sure I'll never know the answers to all my questions, but that doesn't stop me from speculating. Or Searching.

Copyright 2011, ACK for Gene Notes


  1. I feel that the biggest cause of ancestors' taking their stories with them is not their reluctance to share them, but that their younger relatives failed to ask or even show interest in hearing those stories. Our biggest failing is in not asking our older living relatives before it is too late.

  2. I did interview my parents, and still have found out since his death about all the different places that employed my dad. My in-laws didn't want to talk at all. My paternal grandfather died when I was thirteen and did not seem very approachable to me at the time, and at that age, I did not even know what genealogy was. When my uncle interviewed my maternal grandfather, he did not include stuff he (my uncle) knew, so, no it isn't too late.

    Mostly the people I refer to died/disappeared well before 1900.