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Old 11-26-2012, 10:31 AM
 
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I'm reading a little book someone on this site recommended, called Psychic Roots, by Henry Z. "Hank" Jones, a former actor and leading genealogist. There is apparently a sequel called More Psychic Roots.

Don't worry, there is no "psychic" stuff. It's more about chance coincidences or bursts of intuition that lead to breakthroughs in genealogy research. The author gathered examples from professional genealogists and amateur family history researchers from all over the world.

Sometimes it was a bizarre coincidence that brought two people together with needed info, or brought a person together with a record. Sometimes a book or record was completely misfiled, picked up at random, and it contained the needed info. Sometimes the researcher had a weird dream about some genealogy mystery and this led to finding the answer. Sometimes a person went to an old cemetery on a whim hoping to find an ancestor's grave, and walked right up to the first grave, and that was the ancestor. Sometimes a person at a library or courthouse would mention to a stranger that he was looking for info on one of his family lines, and that stranger happened to belong to the same line.

I love reading about synchronicity--unbelievable coincidences that just "happen" and are meaningful or solve a problem for someone.

So I was wondering, in all of your family history research, have you ever had a problem solved, a needed piece of information found, through a strange coincidence?
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Old 11-26-2012, 11:33 AM
 
Location: Canada
3,673 posts, read 2,481,389 times
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Back around 1980, Saskatchewan (a western province of Canada), undertook a special project whereby most small towns throughout the entire province formed local book committees to compile a history of their local communities and publish the result in the form of books. Residents were invited to contribute family histories.

The books are a wonderful source of genealogical information. Saskatchewan had been mainly settled by in the 1890s and early 1900s by immigrants from Europe, attracted by the promise of free land to farm. Many of the personal family histories talked about these pioneers and gave information, not only of their early days in Saskatchewan, but sometimes of their European origins. The histories also contained personal stories of life in Saskatchewan for these pioneers and their descendants and provided birth, marriage and death information for the various generations up to 1980.

Many of these books are now available in digital form for viewing online. However, I couldn't find a book for the town where my mother grew up.

One day three years ago, on impulse, I typed in the name of my mother's town into eBay search. Much to my amazement, the history book for that town popped up in the results. It was a 7-day auction being offered by a U.S. seller. I was completely floored. I suspect that only 1,000 to 2,000 copies of the 30-year old book had ever been published and most of those copies would be in the hands of families who would pass the book down to later generations. If I had done the search 3 days before or 6 days later, I would have missed the auction completely. I was so happy to get the book and my mother was delighted to read about neighbors she remembered from childhood.
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Old 11-26-2012, 11:53 AM
 
Location: TOVCCA
8,270 posts, read 10,506,470 times
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Went to a funeral in a small Ohio town. We lived in California. Talked to a distant relative who told us a story, for the first time, about an infant who died at birth in the 1880's, a sibling of my grandmothers. It took place in a nearby town we had never heard of. We had no living relatives that carried that surname anymore.

Went to this town on a whim. Freezing, stopped for coffee. Casually asked our waitress if she knew anybody with that last name. She said, "Just look in the phone book---that's a common name here." Oh yes, it was, and we called one up at random. Turned out to be a very distant relative, who told us to come over! Then, he led us to a long-closed cemetery filled with graves as far back at the Revolutionary War, with dozens of our ancestors buried there. We also were referred to another cemetery where we found the infant's grave.
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Old 11-26-2012, 12:39 PM
 
9,209 posts, read 18,039,121 times
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These are GREAT examples! Keep 'em coming!
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Old 11-26-2012, 02:37 PM
 
Location: Colorado (PA at heart)
8,216 posts, read 12,800,785 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nightlysparrow View Post
Went to a funeral in a small Ohio town. We lived in California. Talked to a distant relative who told us a story, for the first time, about an infant who died at birth in the 1880's, a sibling of my grandmothers. It took place in a nearby town we had never heard of. We had no living relatives that carried that surname anymore.

Went to this town on a whim. Freezing, stopped for coffee. Casually asked our waitress if she knew anybody with that last name. She said, "Just look in the phone book---that's a common name here." Oh yes, it was, and we called one up at random. Turned out to be a very distant relative, who told us to come over! Then, he led us to a long-closed cemetery filled with graves as far back at the Revolutionary War, with dozens of our ancestors buried there. We also were referred to another cemetery where we found the infant's grave.
That happens more often than you'd think. Going to back to Revolutionary War era, any ancestor might have thousands of descendants and the likelihood that many of them stayed in one town isn't slim. I discovered this with my Mennonite ancestors, since they tend not to move around a whole lot. I'm probably distantly related to most of the people in one particular area of Montgomery County, PA.
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Old 11-26-2012, 07:53 PM
 
Location: Pacific NW
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My favorite "Psycic Roots" moment was in front of a microfilm machine. I was looking for obituaries in my hometown for some local cousins. I had a list of death dates and was winding fast, stopping, zooming the focus in, and checking the date.

On one of these whirling stops, I looked down, and there in the middle of the page was an obituary. And I recognized the name. A near relative of mine had this ancestor I had come to call "poor Nina." I knew who her parents were, but never found her living with any relative. She was either working, or boarding, in the early census records, married, had one child, and committed suicide in her 40s. To me, she was all alone in the world. Well, this was the obituary of her father. He died not long before she did. And he died in the far eastern part of the state. She always lived in the south, as did the sister I didn't know she had. None of them ever lived in my town. Why an obituary ran in my local paper, I don't know.

I figured it was because she wanted me to stop thinking she was alone and friendless, and to stop calling her Poor Nina. Because finding that obituary was a real "Psycic Roots" moment.
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Old 11-29-2012, 11:48 AM
Status: "Even better than okay" (set 7 days ago)
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
51,184 posts, read 50,480,930 times
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Maybe not exactly what you are looking for, but this one tickled me. I am fifth+ generation in a small area of northern NJ. Three years ago, that area became a little too expensive for me, and I moved sixty miles south to a central part of NJ, near the ocean. I only knew one person in the area, and she's about fifteen minutes from me, but from visiting her I'd gotten to know the area and had decided I would live down there.

Meanwhile, my sister had discovered that our great-grandfather had a half-sister, and she didn't know what had become of her. Finally she managed to uncover some records, and she discovered that this half-sister had married someone from a town next to where I now live. She then went on to tell me that ABC was the name of the man she had married and that they had had a son who married a woman with the last name XYZ...and I said, "well, that's interesting, because I catch my train on XYZ lane and I take ABC Street to get home." These places I frequented were named for the families of distant relatives of mine in a place where I had no idea we'd ever HAD any relatives.

Further info turned up members of that branch of the family buried in a cemetery about a mile from me.

It was weirdly comforting to me to know that this woman who shared my last name had once lived in my neighborhood and that I probably still have some very distant cousins running around nearby.
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Old 03-17-2014, 11:31 AM
 
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I had to revive my old thread after this past weekend! Some incredible synchronicities!

As discussed in another thread, this weekend all the Swedish archives were available for free on "Arkiv Digital."

I knew very, very little about my Swedish line, pretty much just the names of the two who came over from Sweden, Ida and Oscar, in the 1880s and 1890s respectively (they later married each other here). I had a last name of Ida--my great grandmother, but didn't know if I'd ever be able to find her parents, since it was an "ornamental" last name, which a family could just adopt in one generation, without it being the name of their ancestors. I did know her mother's first name, Karna. I didn't have Ida's birth date, but in US census records she's said she was born in Malmo, Sweden. With her husband, my great grandfather Oscar, I knew his exact birth date, but nothing about his parents, and he had reported being born in Vadstena, Sweden. He had a patronymic last name, so I had no idea if his last name (and mine) came from his father's first name, or if his family had adopted a family name (this was starting to happen in the late 19th century).

So Saturday morning, I went to the computer, and silently asked my ancestors for help, since the info was only available for two days.

With my great-grandmother, Ida, supposedly born in Malmo, I started poking around Malmo records. But even back then, it was a pretty big city, and I saw it would take forever to find her. Then I remembered another Ancestry.com member who had Ida supposedly born in Onnarp, a town in the county of Malmohus, near Malmo. The record in this public tree had no evidence or citations, so I had previously ignored it. I wondered, could her references to "Malmo" actually be a shortening of Malmohus? On a whim, I clicked on the town of Onnarp, in Malmohus county and then the file for birth records for the time-range when she may have been born (I didn't know her birth date, only that it was 1883). The record had over a hundred pages to browse, so at random I clicked on one page, didn't see her, but advanced by one page, and THERE SHE WAS. Her mother was there, with the name I recognized, and her father's name had the ornamental name, and his first and middle name fit a partial record fragment I had had bookmarked, from after the family came to Philadelphia. I went through the rest of that parish birth record, to make sure it wasn't just a fluke and maybe this couldn't be her. But I found the same family in another Onnarp record, and confirmed it was my family. They were very meticulous about recording first and middle names. I randomly checked other parishes and scanned through pages, and although there were lots of Idas and lots of Carolinas, she was the only Ida Carolina, and she had the last name I had been expecting.

This led me to her parents' names and places of birth, and I spent the better part of Saturday getting records on them. It was getting late before I turned to my great-grandfather, Oscar. I looked into Vadstena, and found it was a pretty big city, with tons of birth records (unsearchable) and family parish records. I was bleary-eyed by midnight, after having browsed through the 1876 births in parish after parish, after parish. His middle name was Hjalmar. Lots of Oscars, a decent number of Hjalmars, but no Oscar Hjalmars born that year.

The next morning, when I was in that half-asleep/half-awake phase, I started thinking about continuing my search, and I said "Oscar, help me find you." I had some vague dreams about Philadelphia (I've always lived in small towns outside of Philly all my life).

When I woke up, I wondered if Ida's references to having been born in "Malmo" were not abbreviating "Malmohus" but maybe it was just the nearest big city, and she had been from this little town Onnarp a few miles away. Like if I went across the world, I might tell someone I'm from Philadelphia, when I'm really from a small town a few miles from Philly. Then ah-hah! I thought what if Oscar just said he was from Vadstena, because it was a nearby big city, and he was instead from a small town near Vadstena?

Then I went to the computer and looked at the county Vadstena is in: Ostergotland. Then my heart sank-- there were literally hundreds of parishes in Ostergotland county. With nothing being searchable, this could take weeks. I looked down the long list of parishes/towns, and one jumped out at me, just because of the name: Hogstad. I collect pigs, and there were pigs on the desk right next to me. So of course a town called Hogstad would get my attention. On a whim, I went to the birth records for 1876, and THERE WAS OSCAR! With the middle name Hjalmar, with the exact birth date I knew. The father had Oscar's same last name (also my last name) so this was evidence that the family had adopted a family name. Now I had records on Oscar's parents and siblings!

I could then use the rest of that day to find the records on these ancestors, because their places of birth were right there. This was much better than browsing through parish after parish scanning for a name and date.

Anyway, I had to share this example of synchronicity in family history research. Of course, it could have just been luck and coincidence, combined with some logical reasoning, and my sleep-deprived thought processes, and not my ancestors "helping" me. But I still thought it was really cool.
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Old 03-17-2014, 02:06 PM
 
Location: Georgia, USA
21,476 posts, read 26,078,274 times
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Really cool!

I am also impressed that you were reading Swedish records!

Will you share with the owner of the Ancestry.com tree that gave you one of the clues you used?
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Old 03-17-2014, 03:02 PM
 
9,209 posts, read 18,039,121 times
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I tried, but it looks like the member has not signed on in over 2 years.
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