The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy. Almost everyone has experienced it. Tell us about the first time, or the last time, or the best time. What event, what document, what special find has caused you to stand up and cheer, to go crazy with joy?
One of the downsides of blogging and having to come up with topics for yourself is that once you decide to participate in the various memes or carnivals, you’ve often already written a post about that particular topic. But I’m going to assume no one has read previous posts, or at least does not remember them.
Searching for female ancestors names can be problematic. Early in my searching I found a 3rd great-grandfather with his children in Anderson County, Texas in 1850. He is listed as a widower. Who was his wife, the mother of those children? Some of the children were listed as born in Mississippi, so a search of the 1840 census showed William J. Duval living in Pontotoc County, Mississippi. Of course this didn’t provide me with anyone’s name but William’s as the head of the household, so I started searching cemeteries and what records I could find for Pontotoc County. I found lots of Duvals, who had apparently gone to Mississippi from Virginia via Tennessee, including William’s brother John A. I wondered if William’s wife’s name was Ann — the name of William’s only daughter. I found the death of John A.’s wife Joanna Moon. I ordered William J.’s will on the off-chance it might provide the name of his wife. But I just didn’t have a clue about the name of my own great-grandmother, or at least a worthwhile clue.
I don’t remember what caused me to pick up the Inventory of the Church Archives of Virginia. It may have been that I was looking for information about my husband’s Virginia Baptist family–I just don’t remember. (This is a WPA project–how many times I’ve been grateful for the work done by those folks!) What I do remember is finding an obituary indexed from the Religious Herald, the Baptist newspaper of the day, and there was an entry for Duval, Catherine Bibb who died in 1847. Wow. Could this be her? I remember doing a happy dance in the library those 20+ years ago. That index led me not only to her obituary, it provided me with her maiden name. In fact, it provided me with her entire name which I had not previously had.
Another happy dance involves another great-grandmother, this time a 5th great. My finding Catherine Bibb Waddy/Woody Duval was before the Internet. I had to write for that obituary from the Baptist Archives in Richmond. And pay big bucks for it to be copied. And wait. and wait. But it was worth it when it finally arrived.
I’d looked for my Dr. William G. Ball’s mother’s name for over 20 years. I was finally able to track down his siblings–a distant cousin helped me know he had brothers named Jacob Weaver and James Robinson Ball. I finally discerned that their father William Ball died in New York City in 1818, and that the family left for Indiana and Ohio shortly thereafter. (I still haven’t discovered the reason.) My persistence paid off in providing the names of the daughters in this family–Isabella who married Joseph L. Webb before they left NYC and later Charles Pickett in Ohio, Adeline who married first James Linton (in Indiana) and then Chester B. Campbell (in Ohio), and Ann Pamela who married Milo D. Pettibone and then Charles A. Sweetser, both in Delaware County, Ohio. But who was the mother of these children? I chased Jacob Weaver for a while, thinking perhaps the first son had been named for a maternal grandfather. I now believe Jacob Weaver was the shipbuilding partner of the father William Ball and William named his first son after his partner. Who was James Robinson Ball named for? (That question remains unanswered.) If Green really was Dr. William G. Ball’s middle name, was this a maiden name for his mother?
I was handicapped by having this family be in New York City. I’ve learned a lot about researching in these early NYC records, but early on, my experience was with rural Southerners. Here was a family whose father was a shipbuilder and who were listed in the early city directories of New York City. I felt a little like I was in the Pace commercial “New York City?!”
Again, I don’t remember what I was looking for the day I found the name of the mother and wife in this family. I do know I was testing out my new subscription to Genealogy Bank. Part of the family had gone to Clark County Indiana after William’s death. I believe this is where William G. obtained his medical training–I know it where he married Elizabeth Charlton. I wondered if Delaware County, Ohio, where the youngest daughter married and put down roots, was where Mrs. Ball died. Ann Pamela was only about 14 when she married–would she have been in Ohio without her mother? Searching for this family’s information in Indiana is complicated by Indiana being the home of the Ball family of Ball jar fame, Ball University, etc., etc. Ball is a common enough name to search, but there are lots of them in Indiana. I was reading through entry after entry with no connections to my family when I came to this:
There it was.
In a New York City newspaper. A short notice of her death.
It had to be her–her daughter was Ann Pamela Ball, and Dr. William G. had a daughter named Ann Pamela as well. William Ball had died in 1818, and this person is listed as his consort.
The common thread to these stories is that both of these problems were solved by publications back in the places of origin for these women. I would have never found the one for Ann Pamela Green Ball had there not been an electronic means to do so, and even then, with the county named misspelled and a common name, it was a lucky break. I’d been through all sorts of indexes and considered the possibility that there might be mention of her in a newspaper, but I had not been successful in finding the “right” newspaper. Finding the name of Catherine Bibb Waddy/Woody Duval would not have been possible without the indexing done by the WPA in the 1930s. This source was also the tool enabling me to find females in some of my husband’s relatives–obituaries were not in the newspapers of the day, but they were in the church newspapers–particularly, it seems, for females. These church newspapers are somewhat difficult to locate–again, it was expensive to obtain those obituaries but worth every penny for what they added to my family fabric.
Still dancing the happy dance for those two finds–one long ago and one more recent. We love the hunt, don’t we?