Blog 2021 07 15 – Set it aside

One of the techniques I have learned over the years in trying to solve a brick wall is to set it aside for anywhere from 2 months to 2 years.  While this may sound like a crazy idea, let me explain why.

First off, sometimes we cannot see the forest because of the trees.  We begin to get a bit frustrated in our failure to solve the riddle and stop seeing clearly.  By setting it aside before returning, we take a few extra minutes to relook at what we have, what we have looked at, and what areas we may not have looked at.  The second reason is that documents are being digitized and put online every day and something entirely new may now pop up.  Another reason is that we might learn of another area to research and be able to go back and solve the questions.  Finally, while setting person A aside we might start looking at a collateral line who may have had a relationship with person A and discover something new that will aid us later on when we pick it back up.  Allow me to share a few examples.

The oldest known ancestor on my father’s side (although not yet proven) was known as Lawrence Gailshiott in Cecil County, Maryland in the early 1700s.  It was long believed he was Lars Gailshiott of Norway although nothing was known to exist to support that claim.  After Googling everything known, I set it aside for a few years and upon returning learned that The Breviate in the Boundary Dispute Between Pennsylvania and Maryland, which contained the research to support the lawsuit that led to the hiring of Mason and Dixon.  In the very think book, Lawrence gives a deposition which includes his age and the date of the deposition.  Then after several more years, the census from that part of Norway was digitized and put online and the year of birth for Lars, who sailed off, aligns with Lawrence’s.

Another concerns my late wife’s great-grandmother.  The family story was that her father, who by today’s money was a millionaire, wrote her out of his will because she married below his station in New York.  As it turns out, after he died, she fought it all the way to the New York Supreme court where she once again lost.  That court record is now digitized and online.

Finally, one of my great-grandfathers who I have just taken back up spent several years with the family in Arizona.  After setting him aside and starting again, I realized I never really researched him in that state and until recently, never thought about researching voting lists.  As it turned out, he registered as a Democrat in 1918 and a Republican in 1920 but more importantly, what he did and the company he worked for was clearly written.  I could never make out on the Census what he did just the industry and as it turns out, he worked for a company that supported the industry but his actual job was far from what I had thought.  Additionally, looking at his father on voter lists helped me put him in a specific family.

Keep searching, but sometimes, set it aside for a while.