Curiosity And Serendipity In Research
Researching families and history through genealogy has been an interest of mine for many years. I research my own family and bits and pieces of many other families in Chautauqua County and elsewhere, particularly places where some of my family have lived through the centuries. Often in genealogy we have to look for clues to further our research when we have no verified information on which to base additional research. Sometimes general reading about a family or an area can help. Reading local histories of an area which is new territory for your research can give background information to help the more focused research.
On occasion I have acquired printed family genealogies that have no relation the families I research; at least no relation known at the time. Curiosity usually prompts my eventual quick look at the printed genealogy. An index helps but often there is no index. One can quickly skim through the book looking for familiar surnames and places. I recently acquired a couple of genealogies. One happened to be about a surname that is in my fathers line. A quick look indicted that the families contained in the book had been in Pennsylvania and mine had not been, so that is put aside until I can study it a bit more, especially the earliest family to find any connection to where my family had been.
The second book was about the Rhodes family, not a name that I had found in my father’s line. But there were many instances through the generations recorded that the descendants of the females were included. By including those lines many other surnames were introduced through the generations. This caused me to slow down and take a closer look. This genealogy began with one couple, who married in Massachusetts in 1771. The place of birth and parents of the man are not known. The couple lived in western Massachusetts for 25 years before moving to Chenango County, New York. Twenty years later they moved to Trumbull County, Ohio. As the children married, their migration west found them in a number of other places across New York state.
As I skimmed through the pages, I noticed a birth place recorded as “b. (crossing plains) at Chimney Rock, Wyo.” That was curious that someone was born during a migration west, probably by wagon train, and the family had recorded the place. Looking at the date I was very curious because it was 1851. As I read further, she died in Lehi, Utah and had married someone with a surname from my family line! Now I had to learn more. It turns out that her father and his parents had moved from Ohio to Hancock County, Illinois in 1838. Four years later, at the age of 18, he married in Nauvoo, Illinois, becoming the first member of his family to join the Mormon Church. His fourth child was born on their way, by wagon train, to the Great Salt Lake. He was one of the founders of Lehi, Utah. The family genealogy which was published in 1959, tells what he did in Utah from being Town Marshall to helping with the construction of canals and bridges, giving maternal aid to the colonization of the State of Deseret (later Utah), to being arrested in Lehi in a polygamy raid in 1888.
He was the only member of the Rhodes family to practice plural marriages and had fathered 29 children. One of those children, born crossing the plains, married someone with a surname from my family so I may have to do a bit of research in Salt Lake City to see if there is a far distant connection.
The connection to the early L.D.S. Church sent me to our local history books to check on the time period that the early Mormons were in Jamestown. They were in Jamestown from May 1833 to spring of 1834 before their removal to Kirkland, Ohio. Because few names of the group, and any converts, in Jamestown were not recorded, we don’t know if any of that group ever married into the Rhodes family. But again there may be information in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library or the Church Archives when I visit there later this year. Family genealogy, local history, and curiosity can lead to many places to do research and who knows where it may lead next.