Picture
As family historians, we all have them: The lineages that stop dead in their tracks, without a clue of direction. At first inspection, all the evidence is there; an immediate outpouring of ancestral names, flowing freely with each click of the mouse. The spaces on the tree branches are quickly filled in, until suddenly and without warning; the new names cease. What was once an overflowing abundance of evidence is now a black hole of dismal nothingness.

A genealogical cold case: Zero. Nothin'. Nada.

The cold case I am currently wrangling with is the lineage of a one Henry H. Clark, my gg grandfather. The first records found of Henry H. Clark, was the 1850 US Federal Census in Commerce, Michigan, living with a married couple and their daughter: I.C. and Lydia Clark and little three year old Mary.

"Interesting name; I.C.", thinking to myself as I examine the record.

But as I embark on my forensic study of the evidence and squint through my overused magnifying glass, it becomes clear that I.C. Clark is actually J.C. Clark, and the hunt begins.

The two thirty-something men owned the Commerce, Michigan dry goods store in the early 1860's and further records were found of tax filings, giving proof that the alias J.C. Clark was actually John C. Clark. As the men in question seemed to share a business, were close in age and both born in Connecticut, an assumption (and only an assumption) can be made that these two gentlemen were brothers.

"So what?" you might say.

Well...really nothing. It was just an interesting little side-story, finding my ancestor Henry sharing a business with his brother John. But the Clark lineage was still floundering dead in its tracks, and rather than going upward it went sideways, landing right back where it started: with no revelation of Henry H. Clark's parents to progress the lineage forward.

But then I recalled a little investigative tool that many genealogical sleuths use when faced with such an annoyingly frustrating case: guilt by association.

Rather than spinning my wheels searching for records on my ancestor Henry, I refocused my investigation on John and forged a hot pursuit on his trail. I began to twist and turn my way through websites; digging into surname publications; peeking at land records, and taping every genealogical site found. Until finally piecing the slivers of evidence together: The Clark lineage.

I paused and scanned my eyes across a lineage that extended from my ancestor's alleged brother John, all the way to Col. James Clark of 1730. A beautiful genealogical masterpiece full of names and dates, with an occasional record sprinkled in-between.

So...case closed? No. Not even close.

It is a shaky case built on circumstantial evidence and there is not a genealogical 'court' from here to Casablanca that will even consider it. But and only but...it is a working case. What was once a sad, bleak, miserable cold case; the Clark lineage has now been given life. But the assumptions will need to be turned into facts, developed with real records pointing their fingers to my ancestor Henry rather than John.

So with this newly inspiring CSI revival, I forge ahead. A lineage taking new life, though desperately gasping on a respirator, is no longer dead-on-arrival, and it is now my responsibility to build a case of fact.

The old genealogical 'guild by association' trick; you just have to use it when there is nothin' on your subject in question.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl
P.S: When searching for records in Connecticut and New England, I stumbled across these unbelievable websites. Check them out: Ray's Place and Jane Devlin's Site.