As family historians, we have become immersed with the world of the Internet. We are quickly becoming spoiled with the convenience of finding real genealogical documents on our computers, and with one click the records are at our fingertips. With expectations, we continue to look at every available website, every link that can bring us closer to our ancestors. But as we all know, there are limits to the big Internet universe and as hard as we try, we sometimes reach a dead end.
With great anticipation of putting my research into print, I wrapped up my family history book and mailed the manuscript off to the publisher. But even with a feeling of relief over my accomplishment, I had a small but ever noticeable feeling that something or someone was missing. It was that sense that there was something else, 'just look harder', I kept hearing in the back of my mind. And I kept going back to my research, looking at names and staring at one that was missing; my maternal great great grandmother.
Now all of us involved in this hobby-or obsession-accept that there will always be ancestors left unknown on our family tree, but this one was different. I was raised in a family home that was passed on through the generations with various extended family members living in it from time to time. My maternal great grandmother, Jennie, was the matriarch of my family and much of my heritage and family traditions are passed from her. So what was it that I was missing in my ancestral search? It was Jennie's mother, my great great grandmother. A woman that died at a young age, leaving Jennie age nine, without a mother.
I remember the day I felt compelled to pick up the phone. Much e-mail had been passed back and forth with the publisher over the final details of my book, but I just couldn't shake this feeling of incompleteness. Then it came to me: There must be a marriage certificate of my great great grandparents somewhere. And that's when I picked up the phone and called the court clerk's office of Oakland County Michigan. I requested a marriage certificate, sometime between 1861 and 1862, for Henry Clark, Jennie's father. I made a guess on the date based on my great grandmother's birth date. As Jennie was the oldest child, I speculated they must of married at least nine to ten months before her birth. The clerk on the other end of the phone was helpful, seemed accommodating as she responded with "I'll call you back in a few minutes."
Ten minutes had passed and the phone rang. "We have a marriage certificate of a Henry Clark and Rebecca Crawford for the 25th of April 1861." I instantly knew that was it! I had found a census record with the name Rebecca listed as the mother but of course, no maiden name available. I requested a copy and one was received within a few days. I immediately replaced the empty space on my tree on Ancestry.Com with Rebecca Crawford and information began to flow.
What evolved afterwards is saved for another blog, but the lesson learned is this: When stuck over an ancestor's maiden name, do not hesitate to contact the court clerk's office. Many archived marriage certificates are still stuffed in dusty, cataloged books on the shelves of little county court clerk offices, waiting to be found. Not with a click on the computer, but with the touch of the phone, providing proof of that missing ancestor so vital to your family tree.
Keep searching for answers,