Sunday, November 20, 2011

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, November 19, 2011

Randy Seaver posed interesting "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun" questions in his November 19, 2011 installment of this weekly series.

He suggested: Think about the answers to these questions:

  • a. Which ancestor are you most thankful for, and why?
  • b. Which author (book, periodical, website, etc.) are you most thankful for, and why?
  • c. Which historical record set (paper or website) are you most thankful for, and why?

I have two most-thankful-for ancestors: one who provided answers, and one who provided questions.

The answers were provided by my maternal grandmother, who, in an interview with one of her daughters detailed identification of her siblings, her maternal and paternal aunts and uncles, her grandparents and great-grandparents, with dates and places and often cause of death. Everything proved out! She knew these people, and since she moved to a distant place after her marriage, she had good reason to remember what she did. She was just a little hazy about all the husbands of her paternal grandmother, who was on her fourth husband when my grandmother knew her.

The questions were provided by my 5th-great-grandfather, Nicholas Kelts, who was an invisible and anonymous background character for a long time. His children were all baptized in surviving church records, yet researching his background was an arduous task. Through him I learned familiarity with Revolutionary War records, was required to obtain his Prisoner-of-War records held by the British Library, and was impelled to begin climbing the mountain of German-language practices in the Mohawk Valley, New York. Nicholas' disappearance was solved by going to where the records were, and also required exercising patience when obtaining a record from the New York State Library took two and a half years, even though I knew the identification of the microfilm roll where they lay.

Most grateful-to authors are also twofold.

First, to David Kendall Martin, FASG, whose series on Mohawk Valley, NY families are a treat. His model for integrating explanation of reasoning concerning evidence found is splendid, his care in documenting evidence, and ability to study and explain 18th-century German records in America are a boon. His personal finds of a few of the aforesaid Nicholas Kelts' records were and are an enduringly invaluable breakthrough for me.

Second, but not secondarily, the late Miss Jean Rumsey, FASG, conducted decades' work on two of my maternal lines. Her insistence on documentary evidence, on obtaining all possible local data, on reason and the application of logic, integrating surrounding facts, are also models for the would-be-accurate genealogical researcher. Not to mention the amazing "head start" she gave on these two maternal lineages. Many of her papers now reside in the Newberry Library in Chicago, which is deserving of contributions for its likewise invaluable services.

The record group I am most grateful for at present is the group of Sir Frederick Haldimand's papers presented to the British Library by a great-nephew in the late 19th century, about 100 years after Sir Frederick carried them off from Canada. This amazing compendium of records from the Revolutionary War era provides a look at the British perspective and logistics that no other single collection can furnish. Not to mention that my ancestor Nicholas Kelts' capture, captivity and interrogation are detailed therein. The collection opened my eyes to types of records that are possible to find, and perusing them reinforced the value of personal ingenuity in understanding what sorts of records may be created and in acquiring copies to view.

My thanks to all for questions, for answers, and for the education that each in their own way provided and required of me.


  1. I'm inspired by your answer to question #1, particularly your "invisible" 5G grandfather. The challenges he presented forced you to learn a great deal about genealogy research. Excellent reason to be grateful.

  2. Thank you for your comment, Wendy. One of these days I will write about identifying this man who was a mystery for several generations.

  3. It was interesting to find that my Great Grandfather Benjamin S. Amos and his father, my Great Great grandfather, Rawley W. Amos were fighting side by side in the same "G"CO. 10th WV Infantry.

    Wayne K. Amos