The last few weeks were a whole lot of crazy around here—crazy being defined as: woman in her mid-thirties jumping up and down, hooting and hollering, giggling manically at the mailbox while her children stare at her wide-eyed, pretending that no, this woman is definitely not related to them. Why did I do this? Well, each time I opened my mailbox there was a wonderful genealogical goody in there!
I have buckled down and started to really focus on setting goals for my genealogy research. I know what you’re thinking: This is crazy talk. Though I have enjoyed the meandering searches and accidental discoveries that were made during my random research, specific objectives definitely needed to be outlined. You can only drift along for so long before people start asking why you’re doing all this.
My goal: Apply to a lineage society. There are many that I thought that I could apply for, maybe with just a bit more research on my part. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, General Society of Mayflower Descendants, National Society United States Daughters of 1812 and the list goes on. You can look up “lineage societies” online to see lists upon lists of the different societies that are out there. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and apply to the DAR and the Mayflower society, as my Hayden line theoretically has ties to both.
Through my 3rd Great-grandmother, Mary Jane (Hayden) Combs, I have ties to John Alden and Priscilla Mullins of the Mayflower, as well as William Hayden, a patriot on record with the DAR. Easy as pie, right? In my mind this was going to be a snap and I would have it done in just a couple of weeks. Boy was I wrong.
I needed to gather as many primary documents as possible before I could even consider submitting secondary and tertiary documentation on ancestors. Thank goodness many of the classes I have taken through Family Tree University have taught me how to contact repositories that held the information I sought. To be honest, I had nervous knots in my stomach every time I picked up the phone to call a county clerk’s office, email an archivist or drop a letter in the mail. I became more confident every time I did it, especially when I saw the results pouring in. I even roped a very, very good friend into making a field trip to the Indiana State Library in Indianapolis to make me a couple of photocopies from their genealogy section.
After talking to my dad about all the progress I’d made and all of my new discoveries, he suggested I call his sister and double-check that she hadn’t found anything new since the last time we’d talked. He thought she might have some of the birth and death certificates I was looking for. The phone call went better than I could have ever imagined. She looked around her house, found a stack of papers that belonged to grandma, and told me that she would send them—along with the vital records she could get—to me as soon as possible.
I was very thankful to receive the birth and death certificates for my grandparents (one less thing I had to pay for) but what I was astonished to see were two photocopied family histories on branches of the family I knew very little about. One was on the Brennan family and the other was on the Duley family, both on my paternal grandmother’s side of the family. You can read the transcripts I made on William Brennan and on the Duley family of Harrison, Ind.
It has been almost two months since I started seriously researching these societies. My skills have been tested, my knowledge put to good use, and I have found areas where I need to learn a bit more. All I needed was an objective and it all fell into place. Next stop is to start writing more goals and to take a serious look at the holes I have in my research.
Isn’t it wonderful when things start to click?
Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.
Want to learn more about your colonial ancestors? Then check out our Massachusetts State Research Guide!