Why Genealogy is the Best Medicine

Cornwall, England

Penzance, St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, England. Source: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Some days I can feel the genealogy gods smiling down upon me. How else could I spontaneously stumble across new information that I’ve been actively seeking, search after search, for months?

I know the old saying–insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results–but I’ve found that doesn’t always hold true with the internet. Sometimes you find new stuff with the exact same searches.

I also blame the cold medicine.  Not much else I want to do right now but lay on the couch, watching bad TV and playing on the laptop, which is where my breakthrough occurred the other night while I was trying to kick this illness to the curb.  There I sat, trying to tire myself out, looking for something to do.  Well, why not find some dead end relatives?  Sometimes you get a lot more than you ask for.

My husband’s 3rd Great-grandparents, on his mother’s side, are Jeremiah Crabb and Jane Swan.  What I know about them came in a handwritten document his grandmother made that my mother-in-law photocopied and sent to me as a genealogy care package.   It was a sad story on paper.  Jeremiah reportedly transported goods up and down the Mississippi River, from Indiana to New Orleans, with his brother-in-law. He died after a fall on the docks in New Orleans—on the same day, his last child was born in Indiana.

They had seven children in the 1830s, near Terre Haute, Ind.  Only three made it to adulthood.  One of them, Mary, starved with her three children after her husband died on the banks of the Wabash River.   The other two–Xantipa and Stephen–moved with their mother and respective families to the Washington Territory.  It would be a mild description to call their story heart-wrenching.

I have come back to this line over and over again, trying to find out where Jane and Jeremiah came from.  She reports on later census records a birth state of Pennsylvania or Virginia.  I had no luck tracing down Jeremiah, even after going and looking into New Orleans death records from the general time frame.  Then the simple search of “Jeremiah Crabb Jane Swann Indiana” pulled up links I hadn’t seen before.  I was shocked.  Here I had just wanted to kill time and wear myself out, but now I was in full research mode.

There were so many links, resources and leads to follow.  One was a well-researched genealogy of this Crabb family, tracing it back to Cornwall, England.  The Swan line was back to England, with a Scottish and Irish line thrown in for good measure.  I am still processing all this information and making notes on where to look for records.  One more project to add to the to-do list.

As soon as I found this information, I called my mother-in-law.  In the past, she’d told me that one of her cousins had traced their family to Cornwall.  Unfortunately, she has been unable to reconnect with that person in the last few years and was unsure if the information I found was the same.  But I wanted to make sure I had my story straight and that this is the family she was talking about.  Sure enough, her information matched, and her evident delight was more than worth the hour of research. I could feel myself feeling better already.

I sent her links to the sites I found and details on where to look for further information.  Maybe she will be my research assistant!


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, Va.


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One thought on “Why Genealogy is the Best Medicine

  1. This is a great success story! I know they say to document your research so you don’t go over the same information, but doing on-line research is different because new info, for instance books being copied to online sites, means sometimes you do have to just take a chance as the author did in her research! It also gives me hope that each time I do double check, new information will pop up!

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