I have thought quite a bit recently about the term "research trip". It sounds so cerebral and organized and . . . and . . . boring! It conjures a vision of a lonely academic with her glasses perched on the end of her nose sitting in some dusty dimly lit corner surrounded by ancient texts. (For those who know - picture the stacks at the Purdue Library) Well . . . maybe this is partially correct but I cannot imagine her shouting out loud, "Aha, I found you!!!" like a family historian would. And after all we don't spend all of our time looking through books. We enjoy the outdoors, walking through manicured lawns or knee deep in weeds looking for headstones, we follow maps and drive unknown roads looking for ancestral property, we knock on the doors of strangers to ask if we can take a picture of their house and tell them all about our ancestor who lived there long ago, and the best part is when we meet relatives who reminisce about other family members who have passed away, and the times we only read about. I think we need a new name for these exciting, emotional, family journeys we take through time.
My brief visit to Clinton recently was a good example. I was by myself, I wasn't prepared, I wasn't organized, and yet to me it was a wonderful experience. For a year I had intended to return to Clinton, but you know how time can slip away from us. Then, through an online connection with a second cousin once removed, I found out that I had a 90 year old first cousin twice removed who still lived in Clinton. Do you suppose he would let me visit, I asked? Bless her, she made inquiries and voila! I had his phone number and address. Now there was nothing that would keep me from this trip.
With my GPS plugged in I navigated the construction around Chicago and endured the "recalculating" admonishment that I received multiple times as I ignored the suggested route. Arriving a bit after noon, I decided that the library would be a good choice for my afternoon and allow me to relax from the drive. Since I did not bring along a list of death dates to look for obituaries, I decided to concentrate on city directories. That kept me busy and allowed me to feel successful as I printed off one after another. Taking a break from city directories, I pulled out a film reel of wills. Whoopee, I found the original will of Zelphia Guilfoil. Zelphia was the wife of Michael Guilfoil who was the brother of my g-g-g grandmother, Ellen Guilfoil Gilshannon. It was Zelphia's will that had connected the three siblings, Michael, James, and Ellen. I had a transcription but I do so love an original. I continued scrolling through reels for several more hours until my no line bifocals made me dizzy, and I decided to find a motel, check in, and have some dinner. I returned to the library after dinner until closing.
The motel had issues and as I looked at the cost, I reasoned that if I went home a day early, I could use that money toward the FGS conference. Decision made. I checked out and planned to go home late afternoon.
Catholic Historical Center at St. Boniface church which was only open on Tues morning from 9-12. This was new to me, and so I thought I should check it out since much of the information I was seeking was sure to be in church records and, conveniently, today was Tuesday! Churches had records of baptisms before birth certificates were required. Following my GPS, I easily found St. Boniface, but the front door was locked. I called the number Mary had sent me for the consolidated Prince of Peace church, but the woman on the other end of the line didn't know how I could get in to the Center. She was sure that was where I needed to go because "they didn't do genealogy" at the Prince of Peace location.
|Rev. J.A. Murray married my g-grandparents|
It was only a little over 36 hours from when I left to when I arrived home. A short time by most standards for a research trip, but it felt longer. I had lots of new information as well as a new resource in the Catholic Historical Center, but best of all was my visit with John.
Post Note: I called Prince of Peace when I returned home, and the flustered lady on the other end of the phone said that she couldn't make a copy because she would have to cut off the other people on the page for privacy. Really . . . I asked for a copy of an 1865 baptism record!! "Besides", she said "We don't do genealogy." My question is, then why do you keep the records? Later I received a letter attesting to my gr. grandmother's baptism, with an ending statement of "We don't do genealogy at Prince of Peace." My hope is that someone will digitize these records before they are lost.