|Posted by EHancock2 on March 17, 2017 at 12:05 AM|
In 1999, I was living in Oklahoma City. I was a newlywed with big plans and bigger dreams, but very little to show for it. I was also a huge history buff. Going back to the 3rd or 4th grade, I have pretty much always been interested in knowing more about my family history. Fast forward to 1999. My dad's uncle contacted me regarding his own genealogy efforts, having talked with my dad about my internet searches. At the time, mine had come up relatively empty. I'd managed to trace back a few lines to the early 1900's or even the mid 1800's, but that was about it.
Thanks to my great uncle, that changed. Soon, I had several of my dad's lines traced back to the 1500's and even earlier. (One originally connected to charlemagne, but that proved to be a false lead. Thus is the nature of internet genealogy where everybody is a genealogist and almost nobody is a researcher.)
Soon, I began to find some actual leads that led me to actual people in my actual family line. And believe me when I say I was actually quite happy to be able to confirm that.
Still, one line had me at a loss. Oddly, it was my namesake line. See, while my Great Uncle John D Hancock had information on lines such as Bouknight and Caffey going back to the 1600s and even 1500's, the Hancock line seemingly just materialized from thin air with the Anakin Skywalker-type birth of my Great Great Great Grandfather, Isaiah Hancock. I knew he was born in Alabama, where he'd left a wife and children. I knew he'd fought in the Civil War and I knew he'd settled in Texas thereafter, because there is where he filed for his civil war pension application. But that is where the information ended. I couldn't even confirm the woman who gave birth to his son, my Great Great Grandfather, Jerry C. Hancock. I could confirm his existence. Jerry was a real person, born in 1866, dying in 1954. I know because my great uncle and great aunt and grandmother professed to meeting him. (My grandfather and namesake died in 1994. I never got a chance to find out if he had met Jerry. But they did name their first born, my uncle, Jerry, so I assume they met him.)
Jerry C's actual birth name was Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a mystery himself, but at least I could say he existed. In 2001, when I moved back to Texas, I actually managed to obtain a copy of Jerry's death certificate. Still, it appears that no such certificate existed on Isaiah Hancock. I searched for months. Before you know it, months turned into years. Finally, long about 2006, I gave up my search. In the years between 2006 and 2013, I lost touch with my great uncle. Life happens... Life is what happens when you're busy raising kids.
Then I got the news that he had passed away. He had sent me everything he had on genealogy back in 2000 or 2001. Now, in 2013, I'd essentially failed him. I'd failed to find anything of substance beyond what he had sent me. I'd found nothing to even point me to the possibile name of Isaiah's dad.
Nothing. Not a thing.
Zero. Zip. Zilch.
Fast forward to 2016. In November or December to be exact. I was talking to my friend, John, about genealogy and about Isaiah being a sticking point. He'd helped my fellow author friend find her past, so I asked him to take up the case of Isaiah, if only to see if he could do any better than I had done. He certainly couldn't do any worse, right?
The next morning, I woke to an email. "I think this is the guy."
I clicked the link to a will. I read it. There was mention of a son named Jesse. A daughter and her husband. And then I found it. A son, Isaiah, who lives in Texas.
I read it again and again. I clicked other links he sent me. Some were provable deadends. Things I could unequivically say were not my immediate family. But I had found him... No, JOHN had found him. Isaiah's Dad was a mystery no more. And what's the best part? Isaiah's dad and son shared the same name...JEREMIAH.
I honestly didn't want to believe it. How could it be that I'd searched for the better part of a decade and John had found in a single night what had eluded me all this time? At first I thought, "okay, surely he's joking. Surely this is a prank. He put this information up himself right?"
Nope. The posts were there. Some dating as far back as 2001. Others from after 2006, when I'd quit digging. I had FOUND my 4th Great Grandfather!
As John and I continued to search, we chased down several leads that suggested who his father might be. At one point, we had it traced to an immigrant killed in an indian massacre in the 1620's, but that lead did not pan out as truth.
Still, I had found Isaiah's dad. I had found him. Nearly 20 years after I began the search, but I had found him. The only sad part about it is the fact that J.D. hadn't lived to see his genealogical desires come to fruition. In many ways, I felt like I'd let him down. But, in other ways I began to understand something. Even in 2000 or 2001, he had understood he would not live forever. His brother, my namesake, had passed away in 1994. J.D. knew, as I know, that any day could be his last. So he passed the duty of the search down to me.
Odd, isn't it? As time passes, things are always passed to future generations. You pass down heirlooms like the kitchen table in my house, where once my grandmother sat as a little girl. You pass down jewelry, like the ring that same grandmother passed down to her only granddaughter, my sister. You pass down stories, like the one my dad often tells of riding a horse, or the one where he played baseball, but was a slow runner.
In many families, you pass down a legacy, like the name given to me by my grandfather. But J.D. had passed me something I did not appreciate until a couple years after his passing. He passed me the keys to unlocking the real truth to exactly who I am. Jeremiah the first seems to have been an interesting character. He bought a ton of land in Alabama, only to sell much sof it later on. He was married twice. The first wife being the mother of my Isaiah. She died when Isaiah was a boy. He grew up with his stepmother, a woman named Morning Glory Thomas. I often wonder what his life was like being raised by a woman that was not biologically his mother. He had two half siblings. A sister that shared his mother's name and a brother, Jesse. What must it have been like to have grown up in that house? Was she a good mother to him? Was she the proverbial wicked stepmother? Did she favor her own children over him and was that why he left Alabama for Texas?
These are questions that Ancestry.com cannot answer for me. Frankly, these are questions I guess I'll never answer. Not really. But, now I have a new mission. Now the mission is to find Jeremiah's father. Recent suggestions are a man named Thomas Hancock, born somewhere between 1750 and 1770. Three or four websites suggest Thomas's dad was Josiah Hancock, but one website says Josiah married a woman that already had children and did not father any children with her. That website does not connect to my Jeremiah though.
So, who are my roots? And when exactly was Jeremiah the first born? Was it 1797 or 1782, as FindaGrave suggests? How old was he when he married Isaiah's mom and how old was he when he died, 3 years after Isaiah's older brother? Every discovery leads to ten more questions. But, unlike Dr. Ducky Mallard, the dead do not speak to me.
I'll keep writing about this, I'm sure. Hopefully with more good news to report. In the meantime, may all your genealogy searches lead to a better understanding of the person you are today.
Until next time, this blog is brought to you by the letters W, E and H and by the number 2.