When Your World Crumbles
By Lorraine I. Quillon
Many of my friends will be saddened to learn that I recently went through a divorce. It was a very painful experience and caused me an immense amount of shame and embarrassment. However, with time, I hope to be able to get over it.
Before you panic and start worrying about my mental (and marital) state, may I hasten to add that this was a genealogical divorce. It was triggered by a realization that the woman I thought I had found to be my third great-grandmother was entirely too young to be having children at the time that my second great-grandmother’s oldest sister was supposedly born.
Oh, but it all fit so beautifully! The family was living right smack dab in the correct place. There were land transactions that put other members of the family in the location where my Elizabeth was born in 1812. And interesting articles had been written about this family because they happened to host a famous Civil War hero among their ranks.
And therein lies the problem. This is not an uncommon surname in Pennsylvania at the time. In fact, the 1800 heads-of-household book I referenced yielded a whole column of representatives. Plus, the name gets spelled a wide variety of ways, which probably added another half a column at least.
And then began the lament. “Why isn’t it ever as easy as it first appears to be?” “Why do my hopes rise only to be dashed against the cold stones of reality?” “Why can’t I have those amazing experiences everyone else seems to have when the heavens (and the records) open to reveal that long-sought puzzle piece which makes the rest of the picture make sense?”
Pity parties aren’t very helpful, though, and additional reflection is needed. First of all, I have experienced those miracles in the course of my decades of research. So stop feeling sorry for yourself, Lorraine, and start being more grateful.
Secondly, the story isn’t over. The fat lady hasn’t sung her last note (maybe hasn’t even begun the chorus!). There is yet an effectual battle to be fought. There are other families to examine, other histories to read, and other records to ferret out and study. No, it’s not over by a long shot.
Third, just look at the things I have learned because it has been difficult. I recently heard someone mention the results of a study about achievement, that it was hampered by too early a success. Boy, with that in mind, I ought to be well up the ladder by now!
So, back to the drawing board we go. While it’s not a blank slate and we’re well above ground zero, we still need to go back to where the fiction overtook the fact. There is a truth out there. Whether the records are available to reveal it or not is still a question, but it absolutely exists in history.
Let’s review what we know, bait our hook, and go fishing again. We may not catch the “big one” right away. However, every small fish we catch tells us something about the pool in which our target is swimming and gets us closer to success.
Hopefully, you can get through all the metaphors employed here to get to the final message: Never give up. Never, ever, ever give up. Keep looking. Keep trying. Keep climbing. Keep on keeping on.
So look out HARPERs/HAPPERs/HOPPERs/HOOPERs, I’m coming for you!