The other day I wrote a blog post about families whose surnames daughter out. In this post I used my own family as an example. Among the descendants of my great-great grandparents, Abraham Leclerc and Celina Lavallée, there is only one known male in the sixth generation that carries the surname.
In reviewing my research on the family, I noted that I hadn’t researched those lines in quite some time. The last time I had done any work on it at all was six years ago, when I wrote an article for New England Ancestors magazine about a family tradition.
And even then, it wasn’t extensive.
As I delved into the family, I was reminded of how long it had been since I last worked with the descendants of this family. I was lucky in some respects. My great-grandfather was the eldest son. There was one daughter, Josephine, older than he. There was a twenty-two year spread among the children. The last, Henri (known as Babe), was born in 1909. My grandfather was born only three years later. My grandparents owned a bar and social club from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Because of this, when I was young I actually got to meet a number of my grandfather’s aunts, uncles, and cousins (my great-great-great aunts and uncles and their children).
Through the years, however, the descendants grew apart. The last time I saw many of them was at my grandfather’s funeral a dozen years ago. Without these personal connections, it was difficult to trace the more recent generations.
But now, there are so many more resources available. The last time I looked at the family, the 1940 census was not yet available. With the help of that census, I was able to identify several more of my grandfather’s first cousins. I was also able to determine that two of his aunts were divorced quite early (back in the 1930s, when it was not as socially acceptable).
With access to city directories, public searches, cemetery databases, online newspapers and obituary databases, and more, I was able to quickly identify almost two dozen new descendants, including one who lives only a short distance away from me in Boston.
The important lesson learned is about revisiting research. All too often, we think we are “done” with a line. Or, perhaps, that we have looked at everything available. But in today’s world, new resources are constantly becoming available. So it is important to schedule some time periodically to return to those lines that you thought were “finished” or “impossible to take any further” and review them. You never know what additional treasures you will find when you revisit them.