Sometimes in our quest to find our ancestors, it seems that there are well-guarded secrets concerning our family histories. And that may be true! Sealed lips about a family member or the events that at one time were deemed to be unfavorable by the rest of the family was not uncommon. So many reasons to keep secrets: births out of wedlock, unfaithful spouses, law breakers, escaping the facts of the past, even the fact that a child was disabled or considered to be an “idiot.” Names were even changed and the family would move great distances to protect the secret! And these “secrets” often impedes our search for our genealogy. Like the WW II slogan warns, family gossips or others will eventually let the “cat out of the bag” (sort of speak) and the secret is known. For some in the family, the truth is undesirable, while others now understand what happened and doors to the past have been opened.
It seems that during war or other serious situations idle talk could lead to destruction or grave consequences, while other situations that same kind of idle talk can lead to learning more about the truth. I have discovered lately that just casual conversation can lead to new discoveries that were never secrets, but, rather, just undisclosed information. I mentioned several of these in a presentation I have given “Research Skills vs. Just Plain Luck!” This July 4th. after the dedication of a memorial to Revolutionary War Patriots and Soldiers in Christian County, KY, many of my cousins and other relations went to eat some Bar-B-Que. Chad Word and his family sat across from me and the conversation got around to the Civil War and one grave marker that was basically “swallowed” by a tree trunk growing around it leaving only the top and base showing. Merril Rogers was a union soldier during the Civil War and Chad was able to replace the marker with a military one. Since, I have a Rogers line in Christian Co., I had to ask where was he from and who does he descend from? The answer was Robert Rogers and Lucretia Dillon... my ancestors, too! In just the last few months, I discovered by the casual mentioning of where some of my ancestors were buried that a friend also had people buried there and that led to this same Robert Rogers & Lucretia Dillon being common ancestors!
Mentioning a cemetery in the past led me to the discovery that some Internet friends were cousins thru common ancestors in Breckinridge Co., KY. And then there was the time, several years ago, a neighbor just two doors over from our house stopped me as I was walking the dog down the block, “come up here on the porch and sit for awhile I have a story to tell you,” he said. Hard to resist a story, right? After the story came idle chat, that led to him complaining about his wife being on the computer too much. He then said that she does some of the work from her job on it and that she helps a lot of people with their research of the Perry County Carters. I didn't know that Donna did genealogy research! Was he talking about Perry Co., IN? Yes, he said, she has a huge database of the Carter family that were early pioneers of Perry Co., IN. My wife has Carter family from Perry County. They were the same Carter family and we soon found the common ancestor and several other family lines, as well.
Idle chat can have some serious consequences in “Love and War” while it can lead to new discoveries in the search of your family history. Is it luck or just fate that these casual conversations can find cousins? Remember as you idly talk, the person behind you may be a foreign spy or may be an unknown cousin!