The dead person whisperer

That's how I feel. A lot. Not for nothing, but I think dead people (well, most of them anyway) want me to find them. And not just me, but all of us who do genealogy. Some people, like the Long Island Medium, can speak to or channel people who have (recently) passed but when it comes to grandparents or great-grandparents or fifth cousins twice removed, I am like a fricking Nancy Drew detective, Jennifer Love Hewitt ghost whisperer. I just get these hunches or gut feelings about documents or records I come across and I just know it's those spirits nudging me in the right direction. Unless you're Jacob Raynor or John Meinberg, in my particular family tree anyway. There are just some ancestors that didn't want to be found while they are alive, and now that they're dead, that's certainly not going to change. You know what I'm talking about. We all have them. And we hate them. And they're the ancestors that keep us going when we have nothing else to prod us along...

Anyway, I had a really great experience, obviously, with a recent client. She wanted some more information on her husband's father but she was also hoping to find some evidence about the identiy of her husband's father's parents. I looked for the more than 2 hours she hired me for. I couldn't help it. Once my curiosity is piqued, I can't turn it off...and those dead people know it! This guy, her father-in-law, was an elusive S.O.B. I found a few things to supplement her own research, but not the names of his parents, and decided to finally call it a night. I was in bed but I couldn't shut my brain off. Had I checked this database? What if I framed my search with different information? So I got up and kept looking. And you know what? I found a marriage certificate for this guy for an earlier marriage my client hadn't known about, and on the back of that document? The names of his parents.


I feel like this particular dead person didn't NOT want to be found...he was just testing my worthiness and dedication. And once he saw I was committed and was going to keep going, he gave it up. I know it sounds crazy...but if you're somebody who has found herself immersed in genealogical databases and a variety of search terms at 3 a.m. (which I'm sure all of my regular readers and many more of you are), then you know what I'm talking about, and I don't sound so crazy. Sometimes it's about thinking outside the box - don't search with a name, use just a date and place of birth instead; do a boolean search instead of a soundex search; when all else fails, just Google the darn thing...and of course, realize you may have to rely on real life cousins for help or take your whole search off the Internet into the real world instead. And when you come across that elusive record that might be, but might not be, what you're looking for, trust your instincts. If something is saying, "This is probably it," go with it. It might be your gut. Or it might be a supernatural nudge from the other side, somebody who's glad they're not going to be forgotten.

So when you get discouraged, remind yourself that you are a dead person whisperer. You've done it in the past. You'll do it again. Put your work aside and come back to it with fresh eyes in a day or so. Go to sleep and come back to it at 3 in the morning. Our ancestors WANT to be found. Well, most of them anyway.

Jacob Raynor & John Meinberg - I'm coming for you! :)