As often happens with genealogical research, I took a bit of a hiatus from my blogging. It certainly wasn’t intentional, but life happens. Heh. So, if you’re new here, or just need a quick ‘catch-up’, I’m a consulting Archivist who’s been doing my own genealogical research for a little over 15 years. I was spurred into action by the death of my grandmother (she was 97!), and my mom’s wish to find out if we were really eligible to be members of the Daughters of the American Revolution and descendants of William Penn (yes and no). By early 1997, I’d found a line (Burrows) that confirmed our eligibility for the DAR and our paperwork was on its way. But I’d caught the bug. It’s not so much a bug as a…a passion, for genealogy.
Of course, doing research in 1997 was very different from today when we have so many wonderful on-line resources available to us. It’s truly remarkable the amount of material that’s been digitized or indexed, and how easy it is to locate. Websites such as Cyndi’s List and Heritage Quest make getting accurate and reliable information easier still. And of course, there are the ‘tried and true’s; places like the Newberry Library, LDS, local historical repositories, etc. for locating evidence of our ancestors.
But what about non-traditional resources? I found one that would have NEVER occurred to me. I blogged about the fact my family’s oral history included a story that one (or more) of my ancestors emigrated from Europe in the 1860s, but came to the United States via Brazil. When a benevolent distant cousin sent me a letter, there was also mention of Brazil. I was truly confounded by how, and more importantly why, anyone would have purposely gone to Brazil in the early 1860s from Europe.
I hope you’ll humor me the quick history lesson, since I found this fascinating, and pertinent, to my search. Brazil was ruled by Emperor Dom Pedro II from 1831 to 1889. He was the son of Pedro I of Brazil, also known as Pedro IV of Portugal and Maria Leopoldina of Austria. He was only 5 when his father abdicated and returned to Portugal. His rule was long and beneficial for Brazil with the height of his reign falling in the late 1850s to mid 1860s, right about the time my ancestors would have been there.
How could I find out whether or not they’d actually been there? Again, keep in mind, this is 1997. There weren’t a lot of resources for Brazilian information, and the little bit was in Portuguese…which I hadn’t learned yet. (I know enough to be dangerous). I threw up my hands in frustration, and moved on to verifying other lines in the family.
And then, one afternoon somewhere around 2006, while I was visiting my parents, my mom asked me if I’d take her father’s coin collection to have it appraised. Victor Wersel had kept it as one of his prized possessions, and my mom held onto it dearly as a remembrance of him. But times were tight, and she was hoping to be able to possibly sell some of it. I took the collection, having no intention of parting with this treasured family keepsake. Whenever mom asked about it, I always told her that I hadn’t gotten around to locating someone to look at it; in a few years time, with her memory failing her, she stopped asking.
Late last year, I was cleaning out my “research closet”, the closet where I keep my Hollinger boxes filled with my research, when I saw the leather binder of coins. It was a dreary day, and I decided to take it out, scan the coins so I’d have a visual record of each one, and create a proper inventory for insurance purposes. Guess what I found?
That’s right! This is a 40 reis coin from Brazil. There’s also a 20 reis coin that’s worn too badly to be able to date. But, I am confident, confident, that this coin did not find its way surreptitiously into my grandfather’s collection. It is just one more piece in the puzzle, and a wonderful, albeit untraditional, resource for my research. What resources have you come upon that may not be ‘mainstream’?