OFF THE RAILS; a short detour

Well, it happened again. A lot of times the family history journey is not a direct route, non-stop trip to a gold mine of family stories. There are switchbacks, detours, winding curves, and long delays. We all go through it. The challenge is finding a balance between strict adherence to a tight itinerary and being flexible, open to side trips and spontaneous jaunts. We talked about staying focused earlier, Finding Your Way, now let’s discuss day trips off the designated path.

As with every strategy there needs to be flexibility and some middle ground. While the main advice of staying focused on direct ancestors as you start out, sometimes a story is too good to pass up. The key is to get off and back on the train to avoid winding up on a six hour detour. It’s good to think of the ancestry journey this way. You pass through so many small towns, each having some relationship to your family, and there are inevitably stories just as there are in our immediate families. You have to make a decision: hop off, have a look see around and get back on before the train leaves for the next stop and risk the delay/detour, or stay on the train and just barrel through. Sometimes the story you see from the train is too hard to pass up.

Whilst filling in some blanks on the Bruce branch of our Scottish ancestors, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of records about one cousin that then led to an as yet investigated story of another. Uh oh, going off the rails! The blue dots are direct, the green leaves hints. All the action here is with the cousins.

The story involves 3rd great grandmother Helen Bruce’s husband’s second wife’s daughter and her husband, Agnes Forbes and Forbes Allen (Whitefisher). The second story involves the brother of Helen’s husband.

In April of 1853 the Duke of Sutherland passenger ship wrecked just beyond the North Pier at Aberdeen Harbour. Forbes Allen was a member of the rescue team that fateful day. Shipwrecks and other related fatalities are part of life on and by the sea. The local church, St Nicholas, the ‘Mither Kirk’ of Aberdeen, named for the burgh’s patron saint, dates from the 12th century and had a St Nicholas relic until the Reformation. Most in this family were baptized and married there.

So it came to pass that just shy thirty years later Forbes himself, along with his father, cousin and two others perished in a storm, their fishing yawl sunk. Forbes was 55 years old and left behind his second wife, Agnes age 46, and 14 children; 6 adult children from his first marriage (he was a widower), and 8 children 5 of whom were under the age of 10.

Agnes’ half-sister Ann is our 2nd great grandmother. One would naturally want to pursue the story further to find out what happened to Agnes and all those children. If it weren’t for the gravestone of one of the five fishermen who died that day, likely we would never know the tragic tale.

But wait a minute! I need to get back on the train before I get stuck on this track of Agnes and her children. It’s a great story but we need to move on. Before doing so it is good to make sure there are ample clues for the direct descendants of Forbes and Agnes to find and put together if they go searching for their roots someday. Drop everything into the gallery and save (ignore) the hints. [We will talk about “ignoring hints” in another post shortly, so look for that. It’s key to not getting bogged down.]

I go back to sorting out Helen Bruce and William Forbes. As I add or ignore hints I run across a record for a Civil War Pension and notice that a few cousins died in the USA in the mid and late 1800s. Everyone loves to find early American connections in their tree, especially if it relates to one of the major historical events like the Civil War. Here we go again, and I’ve barely caught my breath and gotten back onboard the train. Look at all those hints, and there are at least three others that go along with this John Forbes, first cousin four times removed. What to do? We’re going to address that in the follow up post mentioned above about “ignoring” hints and staying on track part two.

In the meantime, we love to hear about any side trips you have taken in your family research journey and how they turned out. Use the comments or email us. Questions always welcome too!

I value your thoughts & opinions. Please share them. Thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s