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My Ancestors are Talking To Me

I try to be very organized when I am performing research.  Before going on a research trip, I identify the ancestors I will be researching, check the library’s catalog to determine what resources are available and make a list of questions I would like to answer.   However, some of my best genealogy finds have happened when I was not looking for the information.  When this happens, I jokingly say my ancestors are talking to me.

Here are some examples of some great information I stumbled upon while performing genealogy research.

  • My 2nd great Aunt Matilda Shakespeare had several children while she was enslaved.  One was a son name John Henry Lewis.   At the end of the Civil War Matilda married Dingo Rollins and they had several children.  I found their marriage certificate and the family in the 1870 and 1880 census.  I also found a death record that indicated Matilda died on June 27, 1882.  I could not find any more information on the Rollins family after the 1880’s.  One day I traveled to the Central Rappahannock Heritage Center in Fredericksburg, VA for a research trip.   The volunteers were very helpful as I searched for information on Dingo Rollins, his children and John Henry Lewis. Unfortunately, we did not find any information on the Rollins family.

A few days later I was contacted by the volunteer who was helping me on my research trip.  She told me she had located documents for a court case involving John Henry Lewis and Dingo Rollins’ children.  She happened upon the information when she was looking through a box that was sitting on the shelf.  Another volunteer told her the box had been there for awhile.  The court documents contained a wealth of information on Dingo Rollins and his children including the married names of his daughters and their spouses, as well as the fact that they had moved from Caroline County, Virginia to Washington, DC.   I was able to use this information to further trace the family line and locate some of Matilda and Dingo’s living descendants. They shared with me a family Bible which had a lot of birth, death and marriage information, as well as, numerous photographs.

Matilda & Dingo Rollins’ Daughter Mary Rollins Jones

Matilda & Dingo Rollins’ Daughter
Rachel Rollins Ferguson

John Henry Lewis Sr

John Henry Lewis Sr
Matilda Shakespeare Rollins’ son

  • Two of my ancestors were born, lived and died in Washington, DC.  I assumed they were married in the city as well.  On several occasions, I looked for their marriage certificate at the DC Archive and did not have any luck.  One day while on a research trip to the Library of Virginia, I was scrolling through a microfilm for marriage records when I realized I had scrolled past the name I was looking for.  I looked closely at the microfilm and to my surprise I had stopped on the marriage certificate for the ancestors I believed had married in Washington, DC.  They were married in Alexandria, Virginia which is a little more than 10 miles outside Washington, DC.   Since, I had known both the bride and groom to have lived in Washington, DC all their lives; I never thought to look elsewhere for the marriage certificate.
  • Emma Woolfolk is the sister of my great grandfather, Overton Woodfork.  She married Barnett Hawkins on February 22, 1883 and they had a son name William (Willie).  Willie married Fannie Turner on February 25, 1909. They are listed in the 1910 census and in a 1916 deed, but then the trails went cold. A few years later, I was at the Caroline County Court researching schools for a book I was writing.   I was flipping through a Chancy Court book to locate a certain page and realized I had gone too far.  I glanced at the page as I prepared to flip back a few pages and the name Fannie Hawkins caught my eye.  I had unknowingly stopped on the page that contained the divorce decree from Fannie and William Hawkins.

What about you?  Share some of your stories when you accidentally discovered information that was helpful to your research.

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