Friday, September 26, 2008

Digging Up the Dead


Genealogy is a sporadic interest/hobby of mine.
One might call it merely a different kind of ghost hunting, involving as it does a search through graveyards and vanished settlements and the residue of old battles for some lingering trace of the ink stained and stone carved molecules that once comprised a living soul.
Last week I was on the hunt for the ancestry of one Prudence Rickers/Ricker/Reicker -- one must deal with phonetic spelling among many other difficulties -- who married into my husband's family in 1859.
Part of research involves elimination of others of similar names -- and that's where diversions similar to plot bunnies arise.
One finds, in a collection of vital statistics from newspapers from 1800 on, seamen Rickers dying of fever aboard the scooner "Ocean" in Annatto Bay, Jamaca in 1823; a character who married a Miss Ricker arrested for bigamy by a special detective from Boston; a report of a young man, after having his attentions refused by a Deliah Rickers, tried to shoot her, then cut his throat and shot himself; and one who drowned with his friends when their canoe upset because "they drank freely of liquor on their way."
I eventually found my Prudence and her parents (she was entered as Mary Prudence.) Their names were Samuel and Charity and they were, apparently, very sober, respectable, unexciting people who lived and died without drama.
Now I'm one the hunt for one of my own, Elizabeth Bridget Wright, born c. 1785, to see if she's connected with the William Wright who was a tavern keeper and spy in New York.

26 comments:

writtenwyrdd said...

Isn't the family skeleton closet amusing? And truth is shown to be stranger than fiction by your search.

In my family annals is the story of how the great grandmother was the first documented white child born in Nevada, how the family tried to settle "Las Vegas Springs" but they left when the local population kept showing up, well armed and threatening in demeanor, and just stood around, looking ominous. The great great whatever grandad ran a drayage company and was gone a lot, leaving the wives and children--yes they were polygamists--to fend for themselves. They moved back to Utah after a couple of these incidents. Or my double-great uncle Jesse who swore he was numbered in the Hole In The Wall Gang and how he gave it all up when he and another fellow came back with the mule string of supplies to find a smoking ruin of the hideout.

I don't know how much of this is true, but they make for good stories.

BernardL said...

'then cut his throat and shot himself'

In that order? :)

Genealogy, and the detective work involved, is very, very addictive.

Gabriele C. said...

But it's the quiet ones who manage to have families and raise kids, not the ones who drown or shoot themselves at young age. ;)

I better stay away from that particular way of plotbunny hunting. :)

moonrat said...

I wouldn't be at all surprised if she were. She might be a spy herself. ;)

speaking of digging up the dead, i'm reading THE GOOD THIEF right now. so far i'm enjoying it.

miss bernita, is there another weirdly coming out soon? i was trying to keep track of it but then you know how my brain scatters. but i need to make sure you get mentioned in the mischief if there is...

Bernita said...

Written, I feel quite resentful at times when I find a lack of skeletons rattling around. Unfortunately these Ricker/Rickers seem to have no connection with my Prudence.

In that order, Bernard, according to the newpaper item. Made me pause and wonder too.Seems excessive.
Indeed it is very addictive!

Prudence's father was one of eleven, Gabriele! So "bunnies" is applicable.

Bernita said...

She couldn't have been, MoonDear, she was born after the revolution, but there's a very good chance William was her father or uncle.I need to dig further.
My love, a couple of short stories hardly deserve mention in the Mischief column!
You're brain is not scattered -- you're busy with whole books!

J. L. Krueger said...

Genealogy is one of my favorite passtimes. If I hit a wall I tend to go down all the other rabbit holes just to keep the thrill of progress, following every tangentially related individual.

The tough part is obtaining the legitimate proof of relationships, but the detective work is fun.

Some of my aunts are displeased because my work has disproved some old family legends.

Charles Gramlich said...

Definitely interesting if you can dig up such stuff. Maybe I should look into my family a little closer.

raine said...

Exciting people, Bernita!
The temptation is there to claim them, whether they're true relatives or not. ;)
Good luck with your search.

StarvingWriteNow said...

That Deliah Rickers one sounds straight out of a gothic romance.

In your genealogical searching, do you get character ideas? Plot ideas?

laughingwolf said...

hope you find her, bernita

sounds like the makings of a wee tale once you do find out....

Bernita said...

That's the thing, JL, there's anways another avenue to explore.

"Proof" is always a bit elusive. People lied to census takers and clerks,for example,or weren't always the most accurate of people and sometimes their spelling...!

You will find a lot of remarkable people, Charles.

Isn't that the truth, Raine! Some are so much more attractive than one's own.

More like a stalker horror story, Bath.Apparently he'd only met her three weeks prior. Plot certainly, an MS, since retired, was based partly on the fact that one line goes back ( presumeably) to the Conyers of Sockburn and a dragon called the Sockburn Worn.

Certainly it gives one a more intimate appreciation of history, Lw.

cindy said...

wow, does william wright have his own novel written? happy digging!

Virginia Lady said...

It's amazing what interesting stories emerge when you go hunting in your family's past.

Bernita said...

Cindy, I discovered a female spy operating during the same period as William (who was caught and nearly hung but his wife bought him free, so he escaped with a heavy fine.) She would make a more interesting novel!No connection of mine though as far as I know.

And these stories lighten what is sometimes a dull recitation of born/lived/died/buried, Virginia.

Lana Gramlich said...

So very interesting. As a black market baby, I've long had a thirst to be able to do such research. Unfortunately that thirst will never be slaked. Best of luck to you in your research!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Lana.
There are always lines that stop for those or other circumstances: epidemic/misadventure/disaster, and children adopted, and not always by relatives.
For sure, your parents must have had both brains and talent, QED, by yourself.

Chumplet said...

My dad put together an extensive excel file tracing his genealogy back to the first Cormier who arrived in Acadie in the 1600's.

I'm working on my mom, starting with Grampy, whose parents died in the Halifax explosion. Apparently, his mother was a MacDonald, as in John A.

Jennifer said...

How fun!
My aunt is the family historian, and she researched an entire book-full of ancenstors and gave it as a gift to all her neices and nephews one year. It's quite a precious gift!!
Sam

Steve Malley said...

Pretty cool. Love those old newpaper tidbits, too.

Geneology's not much of a pursuit for me-- about all I know about my family is that mom was the trusting type and my daddy could jump a six foot fence! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Bernita, you didn't post today. Everything okay???

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