“Grandfather Crook came from England,” Auntie Beth said. I don’t recall what we were talking about or why she told me. At 16, I wasn’t interested.
Seventeen years later, when I began searching for my ancestors, my father, Auntie Beth, and the other members of their generation were gone. “Grandfather Crook came from England” was all I knew about my father’s family. My search was motivated by the success of Alex Haley’s novel, Roots. In a previous post I wrote a detailed account of my family history research experience.
After 38 years, I’ve learned that family history research is like solving a puzzle. Thousands of individual pieces of information must be sorted, evaluated, and fit together to form a family picture in much the same was a jigsaw puzzle is completed. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, the family history puzzle has no box cover illustration to use as a guide. Completion of the puzzle is further frustrated by a sometimes large number of missing pieces.
The United States of America being a nation of immigrants, I was intrigued by the idea of tracing my roots to the immigrant ancestor in each family line to build what is called an “American Pedigree.” “Grandfather Crook” is the only immigrant ancestor I have verified.
My family’s history is a puzzle with many missing pieces. My paternal third great grandfather is lost in a haze of unlisted household members enumerated by age range in the censuses of 1790 through 1840. Though the family name can be traced from Thomas Hine of New Milford, Connecticut in 1640, I lack sufficient information to connect my grandmother, Hattie Mae Hine, to the Hine genealogy.
The earliest information about my maternal great grandmother, Minnie Havens, is found in a marriage record from 1896. I have been unable to trace her through census records.
The “secret” of my maternal grandfather’s identity went to the grave with my grandmother along with answers to questions about the Halderman family’s abrupt and mysterious move from Bisbee, Arizona to Tulare County, California in 1920 following my mother’s birth. A further mystery is Minnie’s decision to publish a notice of my great grandfather’s death while he was still living.
With less information about my family than Alex Haley had about his, I may never find my “roots.” I’ll have to call my book Missing Pieces.