Saturday, April 28, 2007

You Never Know...

My motto in genealogical research is “You never know.” You never know what is around the next corner, the next web page, the next record you look at. You never know who you will meet or what great find is next. Which is what I told the people at the genealogy workshop I presented today at the Simla Library. I am a librarian for the Elbert County Library District and work in the Elbert branch. During genealogy month I’ve given workshops at the 3 other branches.

After the workshop Erin, the Simla Branch manager, said she was excited to start researching her family history and that I had given her many ways to get started. Then she told me that her grandfather’s mother had left the family in the middle of the night when her grandfather was around 5-years-old. She wanted to find out where she went and what happened to her. Erin had called her mother the night before the workshop and asked her what her great-grandmother’s name was. Erin told me the name--Ora Christison or Christenson.

I stared at Erin and asked, “Could it be Orrie?” as I grabbed the notebook I had with me. I had brought my notebook on Ernest Christison to show as an example on how to organize research materials. Thumbing through it, I found the family chart on Ernest that Betty Regnier had sent me. Betty is Ernest’s granddaughter. I glanced at the chart and found Orrie, then turned it over and read the notes on the back. Orrie had been married to Thomas Lyons and they had twin boys--Thomas and James. The twin, Thomas, was Erin’s grandfather.

Erin and I just stood there in shock. We were distant cousins. The woman who had abandoned her grandfather as a child had a background and a family history. My family.

I got on the phone and called Betty Regnier. Betty’s mother and Orrie were sisters. Erin and Betty talked. Unfortunately, Betty didn’t know much more about Orrie than Erin knew. Betty said Orrie had left her family, and the only person she kept in contact with at all was her older sister, Grace.

Erin and I looked through the notebook and found a picture of Orrie and two of her brothers when they were children. Erin saw a family resemblance in the picture. She couldn’t wait to show the pictures to her mother, grandmother, aunts and sisters.

Ernest Christison is Erin’s great-great-grandfather. Ernest’s brother, Lewis, is my great-grandfather. My grandfather and Erin’s great-grandmother were first cousins. Incredible. Our common ancestors are Wilburn and Elizabeth.

I’ll say it again, you never know…

Friday, April 20, 2007

Never Give Up!

Yesterday I returned to the Colorado State Archives. Once again I asked for the file on the Elijah Gibbs trial in Denver. Once again the clerk checked an index and said, "I'm sorry, I don't see it here."

But then he glanced down the page, "Wait a minute! Here it is. They started renumbering the files."

The clerk brought out a small packet of folded papers with a rubber band around it. It was the original papers from the trial. I opened the packet and found a witness list. No Christisons were on it, but several of the names were interesting. The next paper I looked at was the verdict by the jury, filed November 6th, 1874 at 9:30 a.m., "We the jury in the above entitled case find the defendents not guilty." Signed by H.A. Tarpening, Foreman.

Along with the subpoenas for the witnesses, the packet contained the Judge's detailed instructions to the jury. This reveals some of the nuances of the trial, but I had hoped for more information.

It was interesting to hold the papers in my hand and know that the outcome of this trial changed not only Elijah Gibbs life, but the lives of his family and friends. Just one piece of paper that read "not guilty."