It has been close to 3 years that I have been writing in this blog. The hits have grown over 50,000 and it has helped me in many ways sharpen focus on various trouble spot, clarify my thought patterns on particular people, get a better grasp on the historical events that lead to family changes and connected me with many individuals both related and not related. I had been thinking about preserve the information by printing it off on 3 ring notebook paper and placing it in a binder. With all of this data sitting on someone else’s server anything could happen to it and I would be out all of the work.
I had purchased a ream of paper and finally decided to print off each entry. I had an empty 2 inch binder sitting around and used it to hold the copies, a half reams worth. I flipped through them, reviewing the stories, remembering the paths taken to get to the story themselves. Picking out my favorite was easy, the series I wrote on Dead Ancestors Soap Opera and related article, What Happened to Lizzie?. The most fascinating and mildly disturbing stories were those covering my great-great grandfather Oakley’s behavior and wives. His decisions/behavior affected his wives, their children and his children. The public profile of him as the heroic Civil War veteran seemed to fly in the face of his personal behavior. I started out not knowing much more than the man had, in his lifetime, three wives. The middle wife never seemed to have more than a nickname; the third wife’s last name was questionable.
Once the Civil War Pension benefits record copies started showing up, everything became crystal clear. One wife dead, one insane, his own children scattered, two step children missing and a new wife with a questionable past all put question to what the paper would refer to as a distinguished soldier. The story started to unfold as I dug through more than 400 pages of testimony. The connections started falling into place; I now knew full names and had a better idea of dates.
The story keeps coming around. I found George’s second wives son and his descendants and was glad to see that things seemed to have worked out for him in the long run. Recently I was contacted by someone related to the Harbottles. George’s third wife, Edith Catherine had an affair with a Harbottle that resulted in a child being born. I had looked for Gertrude to see what had become of her after being left in New York State once her mother took up with my great-great grandfather. I never did find her, but did learn a lot about the Harbottle clan in the process.
One of these days I will revisit the files to see if there are any more missing clues. I am sure in the 400+ pages of documentation that there is yet another nugget of gold to be found.