I am entering month three of mapping every branch and twig of J’s family tree. I’ve traced her dad’s forebears back as far as possible, which is much further than is strictly necessary. Four hundred-plus years of knowledge will be condensed into a few paragraphs, at most. However, this information is fundamental in underpinning the structure of the biography. What is excluded still exists in spirit and importance. More on that later.
Some fun or illuminating discoveries:
Her paternal family, originally from England, settled in Massachusetts circa 1630…and there they remained until her grandparents moved to Tennessee in the 1840s.
A set of her 3rd great-grandparents died on the same day. Illness? Fire? Road accident? Murder-suicide? This is one of the minor mysteries I want to solve.
I’ve also gotten my hot little hands on various obituaries, residential addresses, occupations, and educational information for J and many of her relatives.
J’s maternal family is proving much harder to trace. Her grandfather died rather young and in apparent obscurity. This side of her family was also much more mobile than the other; previous generations lived in several southern states before her mom and grandparents permanently settled in Tennessee when the former was a child.
Mobility and lack of wealth or social prominence=harder to pin down via documents, photographs, memories…
This is where I should point out that the journey not the destination matters, etc., etc. Biography research is like a particularly complex, constantly evolving treasure hunt. At some point, you become so involved in pursuing individual clues that the big prize ceases to be of utmost importance. The process remains fresh, fun, and manageable. I wouldn’t want it any other way.