Researching your family tree brings many rewards. I find that the stories are one of the greatest parts of the journey. Great Grandpa built the Washington Monument, Aunt Agnes invented soap, etc. How do you go about verifying these stories?
When I was interviewing people, I discovered that one branch of the family had lived in Bay Village, Ohio. I wanted to connect with this family, so I asked more. I was told that my relative’s husband was the “Mayor of Bay Village”. Whew – that could be validated easily enough. Rather than calling around (before internet) and asking for confirmation, I decided to drive there on a trip since I was already in Port Clinton, Ohio. Bay Village was another hour away.
I had no idea where I was going, but quickly found the library. After a few minutes, I was able to find a local history book that listed all the mayors of Bay Village since its inception. No mention of my relative’s husband. I looked for him in the list of public officials – no luck.
I decided to leave to see if I could find the Village Office. I found it; however, a quick look at my watch put me in “hurry up” mode - it was 4:55PM – they were closing. I jumped out of the car, swung open the door, and ran down the stairs.
I asked – “I know this sounds strange, but I am trying to locate a man named Paul Gerhardt and I’m told that he held an office in Bay Village. Do you happen to know where I can confirm that?” I also explained that I was related to his wife, Barbara. The man told me to wait a minute and walked away. He disappeared for about 15 minutes. I started to think that I’d misunderstood him somehow. Maybe I should leave? The man then came out and walked over to an intercom on the desk – “Hey Mike – Do you know if Paul has completed his move yet? Is he back in Dauphin Island?”.
When I went downstairs, I had apparently ran into the Bay Village Building Department – a department that Paul had worked in for years! I received a call from them later that evening, explained who I was and that I was researching my family tree. I have since continued to have a relationship with the family.
Had I only made a phone call initially, I would not have found them. I would have realized that he wasn’t the mayor and moved on. Unfortunately, both Paul and Barbara are gone now, but it was a pleasure meeting, getting to know them, and exchanging family stories and information.
Of course, this was an easier story to prove/disprove. Trying to determine if we are indeed related to Captain Morgan, is a whole different story!