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Journey # 16: Better Luck Next Time

I wasn't having much luck with my great-great grandmother either. Although I had found her family in the census in 1861, I didn't know much about them — certainly not enough to take them back to the previous generation. Again, there were too many people with the same name.

An again I had decided that a birth certificate was in order. And again, when I did my calculations, I found only one person with the right name, born in the right place at the right time. So I ordered a birth certificate for my great-great grandmother. After the disappointment with the previous certificate, I was even more anxious for this one to arrive.

About two weeks later, I was in the front yard gardening late in the afternoon after word when I saw an unfamiliar mailman coming down the street. As he turned down my sidewalk, I stood up and said, "Our mail doesn't usually come this late, does it?"

He replied, "No, but your regular carrier is away, so I'm doing his shift after mine."

At that point I noticed what was in his hand. The certificates from England are distinctive, because the envelope is almost square and has a large airmail stamp. I could see from across the yard that he was holding the much-anticipated birth certificate. But I was up to my knees in dirt and had to finish what I was doing before getting to the letter. I'm sure I did a terrible job of the planting I was in the middle of from that moment on as I rushed to finish.

And when I finally opened the envelope, I thought I heard the angels sing. There was information correctly matching the marriage certificate and the 1861 census. And, the whole reason for ordering the document, her mother's maiden name.

While my great-great grandfather on one side was still a dead-end, I had the breakthrough I was looking for on the other. I sat down at the computer and within minutes I'd found a marriage record for the next generation. I decided to order it on the spot to keep the ball rolling.

I was beginning to wish I had a few thousand dollars burning a whole in my pocket that I could use to order any and all certificates related to anyone I thought might be an ancestor. Then I could have that same feeling every week. It really is an addiction.

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