Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Happy Dance: Getting Hooked on Genealogy, Part 3

"The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy. Almost everyone has experienced it. Tell us about the first time, or the last time, or the best time. What event, what document, what special find has caused you to stand up and cheer, to go crazy with joy?”

I’ve had many occasions to do the genealogy happy dance in the short time I’ve been doing genealogy. They have ranged from quiet triumph to sheer ecstasy and a glow that has lasted over several days. If genealogy is an addiction like drugs, then someone has been passing me the hard stuff.

As the subject of this post I have chosen the first time I did that dance (actually, the first several times – it was an exciting week), and this actually dovetails with Part III of my series of posts on “Getting Hooked on Genealogy.”

Taking my cue from the amount of information I was able to turn up just by googling Brinlees, I tried to see what I could find on the names mentioned in Cousin Eunice’s History of the Floyd Family. By combining key phrases, place name, etc. with personal names, I was able to find quite a lot to extend the known lines into some families that already had been the subject of serious research as well as biographies of some of my ancestors who were Cumberland Presbyterian ministers. This was all extremely interesting and intriguing, but I cannot say that it inspired me to do the Happy Dance. I was simply finding research that had already been done (which is, of course, an important component of genealogical research, but … not as exciting as original research).

But I began to notice something. All of this information was on my mother’s mother’s family. When I looked for information on my mother’s father’s family, there was only one piece of information: a partial name for his father (my great-grandfather) - ? Perrin Moore. His first name was not even known. There was something sad and troubling about this. I realized that I believe that everyone deserves to be remembered and that it bothered me that this was all that was remembered of Perrin Moore.

This was still at the very beginning of my research, when everything I knew about genealogy could be fit into a thimble with room to spare. It would be a year before I subscribed to Ancestry and I didn’t know about Heritage Quest; I was just becoming aware of Rootsweb, GenWeb, and genealogy discussion boards and was still relying mostly on Google.

And Google came through for me again. I don’t remember what the exact combination of terms was, but it led me to a GenWeb site, Jim Wheat’s Dallas County Texas Archives, which contained a transcription of the death certificate for Harlston Perrin Moore, who had died on 12 December 1921 in Lancaster, Dallas County, Texas. My mother’s family had come from this part of Dallas County. There was a rush as the realization hit me: This was “my guy.” And the death certificate provided the names of his parents, Spencer Moore and Emily Tarrant. For the first time, I jumped out of my chair and pumped my fists in triumph.

The euphoria lasted for about a week, during which time ignorance of research resources and techniques kept me at a standstill, but when I finally figured out how to use that little search box on the genealogy discussion boards (Moore may be an awfully common name, but Harlston and Perrin are not), I found two other researchers who were interested in that family. Second Happy Dance! (“Oh, yeah! Oh, yeah!”) They had his siblings and the location of the family (South Carolina – suddenly I remembered a long-forgotten statement made by my mother, “Our people are from the Carolinas”), but they did not know his mother’s maiden name. Because I did know, I had something to contribute! I would write to them and … then I noticed that the posts were dated around 2000-2001. Would their e-mail addresses still be any good? With trepidation I wrote to them. I received a reply from my third cousin Jo Ann the next morning – she was as excited as I was – and from Kim, who does research on Anderson County SC families – a few days later. Our exchange of correspondence was fast and furious, and from that point there was no turning back.

Finding Harlston Perrin Moore led to the first Happy Dance, and finding his family and fellow researchers made me realize that the first discovery was not a fluke, that I had only scratched the surface of easily available resources for family research, and that it is possible to use these resources to find out an astounding amount of information on our ancestors. This was the point at which I was well and truly hooked.

(65th edition, Carnival of Genealogy at kinnexions. Poster courtesy of footnote Maven.)


  1. It made me excited just to read about your happy dance occasion. I agree with all you said--it's wonderful, Greta! The connections, the responses, the support---are just icing on the cake! Thanks for a great story!

  2. Thank you, Becky. I had never before experienced anything like the "excitement of the find" that I found in genealogy. It's just so much fun getting to "play detective"!

  3. Congrats on your find! Thanks for sharing your story & I agree, it's sad when all we can find is a partial name - as if no one else remembered the entire name of our ancestors.

  4. I really empathize with your comment about feeling that it wasn't right for someone to be forgotten. I almost posted a similar story for my Happy Dance.
    My very first research line over a decade ago was for a Leger ancestor for which I had family lore (orphaned early in life, only one child, died by drowning) and over many years his life remained a brickwall. I left it aside and developed all my other lines, but about 6 months ago a newspaper index came online with new info and I was finally able to confirm the story.
    Oh happy day!
    Evelyn in Montreal

  5. Wendy,

    Thank you for your comments. I see you are a North Texan. So am I (I live in Northern Virginia, but my parents are from there and I went to high school there).

  6. Evelyn,

    I am excited that you have an orphan story to tell because the theme of the Carnival of Genealogy I will be hosting in October is Orphaned and Orphans - the subject will be ancestors who were orphans or ancestors (collateral lines) died young, never had children, etc. and therefore have no one to research and write about them - unless we do it. Your story will be great. I love researching my "orphan" ancestors.