Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Mushroom Factor

The term “mushroom” factor refers to a phenomenon associated with older (and some not-so-old) houses in which repair projects “mushroom” into far bigger and more expensive projects. (Yes, we live in an old house.) Now I am beginning to think that term can be applied to certain areas of my research.

Did you ever have one of those families that was so big, and had so much information available on it, that the research on it just sort of … mushroomed?

That is what has happened with my Norman family. This is my paternal grandmother’s family – to be precise, the family of her paternal grandfather – Joseph Madison Carroll Norman. He had three wives and is reputed to have had 27 children (he had well over 20, that’s for sure).

Grandma Sallie Norman Brinlee’s parents – William Henry “Jack” Norman and Sarah Jane Sisson – were the last set of great-grandparents I found when I first started researching. In the beginning, I didn’t have a lot of sources of information, and research on this family was slow to pick up steam.

Somewhere along the line, that changed. Radically. I could account for many of those 27 children based on census records as well as cemetery records, but my research was still spotty and it was difficult to trace what had happened to some of the children.

So I adopted a research plan and stuck with it. Part of that plan was to contact as many fellow Norman researchers as I could find. I used e-mail addresses that I found through various forums and had some decent success. Norman researchers are a very generous group, and soon I had information on their families, a number of scanned photographs, and, very important, a copy of the Inez Cline Norman Family History. As I mentioned previously, it is a solid work representing many interviews with JMC Norman's descendants as well as a good bit of legwork.

Now my research was really “cooking with gas.” The Garland County Arkansas History and Heritage book arrived in the mail. Each bit of new information pointed to more sources of information.

Until recently, I felt I was keeping up with all of these different sources. Then this weekend I realized that, for many of the Normans who ended up in Texas, I had forgotten to look up Texas Death Records (images) for them on Family Search Record Search. So there was a lot more information to input. Then I tried inputting some Arkansas Normans to see what came up. Marriage records! Lots of them, also with images.

I thought I had hit the final stretch (i.e., children of the last wife – there are still 10 of them), but now I see I have to go back and make sure I have “touched all the bases” for each member of this gigantic family.

Not that I am whining about having “too much information” – would that all of us suffered from this problem in all of our research – but sometimes it makes it difficult to prioritize projects. For instance, my Lizzie Smith brick wall project needs to get a bit more attention, especially if I attend the FGS Conference in Knoxville in August, where I can find out about and possibly use some Tennessee resources. There are other projects that need to be attended to as well.

Yet I have interrupted Norman research twice before, only to return and be totally at sea: where was I, who was I researching, what had I found, and what was left to do? (I did make notes about this before I stopped, but they didn’t make complete sense to me after a long break.) On one hand, I’m afraid of losing momentum again if I take a break, but on the other, this could take a long, long time and cause all my other research to suffer. Perhaps research worksheets will help.

Time to take a big breath, quit dithering, and get to work. Besides, I now have a scientific reason to choose to remain with the Normans for the time being. I just found a picture of one of my great-grandfather’s brothers on Ancestry, with information on that family – a little known one – apparently provided by a descendant. And that’s a sign.

1 comment:

  1. This is too funny, I have a Norman brickwall and was Googling in frustration when I found myself linked back to your blog! Maybe we're cousins way, way back! LOL!