Recalling the Coinkydink which Uncovered my Scottish Roots

When researching one's family, there are bound to be those incidents that stand out so clearly in our mind even after many years have passed.  In April of 1996, I had one of these utterly and completely incredible incidents one afternoon at a nearby Family History Library where I had been researching for a couple of years.  

As a one-income family on a budget, I was always very thorough when I ordered a microfiche or film, and was quite upset with myself that I had ordered the wrong fiche.  Not wanting to waste the time I had set aside to research that day, I thumbed the new arrivals that other patrons had ordered, and for no reason whatsoever, selected a fiche titled “Wadena Cemetery Inscriptions.”

I had absolutely no idea where Wadena was, except from its title it appeared to be in Minnesota.  None of my family as far as I knew had ever lived in that state.  My mother's family had moved from St. Louis, and my father's family from North Dakota.  But, not being one to waste an opportunity to research while my daughter was in school, I slid the fiche into the viewer and went right to the cemetery's index.  I paused on Davidson, then literally sat back and stared at the screen: "Robert Davidson and Pearl Davidson."  These were the names of my dad's grandparents.  In fact, their names were all I knew about them.  So … I copied the information, went home and called my grandmother and asked her if her in-law's Robert and Pearl had ever lived in a place called Wadena.  To my suprise, she said yes!

The search was on.  I now had their dates of  birth and death ... and there were other Davidsons buried in the same lot who I now suspected to be the parents of Robert.  I immediately sent for Robert's death certificate and was elated to find that the names William and Janet listed in the cemetery inscriptions were also names on the death certificate.  This now gave me the maiden name of Janet – Arbuckle, which led me back to the microfiche to see if other Arbuckles were buried in the cemetery.  Indeed they were.   

In order to confirm these speculations, I then ordered the 1900 census for Wadena County, Minnesota, and tracked down the Davidson and Arbuckle families.  I also found the marriage record for Robert and Pearl.  Discovering her last name was Johnson, I sent for her death certificate and learned her parents were Frank and Ida Mae (Rand) who, according ot the 1900 census, lived next door to the Davidsons.

That wonderful 1900 census also indicated that Robert's parents were both born in Scotland and that he was born in Canada … which of course led me to search the records in both those places and eventually find that despite the fact my father had always joked he or the Davidsons were Heinz 57, his paternal grandparents were one hundred percent Scots who had emigrated to the United States in 1882.

I'm not sure if it was a sixth sense or a coinkydink that led me to view that other patrons' microfiche, but whatever it was – it was certainly worth my time.  It's been fifteen years since then, but the search is not over.  I am now working with Susan Edminster, another Arbuckle descendant and blogger of Echo Hills Ancestors, to determine the identity of two old photos -  one purported to be William Arbuckle and his wife Janet (Dyer), and another stated to be Robert Arbuckle and Jean (McNiven).

I am also looking forward to the generosity of another cousin, Jim Johnson, who contacted me this year and has since offered to photograph other headstones in Wadena City Cemetery including Robert and Pearl.  Some things are definitely worth waiting for!

Many thanks to all my webbie cousins who have contributed so generously to my research and websites over the years.   


Dr. Bill (William L.) Smith said...

Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

May you keep sharing your ancestor stories!

Dr. Bill ;-)
Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories" and family sagas
and "Back to the Homeplace" and "The Homeplace Revisited"

TCasteel said...

Ahh that was meant to be!
Something like that happened to me at a genealogy conference. I was browsing books and saw a small one that was from an area I thought one of my hubby's ancestors were from. It had no index but I bought it anyways. I got back to the hotel room and looked up the ancestor in my database...oh crap...I was way off.
That night I had some time to kill so I thought I'd go ahead and read this little book since I bought it. And in the middle I literally jumped out of bed! There was a transcribed letter from that ancestor right there in the book! My conference roommate was shocked as was I.
What joys we find just by accident!
Theresa (Tangled Trees)