Monday, June 18, 2018

Research and Family for Father's Day Weekend

Being a perfectionist can, at times, make genealogical research a tad more frustrating. I want to be able to close the door on one story so I can move on to the next. I want to have a conclusion to a particular research question before reporting back on my research. I want to know the answers before sharing what I've done. But invariably that just keeps me from writing, and this can lead to wandering around in more mental circles that could have been avoided....had I just written it out!

So in lieu of more procrastination, I decided to report on some of the research I've been doing and how I'm hoping it will bear fruit in my Williams of Powhatan family riddle.

The beauty of living two hours away from the area where many of my ancestors lived is that I can go back often to do research in both county and state archives. I get to do some research and visit family in the same trip - I can encounter the departed and the living in one weekend. What a gift! So as I plan a potential trip, I make sure to jam as much into my schedule as possible. And then I accept that I'll probably be running a bit behind schedule as the records keep me turning "just one more page!"

So here's how I got the most out of my Father's Day weekend.

1. Planning

Whenever I go on a trip, I know that if I'm going to get the most out of my time, I need to be prepared. Where will I be going? What records do I need to view and which records are a priority over others? Who do I need to schedule to meet up with?

For this past weekend, I decided I'd focus on obtaining copies of marriage records (rather than just marriage index records) as well as some copies of some more recent land deeds from Powhatan County. This would mean I'd need to spend some time at the courthouse in the archive section of the Powhatan County Circuit Court. 

I always make sure to plan time to visit the Library of Virginia when I go to Richmond. There's just so much there! Last time I visited, I went through a whole box of unprocessed records from the mid to late 19th century. There is a wealth of little known records there, and most are available for public viewing in the manuscript room. I made the decision to limit my research this trip to the Powhatan County Order Books for the 1890s. I first visited the Library of Virginia website and found the list of all Powhatan County Microfilm records. Next, I found the reel numbers for the appropriate order books I needed and wrote those details down to take with me.

Lastly, I planned my schedule around when I could meet up with family. Lunch with a cousin, coffee with another, and some quality time with my dad were the priority. Research was plugged in around family. Family is what it's all about, y'all!

2. Research

There's a saying that the record you need is usually in the recordset that burned in a courthouse fire or the one that happens to be missing. Or more optimistically, it's usually the last record in the pile you will spend hours combing through. Well, the latter was my experience this past Friday. I was going through piles of unorganized 1870s marriage certificates and finally found the one I was looking for second from the bottom! I was able to leave the courthouse on Friday with six records I needed, and was only twenty minutes late to my lunch with a cousin. Like I said, be open to being late when setting a schedule that includes research.

On Saturday, I took my regular trip to the Library of Virginia. I spent two hours looking over a reel of microfilm for Powhatan Order Books from the 1890s. I'll report back in an upcoming post about what I was able to figure out about my Joseph Williams. I'm busy narrowing down his date of death using both chancery records, order books, and judgments on a court case he was involved in around the time of his death. I have to plan another trip soon to start off where I left off. 

3. Time with Family

Genealogy is all about people. The beautiful thing about genealogy in the 21st century is that it's easier than ever to meet with extended cousins. This trip, I met up with my recently found cousin for lunch. It's always nice to see my cousin Crickett! That afternoon, I met with my dad's second cousin (from my Williams side) Jim and his wife Debbie. It was such a pleasure to meet for the first time with someone so obviously family. I left our coffee meeting more than ever motivated to plan a Williams family reunion. We're one of those families that always says at funerals, "We should get together more often, not just at funerals," and then we don't see each other until the next funeral. 

All smiles with Jim and Debbie!

On Saturday, I spent some time with my dad in Manchester. Manchester is a fascinating place because it's now just known as South Richmond or South Side. It was an independent city from 1874 until 1910 when it was annexed by Richmond. It sits on the south side of the James River, across from the rest of Richmond. I had driven through Manchester but had never visited the sites where our family lived. Father's Day was the perfect excuse to explore!

In my research I had discovered that some children of Joseph Williams and some siblings of Ona Ann Adams had moved from Powhatan to Manchester. I knew from newspapers I found on that Joseph's daughter Emmaline had her funeral presided over by a pastor from Central Methodist Church. I also had her address where she had lived in Manchester from census and directory records. So I made a point to drive past the church and the address where she had lived. Though her home is no longer standing, I was grateful to see that the church is still there.

Central United Methodist Church in Manchester

And no trip to a new place would be complete without checking out the local food! I found Plant Zero Cafe at the corner of Hull Street Road and 3rd Street in Manchester. They have a creative menu (with a lot of vegetarian options), they serve local coffee, and they also have excellent service. It's also connected to a local art gallery! I'll definitely be back!

My healthy & DELICIOUS lunch at Plant Zero Cafe

I had a great trip to Powhatan, Richmond, and Manchester! And while I love researching and reading through records (what a genealogist thing to say, right?), my trip was that much richer for the wonderful experiences I had with my family - face to face, just being family.


When we're sitting behind the records and praying for that dreamed-of document that will break down our brick wall, it's easy to be discouraged. But it's hard to walk away from a weekend full of not only research but also of family without feeling amazingly blessed. Genealogy has brought me so many connections to new and lovely people. It has also brought me closer with my own immediate family as I connect them to our past and together we make the path for our family's future.

Holidays like Father's Day are a great opportunity to not only connect with family but also to dig deeper in paper research and in exploring the places our ancestors and relatives called home. Weekends like this past weekend give me renewed vigor for my research and the hope that it's not in vain. My family, and my concept of family, is forever expanding; what could be better!?

Did you make any genealogical discoveries this Father's Day weekend? Were you able to make any new family connections over the holiday?

I hope you'll join me next time as I encounter my ancestors by remembering the past made present.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had an awesome trip for Father’s Day. Hope to get back soon.


Connections in Quarantine

In Virginia, we've been in a state of emergency since March 12th and under a stay at home order since March 24th due to COVID-19. Wi...