With the arrival of Patrick Gavin’s will from Sampubco about a month ago, shortly following my triumphant discovery of the Gavins’ graves in Niagara Falls, N. Y., my understanding of that family has been blown wide open. It’s amazing how knowledge of one family line can remain in stasis for so long and then–WHAM!–one little nugget of information opens up a zillion new lines of inquiry.
I realize now that I could spend my entire life doing genealogy and never progress past, say, my great-great grandparents because of all the exciting stuff there is to learn about each family member. When I began this genealogy quest in earnest a few years ago I rushed headlong into tracing lines back as far as they could go. The internet is so helpful with this sort of linear research. I’ll freely admit that I was nervous about branching out into new media for research. It took me months to work up enough guts to learn how to use a microfilm machine (again). But once I did explore new avenues of study, my family opened up before my eyes like a flower. Now I’m all about breadth in family research…forget about how far back I can trace my lineage (at least for now). I feel like I’m really getting to know these folks and it has made my genealogical work SO much more fulfilling.
Thanks to Patrick Gavin’s will, I now know the married names of my great-great-grandfather’s Michael Gavin’s sisters! I also have a little more insight into family relations. Patrick ended up leaving almost the entirety of his (signifcant) real estate holdings to his sister Margaret Gavin McMahon and her husband Patrick McMahon upon the occasion of their mother’s death…four properties in total. Two more properties went to his sister Annie Gavin Ryan. In comparison he left his brother Michael $50. FIFTY DOLLARS. Now, granted, that wasn’t an amount to sneeze at in 1893, but Patrick also made sure $500 dollars was set aside for his funeral and a new family gravestone, and he gave $100 to St. Mary’s Church. I wonder if Michael viewed this as a slap in the face? It would have given me pause, but then again I have a real problem when things don’t turn out fairly in my life (I know, I know…it’s my unrealistic cross to bear).
Further papers reveal that Michael and the other sisters indeed hired their own lawyer to file objections to the lopsided will. Interestingly, a few months into the process, Michael and his other sisters rescinded their objections and the will went through unamended. I wonder what happened? I wonder if their aging mother pleaded that harmony be restored to the grieving family? I can’t know for sure, though speculating sure is fun.
At any rate, it shows that the Gavins were real people, not tidy names ticked off in my genealogy files. They disagreed, they may have outright fought, but in other instances it becomes clear how deeply they cared for one another. One look at the magnificent black marble obelisk of a tombstone Patrick Gavin’s $500 bought reveals a tender decision the family made. On one side of the marker is the inscription:
John Gavin. Died February 15, 1863. Aged 2 Years 10 Months.
By the time the gravestone was erected, the toddler had been dead for more than 30 years. But his memory was carefully preserved there on the family marker just the same. I find that terribly, terribly touching. So much for the historians who argue that in the past, when child mortality was alarmingly high, the deaths of young children were barely mourned by their families. The Gavins clearly still felt the loss of poor little John, despite the length of time he had been gone.
All of these details add to the fascinating picture I am gradually forming of the Gavin family. I am hooked on the details now, and my new love in genealogical resources is the newpaper obituary! My next post will sing the praises of the noble obit., which I think is a crucial source for every family historian to explore as fully as possible.