This has been two months of constant motion for us. We are (mostly) moved in to our new country, new state, new city, new apartment, new places of employment. Contributing to the surreal feeling of starting a new life has been the bizarre weather that has plagued New England this “summer.” We had less than a week of sunshine in June, and many, many days when the temperature barely scrabbled out of the 50s. I had the coldest birthday I have ever had in my 33 years: on July 8th our high for the day was 58 degrees (a new record for our city).
Driving home from work with the radio tuned in to Maine’s public radio station last week, I listened with equal parts of fascination and horror as the news report announced that the cold and wet weather, coupled with a batch of infected seedlings sold in local big-box stores has brought about a resurgance of the crop disease known as “late blight.” This is the self same fungus that triggered the loss of the potato crop during the Famine in Ireland in the late 1840s. Because my mind works in odd ways, it occurred to me that in a strange way I owed my very existence to late blight, as it brought my Irish ancestors to the States and into each others’ company.
That was all the inspiration I needed. That night I was back messing around on my favorite, long-neglected genealogy websites. Isn’t it curious that we sometimes don’t realize how much we’ve missed something until we encounter it once again after a long hiatus? And in my case, a great surprise was waiting in a source I felt I’d scoured months before.
I was watching the Red Sox on TV and enjoying the freedom of our fancy new wireless internet connection by paging lazily through the 1865 New York State Census on Family Search’s pilot site. I became engaged in the game and failed to notice that I had advanced through to the end of all of the census pages available for the first election district of the town of Niagara, New York. When I turned my eyes back to the computer, I was confounded. The final page on the screen read that the census was of all inhabitants living in Niagara on the first on June, 1875. Huh? I jumped to the first page of the district and read 1865. Perhaps the microfilmer had added a few pages from the next decade’s state census by mistake at the end of filming the 1865 census. I paged through again, carefully, to check. As it turned out, this was more than a few pages worth of snafu. To my elation, I discovered the entirety of the 1875 state census for the first district appended to the end of the 1865 census! This is mentioned nowhere in the description of the source on the site, which lists it only as the 1865 New York State Census. And sure enough, the second district yielded the same results. Abandoning the ballgame, I went on a hunt for the Gavins and McCabes in 1875, and found them all, waiting patiently for me to cop on to the extraordinary genealogical good fortune that had fallen into my lap(top).
The moral of the story? We have heard so many times that reexamining an old source may open up new avenues of research. In this case, that genealogical adage proved more true than I could ever have hoped. You can be sure I will be reading my way through the entirety of my sources from now on.