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June 8, 2016

Frustrating Long Hours Slip Away

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – I decided to wipe out the genealogy project once and for all. I had let it linger for about 10 or 15 years or so coming back to it as the mood struck. It hadn't struck in a long while, more like it was just there.


I paid my money to and looked over what I had accomplished. Not much. All my relatives were there, but that amounted to tracing my great grandfather on my father’s side and my grandfather on my mother's side. This would not do.


I had decided to finish the American side first because to go to Canada, England and Ireland would cost an additional $29.95, 20% off the $34.95 that they would regularly charge. This way, I could knock off all the Irish at one go.


I added my nieces and nephews and my new wife's side of the family. They were easy because in Islam they don't believe in remembering the dead. Their grave yards consist of headstone and foot stone facing Mecca but nothing was written on them. My wife told me that to save money they buried one on top of another. In this climate, the remains decayed rather quickly as they interred them in just a sheet, no coffin or anything else.


I started off with Dad's side. He was easy. Grandfather, then Ireland. Grandmother, great grandmother, then Ireland. My mom's side was grandmother and then it stopped. Dead! Cold in the water. I could not find a trace of my great grandfather. I was stuck.


I tried all sorts of combinations. Maybe he went to Alaska looking for gold and got eaten by a polar bear. Nope, nobody there by that name. In California I thought he might have been captured by a hippie girl in the 1880's. Nothing. Then I tried Iowa. I had visions of him getting eaten by a huge potato. I thought I was onto something in Arkansas, but after a half day, I realized that was not my side of the family.


Now, this takes time. Lots of time. You look at the computer clock and it says 1 P.M. and the next time you look it's 3:30. Then you start again and your wife is calling you for dinner. For three days I tackled the project.


Remember, I was looking for my great grandfather on my mother's side. I knew he was in the Washington, D.C., area, so I tried The Washington Post archives section. This source gives one a preview of the article but not what's in it. I paid $10.95 to look at four articles. How was I supposed to know that section called "City Notes" was mainly ads? This was in the early 1900s. The last paper I read (why is it always the last?) had an obituary by a person with the same name. I typed it in and added the death date. Bingo! The hints started to pour in from the computer program.


This guy was the father of the guy I had been looking for, a policeman in the D.C. area. But things didn't end there. John begat John who begat John and I had them all mixed up. The women's side were Elizabeth had Elizabeth had Elizabeth. They all became intermingled. I think I have finally sorted them all out and took the line back to 1716 in England, where I have to pay $29.95 to continue. Maybe another day I will travel abroad searching for my relations – but not now.


...Life is good. . . . .


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