I have been spending time off and on the past few months working on a highly research intensive genealogy project. It traces my great-grandfather’s “line” (as the genealogy-ism has it) back several centuries, across New England and back to 1630s Massachusetts. Before that, limited information is available but it seems the original ancestor was a Puritan out of Lincolnshire, England.
It’s been fascinating making new discoveries and connections all along the way.
This (Hazen) line’s long presence in New England blesses it with a wealth of previous research and documentation. I also have much information on related individuals, siblings of ancestors and their families and descendants, some up to the present day. Many of individual profiles I’ve assembled constitute mini biographies in their own right. I got the idea to create profiles of all same-surnamed Civil War veterans from Vermont (where most of my great-grandfather’s ancestry was in the 19th century) and have successfully placed all twenty of them precisely within the genealogical tree.
The document is now at 73,000 words, 220 pages in a word document; I expect it might end up as high as 300 pages. Every time I try to make an estimate of an end-point and how many hours are left in the project to get it completed to my satisfaction, it turns out to be an under-estimate because I go off on several others areas of fruitful research. This project requires constant discipline to move forward on. There is no quick powering through to the finish line. I hope to publish it in paper-book form; I hope some may be interested in the findings, or some parts of them.
It is more a genealogical-historical portrait, a kind of historical biography of a “line” rather than a person, and how it evolved over time from 1630s Puritan origins to the 20th century, primarily following it along one particular line. It’s the kind of book I wish I had access to as a teenager when I took an interest but found little available information.
The work is sometimes dreary but there is something to it that is profound and humbling, like standing before a mighty mountain. Many of the people on whom I have compiled substantial information are a century dead, two centuries dead, long forgotten, whose stories generally survive not at all; this kind of research, done right, reconstitutes those stories. Often there is enough information to create a rather well-rounded portrait of the person, but it generally requires a lot of ancillary research on places and times.
As I write these words, to my left is a magazine I picked up on the Battle of Chancellorsville and the Battle of Second Fredericksburg (really part of the same, multi-day battle in spring 1863), at which one collateral ancestor was wounded. Another left Vermont and disappeared in 1870s California, last known residence a (now-)ghost-town in northern California. These are all the kinds of things buried under accumulated sands of time but waiting to be found.