When it comes to genealogy I have been lucky in the serendipity department. Many times over I have run into someone, found a special archive or had a hunch that led to breakthroughs in research. There have been some serendipitous things happen that show our ancestors must be helping along the way.
I feel that that there is a place for serendipity in genealogy.
I consider these moments spirit-guided discoveries. Any way you slice it, there is no denying that serendipity plays a big part in research! Once, my family and I were searching in the middle of nowhere Missouri for a lost family cemetery when out of the blue a large goat appeared who seemingly began directing us. You can read about our goat-led-train-track-walk to find our pioneer family cemetery here.
In the book Psychic Roots: Serendipity and Intuition in Genealogy (Genealogical Publishing, 2002), author Henry Z. Jones, Jr describes this genealogical phenomenon like this: PSYCHIC ROOTS is all about the influence of coincidence and serendipity on genealogical research, the chance combination of events over which the researcher has no control but which nevertheless guides him to a fortuitous discovery. Certainly chance or dumb luck sometimes leads us straight to a record kept in an improbable place, to an ancestor’s second wife we didn’t know anything about, and so on. Is it luck? Coincidence?Psychic Roots: Serendipity and Intuition in Genealogy (Genealogical Publishing, 2002), author Henry Z. Jones, Jr
You can find his book on Amazon here if you’re intrigued: Psychic Roots
One fall day a cousin and I were researching in downtown St. Louis. As we were leaving the
basement of the Old Cathedral there was banter between us about how we need to get our
hands on the very oldest maps of St. Louis to pinpoint exactly where our founding ancestor
lived in addition to numerous other things. Literally, as we stepped onto the street from the
cathedral grounds, we bumped into a National Parks Service Ranger.
We struck up a conversation about research and the most amazing and unbelievable connection happened.
This gentleman just so happened to be working with St. Louis Historical Curators that were
collectively putting together an interactive map of downtown St. Louis from its beginning to
support the new Museum expansion. This is what I am talking about when I say serendipity!
Here we were wanting the first pictorial map of St. Louis and, just like in a movie, we encounter
this stranger who was quickly becoming my new best friend.
He just so happened to be creating a new interactive map and experience for, what was then, the future redesigned museum at the Gateway Arch. You can see parts of his work today when you visit and can read more about it here. If you have not been to the arch in a while it is definitely worth the visit.
This NPS Ranger was so kind and tried answering our questions but he generously decided to take
us to his office in the Old Cathedral where he pulled out many maps for us.
When I say maps I mean old, crusty glorious maps.
We also had curated maps to help navigate the hard to read ones. He helped us identify our ancestors property and business building and I was given these two copies below.
It was inside the Old Courthouse, seated and wide-eyed, where I was shown the exact location of our ancestor’s home in full depiction.
This was a good day for this genealogist-heart of mine. Studying the maps, I soon realized that his property was located exactly where the right leg of the arch now stands.
Talk about serendipitous!
This is one example of many random and lucky breaks that assist in my genealogy research. I cannot deny the importance of serendipity in this line of work and I hope to come across many more serendipity moments in the future. I need all the help I can get!
Have you had something similar happen to you? Do you believe in serendipity? Tell me all about it below!