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 my research. I know this topic can sound like I'm a bit crazy but when it comes to things I love, like genealogy, I just let my freak flag fly! There have been some crazy things that make me believe that our ancestors must be helping along the way. Don’t close your browsers now, Flunkies. Please stay with me. If you can’t trust that there is a place for serendipity in genealogy, then you can call it fate. If you call it fate, then you can also stretch the mind to consider spirit-guided discoveries. Any way you slice it, there is no denying that serendipity plays a big part in research! Once, we were searching in the middle of nowhere for a lost family cemetery and out of nowhere 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? You can find his book on Amazon here if you’re intrigued: One fall day a cousin and I were researching in downtown St. Louis, as one of the original 30 founders of St. Louis is our direct ancestor. Upon leaving the basement of the Old Courthouse 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 Courthouse 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 who were collectively putting together an interactive map of downtown St. Louis from its beginnings 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 encountered 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 under the Gateway Arch. You can see parts of this 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 helpful answering our questions but then he generously decided to take us to his office in the Old Courthouse where he pulled out many maps for us. When I say maps I mean old, crusty glorious maps. This was where we first saw the exact location of our ancestor’s home with his adjoining business building in full depiction. This was a good day for this genealogist-heart of mine. Studying the maps, I found that his property was located right where the right leg of the arch now stands. Talk about serendipitous! This is one example of many random and lucky breaks that assisted in my genealogy research. I feel I cannot deny the importance of serendipity in this line of work and I hope to come across many more breaks in the future. I need all the help I can get! Flunkies, have you had something similar happen to you? Do you believe in serendipity? Tell me all about it below! Jenne
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