Friday, January 30, 2009

My Genealogy Happy Dance!

From: kinexxions: The Winter Carnival has Arrived!
The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy is: "The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy." Almost everyone has experienced it. Tell us about the first time, or the last time, or the best time. What event, what document, what special find has caused you to stand up and cheer, to go crazy with joy? If you haven't ever done the Happy Dance, tell us what you think it would take for you to do so."
This is a tough one. Surely, we've all had those moments, and I know I can't share all of mine here. And I know, as soon as I make this entry, I'll remember something I should have chosen instead.

Should I pick my first? Or my latest? Or maybe I should write about the first thing that entered my mind when I read the topic?

Well, the first time I felt like doing the "Happy Dance" was way back in 1997. I had a list of names that my 1st cousin had entered into his genealogy program. In it, it mentioned that our earliest known Atkinson ancestor had lived in Ohio County VA (now WV). I didn't even have a clue where that was, but I went to the Internet to see what I could find out. That was when I discovered Genweb. After finding that there was a page for Ohio County, I started looking thru the genealogy postings until I found a query that mentioned Robert Atkinson, who might have been the earliest white settler in Guernsey County, OH. Robert was the brother of my 4th great-grandfather, James Atkinson. That was the first time I made contact with anyone researching the same family that I was and it was a turning point in my life!

Another time was something I've written about here previously. You can read about my serendipitous discovery of the graves of my 3rd great-grandparents in my first Tombstone Tuesday entry HERE.

But since most of my most happy discoveries have been by accident while browsing records (something I consider a benefit of having a family that stayed in the same area for many generations), I want to tell you about a "Happy Dance" moment that came as a result of real planning on my part! Sometime back in 2001, I received information from a distant cousin that mentioned that Nancy Jane Wolfe, the g-g-g-grandmother whose grave I found by accident in 2005, had been born Nancy Jane Chase. That obviously gave me a whole new avenue to check out. Since most of that part of my family lived in West Finley Twp, Washington County, PA, I started looking for possible Chase families in the census for that area. The most likely candidate to be her father seemed to be a man named Barnabas Chase who lived in West Finley and had been born in Massachusetts. Since Nancy was married before 1850, I knew the census wouldn't help me decide whether Barnabas was the right guy or not. I searched the Internet and found quite a bit of information about Barnabas and his family back in Massachusetts, including family trees back to the 1600s when his ancestor William Chase came to America with John Winthrop, but nothing that showed any of his children. My next hope was that Barnabas Chase had left a will. I found an index entry that indicated that he had, but no transcript or abstract that would tell me who was mentioned in that will.

In those days, my husband traveled to a computer conference in Salt Lake City every March, and I would go along and spend the whole week in the Family History Library. Since it was nearly that time of year, I added "Search for the will of Barnabas Chase" to my to-do list. And when I got to the FHL, that's the first thing I did! You can imagine how happy I was when I read this line in the will: daught Nancy Wolff has got hir hundred...
I think I made a noise while I was sitting there in the dark at the microfilm and when I went to make copies, I'm sure I told everyone I came in contact with! I think what makes that experience so special is the fact that I had a hope for what I would find, and that's exactly what I found! That's the moment that always comes to mind when I think of a genealogy Happy Dance!

You can see Nancy's pedigree HERE. And below is the full text of Barnabas Chase's will, as transcribed by me from a photocopy:

Will #344,
Willbook #9, page 503
Washington County, PA

Will of Barnabas Chase

I Barnabas Chase of West Finley Township Washington County do make this my last will and testament first I commit my soule to God how give it and my body to the earth from whence it came--- 2 that my executors pay all my just debts, 3d I will my son James Chase the farm where he now lives forever, and I will my son Joseph Chase Eighty Acres of the home farm of the South west side Going McNays so to run a parlel line so it will be an equal breuth from Southerland heirs clene thrugh land I will my son John Chase the balance of the home farm and I will my son Simen C. Chase five hundred dollars, and I will my daughter Ruth one hundred dollars-- and I will my daughter Jane Bromer One hundred dollars and my daught Nancy Wolff has got hir hundred -- and I will to my two granddaughters Mary E. McKeag and Suny E. McKeag three hundred dollars each and will the household and kitchen furnerture and the balance of my parsonly property and money is to be equally devided ammonnge my sons and daughters and I constute and appoint my son John Chase and John Burnes my executors to settle my estate in testimony thereof I set my hand and seal this 30 day of July 1866.

Barnabas Chase (seal)
Wm Jordan
Millin M. Sutherland

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Washington County SS

Be it remembered that on this 1st day of June before me I. Y. Hamilton Register for the Probate of Wills and granting Letters of Adminstration within and for the said County came Wm Jordon & Wm M. Sutherland the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing attached will of Barnabas Chase deceased who after being duly qualified according to law, depose and say; that they were present at the execution of said will, saw the testator sign the same -- heard him publish that they at his request, in his presence & in the presence of each other subscribed their names thereto as witnesses and at the time of doing so the said testator was of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding to the best of their knowledge observation and belief.

Sworn and subscribed before I. Y. Hamilton Regr.

Wm Jordan
W. M. Sutherland

And now June 1 1870 it being adjudged that the said will has been duly proven and John Burns one of the executors being deceased & the other executor John Chase having renounced his right to the same, Letters are issued to J. W. Hancher by agreement who was duly sworn by

I. Y. Hamilton Regr.


  1. This wasn't a genealogical find, but definately a genealogical happy dance!

    When I received my certificate giving me my first ancestor for the Daughters of the American Revolution, I couldn't open it - Dad did. I couldn't read it - Dad did - word for word! I will tell you that he was as proud as a peacock that day (we, it was via his mom's side).

  2. I love that story, Rhonda! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I suppose, Claudia. If only they had been able to hold onto any of it :)


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