My grandmother Emily Cramer was gathering stories and filling out genealogy sheets long before family history was the popular pursuit it is today. It would be decades before Ancestry.com or DNA testing were even ideas in someone’s mind. She obtained information through old family records and correspondence with distant relatives. Replies to letters took weeks or longer to return to her.
Emily’s grandfather Daniel Tyler who died in 1906, also carried on extensive correspondence to gain information about our family. Replies to his letters took months to return to him in Utah.
Today I can log into online accounts at Ancestry.com or Family Search.org and instantly find information about family members who died decades ago. Fold3 provides all kinds of military information and Email is infinitely faster than sending letters through the Postal Service or by Pony Express. That doesn’t mean researching family history is easy but it is easier than it used to be.
As a child I lived next door to my grandmother and grew up hearing tales about my Mormon ancestors, so when I finished transcribing the Revolutionary War and New York Justice Court records in John Comins book I decided to write some short stories about the seven generations of people who have cared for it. I told myself that since I had copies of Grandma’s family stories to work from it would only take a short time to complete the seven biographies, one of which would be my own.
The first story was fairly easy to write. The old book itself provided clues about John Comins Jr.; census and military pension records yielded more. He is mentioned frequently in a book about Fairfield, New York. I completed the information I had for him and moved on to his daughter Elizabeth.
Four years later I am still looking for information about Elizabeth Comins Tyler. Piecing together the sparse and elusive threads of her life has been a challenge I didn’t anticipate. Much of the limited information I found was incorrect or contradictory and took hours to validate. Even trips to places she had lived failed to produce the final details of her life that I am searching for. I feel like she is a well-known friend who is reluctant to share her secrets with me. I wrote what I could and moved on to the next generation, but my search for Elizabeth is not over.
Excerpt from Long Journeys: As was typical for women of the time little is recorded about Elizabeth. The few statistics available are inconsistent from one source to another. She was born in 1779 or 1789. She was the fifth child in her parents’ family, or she was the first. She married in 1806 at either 17 or 27 years of age. She had 11 children, the first born a year after her marriage in 1807 and the last in 1831 at which time she would have been 42 or 52. She died in 1840 or 1880 or 1890, in Beaver Township, Pennsylvania, or Beaver, Utah or, in one listing Beaver, Beaver. Her children mentioned her only briefly as they wrote about their own lives.