Family history moments: Fruitful distraction

Years ago I sat alone in the dark, musty basement of the Lawrence County, Ind., courthouse. I had traveled four hours on a short, one-day excursion to confirm some information from family records regarding my great-grandfather.

The time was short, research time hard to come by. I had organized my materials to make better use of the research time. While waiting in the car for the office to open, I prayed that my time would be well spent and fruitful.After feverishly working alone for about two hours, poring over county records, I smiled at a pleasant little woman who looked to be in her 80s, as she joined me at the small working table.

I was glad for the company, but really hoped that she didn't want to talk. I had too much work to do before the clerk's office closed later that evening and was anxious not to be disturbed.

As I scanned the old, original record books, I periodically glanced at my table mate. I avoided eye contact, fearing that she might begin a distracting conversation about her research.

After a few hours of working in silence, she spoke. She said she hadn't seen many young people (mid-20s) interested in family research.

"Here it comes," I thought, "the end of today's research."

She asked me what I was researching. I replied that I wanted to find anything on Columbus Jackson who died in Lawrence County in 1952.

"Lum?" she asked. "He used to be my neighbor up on the hill."

She told me that he was a very kind man, that their families used to get together for cook-outs and homemade ice cream. She described his funeral and gave me directions to aid me in finding his old house and cemetery plot.

Then she helped me find the official records I needed to prove our family records.

My prayers for a fruitful search had been answered in an unexpected way. Rather than being protected from distractions, I received one that proved tremendously fruitful.

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