Oral interviews with my grandmother and a cemetery visit were the start of my journey to learn more about the family of my 2nd-great-grandfather, Andrew F. Carson (1854-1937), born in New Jersey
I was fortunate to have begun researching my genealogy when still a child, back when my maternal grandmother was still living. She had grown up in Kansas in the company of three of four of her own grandparents and was an adult when they passed away. Besides having been raised near them, my grandmother had also become the family archivist, probably because she was the female who lived the longest of her generation. All from that generation were long dead by the time I came around, asking questions about them.
One day over a meal, as was typical for us, I asked again about her grandfather, Andrew F. Carson. She recalled that he did have brothers, and was able to name Wes, Charley and Furman Carson. Other than their names, she also relayed the fact that they had once lived in New Jersey. She knew that Andrew, Furman and Charley had moved from New Jersey to eastern Kansas, and knew or knew of a number of cousins in the area, as both Andrew and Furman had large families. One other tidbit she offered was that my 2nd great-grandfather Andrew Carson and his brother Furman Carson had married Hopkins sisters before moving west. She had no exact dates for any events, and was unable to provide any information about earlier generations. But, she offered, did I want to look at her scrapbook? She thought she had saved some things from them that I could look at.
As a result of those early interviews, I was able to begin the Carson family group sheet. I carefully penciled in the names of the brothers into the appropriate areas of the pre-printed form my father provided to me, and added the additional information to the notes field. I then filed the family group sheet away in a notebook. In 1992, I made my first visit to Kansas. My brother took me to visit the local cemetery in White City, Morris County, Kansas: home base for the Carson family. We took pictures of the headstones of all relatives we knew of on that trip. We extracted birth and death information from our “field notes” and photographs, which we later added to the group sheet. Unfortunately, my grandmother had already begun her slow decline with Alzheimer’s disease, so I don’t know how much of what I shared about her family on my return trip she understood.
It wasn’t until several years after my grandmother’s death that I picked up where I had left off on the Carson family. Now the family group sheet was shaping up, except there was a big blank spot at the top of the sheet where the names of my 2nd great-grandfather’s parents should have been recorded.
The days of being able to plug a name into a search engine or Ancestry.com were still a ways off, so I went down to my local library, pulled down the census index books (remember those?) and begin taking notes on my legal pad. Because I live in Washington state and New Jersey wasn’t well-represented in our library, I had to then go to the local branch of the National Archives to gain access to the New Jersey census microfilm. (Fortunately there is a local branch of the National Archives in Seattle.)
Armed with the names of four Carson siblings and approximate birth dates for three of them, locating their parents in New Jersey shouldn’t have been too difficult, right? Right….
The above grave marker was photographed by my father in White City in 2002. My own image taken a decade earlier is trapped on a slide somewhere.