I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about my 4th-great-grandfather Samuel Browning.
Samuel is a cornerstone of this blog. He is the reason I started doing The Browning Series over in my sidebar and he's the patriarch of the 'Browning Fifteen,' the total of his children with his two wives Margaret Markee and Sarah Ann (Bell) Gaddis. His parentage is my Holy Grail.
He's also my brick wall. As in walled up and fortified. As in a moat....you know, the thing that even keeps dragons out? I've known about his existence for over 20 years now and his parentage is nearly as clouded in mystery now as it was when I first saw "S & M Browning" on his son James' tombstone.
My original plan when I started this blog was to talk about Samuel's children -- introduce them all one by one -- and then tie them all together by going into detail about Samuel and his wives. I've accomplished a lot on that already, as you can see by the amount of listings underneath 'The Browning Series' on my sidebar. I've spoken of many of his children, and his grand- and great-grandchildren. I just haven't moved as fast as I'd have liked and I haven't really been as dedicated to this blog as I was in the beginning.
That was what I've been thinking about in the last couple of days. I was asking myself why.
I know why.
Sure, there's the frustration of continually beating my head against the wall that is Samuel. I find a few things here and there, more details about his life and his movements, and it makes me thrilled and happy and I temporarily grow that much more determined to continue my search. I know quite a bewildering amount about him, actually! But he continues to stump me and the excitement fades and I eventually stall out.
There are many reasons. I feel one of them is my comparative 'inexperience' when it comes to pre-1850 records. I am sure I have more experience than I feel I do in this regard; I tell myself that my experiences in working the Browning vs. Beck case from 1837 on my sidebar must surely count for something! However, the players in that case were known to me.
So what about the records that I know about. Records? Hah. You're probably saying, go to wills and probates...but guess what? Samuel doesn't HAVE any. I know where he died -- he was living in Windsor, Shelby Co., IL in a log cabin -- and I know within a five year gap, likely within a 3 year gap (1865-1870, though probably closer to 1868) but I've been to the Shelby County courthouse and there were no wills and no intestate papers there. No guardianship papers for his minor children Laura and Mary Medora, either. His widow Sarah was still in Windsor in 1870 but around 1873, she moved to Putnam Co., MO to join her adult children from her first marriage. (I thought about looking in the newspapers but the Shelbyville Democrat begins in 1876 and the Windsor Gazette in 1879. Bah!)
And let's not get me started on trying to find Samuel's father. Wills, probates, etc., etc. for early Harrison County, Ohio? Hah! Good luck. The same thing goes in Harrison County, but worse. I have a very good idea that John Browning (found in the 1820/1830 censuses in Harrison Co.) is Samuel's father. However, proving it? Apparently a LOT of the county's old records were left out in the courthouse hallways back years ago. Many were likely just taken from those old boxes by whoever wanted them, and finally they were all dumped out back and the Genealogical Society grabbed as many of them as they could (out of the dumpsters!!!) but goodness knows how many of them are permanently gone.
I've exhausted a lot of the 'simpler' resources and I feel like I'm wading in a way too deep pool. That, and I also get the feeling that I'm not completely utilizing the resources that I HAVE found. This is why I'm writing this now. I think it's time I stop waiting to blog about exploring all the resources I've got now.
I haven't, though, and as I said before, I know why. Really why. Because there was always someone working with me who was my cousin, my fellow Browning researcher, and my friend. Patricia O'Connor. She was the lady I could always depend on to pick up the phone and listen to my natterings about this resource, or what this tiny clue might've meant, or where to look next. The lady that understood who I was talking about so I didn't have to explain who the 5th cousin twice removed of this child was.....she knew, too. We were in it together! We celebrated finding new things together with laughter and excited phone calls at 6 am. And Pat's been gone now for a few years and with her went some of my focus. I just miss her so freaking much. It's hard to work alone.
I told myself when she died that I'd continue on, for her. I haven't done that because I feel adrift without her. Add that to my 'chasing my tail' feelings, the frustration of not knowing where to go and what to do to go about finding Samuel and his father, and there you have it. I just don't want to feel this any longer. I want to find this, finally. So I'm not going to wait to blog about Samuel. I'll just do it.
So I'm trying to organize my research plan on Samuel and I'm going to lay it out here on my blog. My intent is to get everything together that I've found over the last years and draw it up in such a way that I can see every step I've made and every step I've not yet explored. I want to locate all the available records and tick each box off when I've looked. Maybe that will help me see what I'm missing and maybe, just maybe, there will be a breakthrough. I'd appreciate suggestions and comments about records that I might not have thought of during the time period of 1790-1840 in Ohio, and places to look in Shelby Co IL concerning death records that I also might have missed.
Bear with me as I do. I hope I can make it all make sense.
20 minutes ago