Monday, August 23, 2010

Finding Something When You Least Expect It

There is a certain amount of synchronicity that goes along with genealogy research. It reminds me of the Buddhist  proverb, When the student is ready, the teacher shall appear.

Last fall, a friend and I headed to Nebraska City (in Nebraska, of course) for the annual Applejack Festival. It was a very warm fall day, nice weather for a day trip. Festivities were going on all over the community and after feasting on freshly made apple pie, we decided to visit some of the historic houses. One of the sites we visited was the oldest house in Nebraska City.

The house had been through several remodelings over the years, but a couple of the original rooms remained. One of the volunteers took us from room to room, telling us about the history of the house. Near the entryway was a table with a handful of books for sale and some promotional brochures. One of the books caught my eye. The book was called From the Missouri to the Great Salt Lake: An Account of Overland Freighting, by William E. Lass, (c) 1972.

Having only recently learned that my great-great grandfather had done some overland freighting between St. Paul, Minnesota and Denver, then later between Omaha and Denver, I picked up the book to thumb through. After all, I cannot see a stack of books anywhere without picking up at least one to look through.

The book opened to page 238. It could have opened to any page, but no, it opened to page 238. On that page I read the following:

KELLY, WILLIAM D. b. Johnstown, County Kilkenny, Ireland, 1831; d. Lancaster County, Nebraska, January 31, 1896. Kelly migrated to the United States in 1850 and lived in New York and Illinois before moving to Minnesota, where he had his first freighting experience and participated in one of the Fisk expeditions. In about 1863 he moved to Omaha and, until the completion of the UPRR, freighted to Denver. After leaving freighting he moved to Council Bluffs, where he worked for some years as a construction contractor before retiring and moving to a Lancaster County farm. (Morton-Watkins, IIIC, 495).

I was not on a genealogy research trip; I was on a Sunday afternoon outing. And right there in my hands was some information I needed to know for my family history. And yes, the book fell open to the page with a biographical sketch of my great-great grandfather, W. D. Kelly.

I truly believe that there is some kind of psychic or energy source that guides us in our genealogical travels. How else can I explain the desire to go to Nebraska City that day, to visit that particular house, to pick up that book, and then for it to open exactly to the page with my ancestor's biography? I can't explain it. All I can do is believe in the synchronicity of events and allow it to happen.

And yes, I did buy the book!


  1. I LOVE when that happens. Have had it happen a couple of times, fabulous experiences!

  2. I absolutely believe that we are led to the information or person to help us, when we are ready. Great post!