A Humbling Experience

By Sandra Lindsay - sandra.lindsay[at]sympatico.ca   

This is my story of research gone awry or how you can make anything fit your facts when you want to!

My first foray into genealogy began in 2001 when my mother asked me to “please look into your father’s Lindsay family when you have a few minutes”. She obviously didn’t know anything about the addicting effects of genealogy as 10 years later I am still working on that line and multiple other branches of both sides of my family. After visiting the Archives of Ontario I found some information on my ggrandfather, John Thomas Beynon Lindsay from Thornhill, York County, and that led me to my gggrandfather John Lindsay whose death certificate said that he was born in Kerry’s, Ireland. After posting to the County Kerry mailing list and realizing how unlikely it was that I would find a townland, I found a professional researcher online and hired him to do some research. It was hashed around that it might mean the Kerries Townland in County Kerry but that was ruled out by several experts online and the researcher who said that many people in other countries add “an apostrophe s” to County Kerry. Because my ancestor was Methodist my researcher looked for the pockets of Methodists in County Kerry and concentrated his research in the parishes of those areas where the Lindsay name showed up in Tithe Applotments or Griffiths Valuations. There was only 1 parish and that showed a John Lindsay who was baptised in 1802 to parents named Joseph and Catherine. According to the death registration and headstone my John Lindsay was born in 1800. Irregular Methodist circuits allowed for delayed baptisms. My researcher felt that the dates in Canada were likely slightly wrong but he always admonished that you can never be 100% sure with these things.

Once I knew the townland of Tarbert I used Rootsweb’s surname search with Lindsay and Tarbert, Ireland. I came up with the name Jackie Lindsay who was also researching Joseph. I emailed her at a U.K. email address and heard back very soon from a very excited woman who had so much in common with me. We were similar ages with children of similar ages. Her late husband, Thomas, was descended from a Joseph Lindsay baptised in 1800 who would have been the older brother of my John. Thomas would have been my 4th cousin and Jackie had continued his family’s research. The English Lindsay family had done a lot of research in the late 1800’s to apply for the granting of a specific Irish coat of arms for the Lindsays. History had it that 2 brothers, John and his older brother Thomas, had drowned in the harbour of Quebec City on the way to emigrate to Canada. Jackie phoned all over to tell people that John had not drowned after all. I was thrilled to be the bearer of such positive news and to be able to receive the benefit of all their research. Jackie and I became online friends first of all and then face-to-face friends when I visited England that year and made a detour to her town. Since then we have visited once in Canada and four times in England and fondly shared the news of 3 marriages and 5 grandchildren.

In 2007 I decided to have my brother’s DNA tested through the Lindsay DNA Project in hopes of finding some other people connected to this family. Jackie and I were stuck at Joseph Sr. born about 1757 who had journeyed to Ireland to work for a family in Tarbert. We could not find where he came from – assumed Scotland – but the name Lindsay is so common there. The DNA project manager wanted the DNA of another male for comparison to my brother’s – a cousin of mine plus any relative of Jackie’s husband. My other brother is the only living male in our Canadian line that was born with the name Lindsay but Jackie was able to find a cousin of her husband in Australia who agreed to be tested. Their line is running out of males as well. The tests were done - and to our great surprise - there was no match at all. We were in total shock. The project manager said he had seen this before. The assumption is that somewhere along the line a woman had a child that was not fathered by her husband.

Researchers on both sides of the Atlantic weighed in on this. We have had experts, professional researchers, genealogy lecturers that have gotten involved through contact with various people that Jackie and I have copied on our emails. There were niggling questions we always had. We could never figure out why John would not have contacted his family if he survived the drowning. The names certainly fit. John’s son had Thomas as one of his middle names and the name Thomas figured prominently in the Tarbert Lindsay names. John was on his way to Canada but how did he meet his wife who was from Queen’s County – a long distance from Kerry? Who was Samuel Lindsay? John’s daughter attended his daughter’s wedding in Toronto but the name Samuel did not occur in the large Kerry family.

In March 2011 I went back to the original death certificate. It is now accessible through ancestry.com. All of a sudden, after 10 years, it now looked to me like it could possibly read King’s County - not Kerry’s. This would answer how John met his wife because King’s is next to Queen’s. All this time, all the discussions, all the emails, all the theorizing, the money spent on professional research and I had read one word wrong. I sat with my head in my hands for ½ hour or so and then emailed Jackie. She couldn’t believe it either. At one time we signed our letters “cil” for cousin-in-law. Now we sign them “col” for cousin-out-law.

Three lessons have been learned from this:

1. DNA or the family trees aside, Jackie has become a good friend and nothing will change that.

2. It doesn’t matter how impressed my relatives are with the findings I have made, I will never again allow myself to become conceited and think that I actually know what I’m doing when it comes to genealogy.

3. When we assume we often make an ASS out of U and ME … usually ME!!!



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