Kris Williams of Ghost Hunters fame releases a genealogy related video about every month in partnership with Ancestry.com. Like many of you, I was introduced to Kris on the SyFy Channel as part of a Ghost Hunter team in their quest to either find or disprove the existence of Spirits.
While Kris is a beautiful woman, her attraction to me was when I heard her say she has been interested in genealogy for many years. I love hearing those words from young folks.
In her 26 March 2012 video, “Genealogy Graveyard Hunting”, Kris talked about searching for the tombstones of her ancestors in a cemetery in New Hampshire. While she didn’t mention the name of her ancestor the video dwelled on the tombstone of James P. Osgood twice. I assumed that he is indeed Kris’ ancestor and after a quick check on Ancestry found that to be the case.
The story she told caught my attention in two ways: She distinctly heard the steps of an unseen person throughout the search for her ancestors tombstone as did her boyfriend who was in the opposite side of the cemetery.
I’ve heard footsteps, felt touches and have heard words from unseen sources in my own forays in cemeteries while searching for my ancestors in the United States. Without exception, stopping and paying attention to them has resulted in finding the very tombstone(s) I hoped to find but had all but written off as not being in the cemetery under my feet.
By coincidence, a number of those experiences were also in New Hampshire while on genealogy ‘vacations’ with big research agendas and very limited on-site time.
Most of these trips would have ended with total or substantial failure had the tombstones not been found. They were the last clue available to me in that particular ancestral quest.
The second item that caught my attention was the name of her ancestor, James P. Osgood. I had been working on the extended family of my Burgess line in the weeks previous to Kris’ video and James P. Osgood’s name had been among the names I’d added to my database with one significant difference: James P.Osgood was the AKA name for Robert Luce Robbins in my research.
Could my Robert Luce Robbins, AKA, James P. Osgood be the same person as the man in Kris’ story? It only took a few minutes searching to find another confirmation of that fact.
The memorial for James P. Osgood on Find-a-grave tells his story. Robert Luce Robbins left Maine with my cousin Mary B. (Luce) Spalding and her child along with two sons from his first / current marriage. They eventually settled in Southern New Hampshire, where he was known as James P. Osgood.
You and I can imagine any number of reasons why he changed his name and one of us may be right but I haven’t found the truth of the story or at least the truth in a well-documented record.
It doesn’t matter that much to me. He was the second spouse of my 5th cousin 4 times removed, Mary Belinda Luce Spaulding. It’s not a close relationship.
His name change does matter to his descendants, like Kris Williams. How were they supposed to find him when he started life with a different name than the name known to his descendants as witnessed on his tombstone?
I’ve been fortunate in my own ancestry to not encounter ancestors who changed their names like this. Or, have I encountered them and not realized it when I’ve hit my own ancestral ‘brick walls’. Probably not, but who knows? I do have a few Black Sheep ancestors, (thank heaven in their case or I never would have found them without their law breaking records) and a few others that seemed timid in broadcasting their existence to anyone else.
What are the stories about your name changing ancestors? How did you find them? What was the process? How long did it take? Did you too hear footsteps or enjoy some other genealogy serendipity in resolving the puzzle?
If the stories I’ve heard from others telling how they found their name changing ancestors can be considered as the ‘norm’ then yes, you did enjoy similar nudges and shoves in a serendipitous way.
Here’s to learning to listen and then acting on the prompts that we receive in our ancestral quest.