Serendipity in Genealogy ~ Visitations of Devon

Years ago I enjoyed a full day in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City deeply2a engrossed in research.  The day had proven successful when I found the wills of two of my ancestors which proved my research and disproved the story that had been handed down about our family lineage for many generations.

Feeling elated with the discovery, I decided to spend the last hour of the day cruising the aisles of books on floor B2 of the library.  I’d learned years earlier that quiet time following the ‘pull’ of an unseen force usually resulted in a surprising genealogy find.  It was true again that evening.

I wouldn’t have found the handwritten copy of the book, “The Visitation of the County of Devon” had I not been dragging my finger across the spines of the books hoping to find an attraction to one of them.   When my finger caught on the spine of a large book that protruded out a little more than those surrounding it, my pen flipped from my hand and rattled down behind the books on its way toward the floor.

Growling about having to ‘waste’ time retrieve the pen, I knelt in the aisle and began pulling a few books out to see if I could spot it.  My view was blocked by a book that was jammed sideways behind the rest. 

After struggling to free it from its jammed location, the pen as in my hand and then the ‘pull’ spark flashed.  Looking at the book I’d freed, I immediately noted that the pages were of different sizes and the paper was old and thick.  The apparently hand inked title on the book was ‘The Visitation of the County of Devon’.  It appeared to be written on a leather cover. 

Opening the cover revealed had written pages, inked in black, blue and red.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Why was this book on the shelves in the library?  It was a work of art.  It was probably worth more than my own net worth.


Drewe Thomas of Sharpham


These thoughts stopped when it fell open to pages the showed the lineage of some of my ancestral families.  I sat in the aisle in a time bubble that was divorced from the world around me. 

Reverently touching the pages, I started making notes on a slip of paper.  The speakers in the ceiling had apparently called out the message that the library was closing in 30 minutes, thirty minutes ago, because the first conscious thing I remember hearing was the message that the “Library is Closing Now”.

“What?”   “Closing!”  “Not now.”  “Please, not now!”  

Lights started to go out in the back.  How could I make a copy of these pages in the time left?  Click, click.  I could hear the relays as the lights were powered down.  And then it was too late.  I had to leave or be locked in only be later discovered as an intruder.

In the final seconds, I tucked the book back where I’d found it after carefully memorizing exactly where it was located.

Early the next morning, I left a message on my bosses phone at work telling him I had to take one more day of vacation.  It was unavoidable.  I’d tell him about it later.

Rocking from foot to foot, I stood in line waiting for the doors of the library to open.  The elevator was too slow.  I took the stairs.

Quickly walking back to the correct aisle, I spotted the location of the book.  I knelt down, removed the books that hid its location and my hand closed on air.

It wasn’t there!

Thinking I’d made a mistake, I pulled a few more books out and lowered my head to see to the back of the shelf.   Nothing was there.

This process went on for about a half an hour.  Thinking I’d possibly put it on a higher shelf, I removed the books there too.  Still No Joy.

I never found the book again.  I asked at the help desk on B2, B1, Main Floor, etc.  It wasn’t in the catalog as a handwritten book.  No one had ever heard of having a book of that age in the library, let alone having it on the shelf where the public could access it.

It didn’t matter how many times I reviewed the events of the night before, the book was gone.  I still had my notes, so I knew I’d seen it and had touched it, but it was gone.

Good things came from handling the book though.  A link I’d hoped to find was in my notes.  From that clue, I was able to extend my lineal knowledge many generations. 

Today, we would pull out our cell phone and take a picture of the pages.  We wouldn’t waste time wondering if we should even consider taking a treasure like that to a copy machine.  The photo images might even survive as we stepped out of our time warp and back into our own reality.

How about you?  Have you ever slipped a dimension while you’ve been involved in your family history research?  Even for just fifteen minutes at the end of the day back in the corner of a library?

Copyright (c) Lee Drew 2013-03-27 07:00:00
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About lineagekeeper

Family history research is a favored avenue of relaxation. It is a Sherlock-like activity that can continue almost anywhere at any time. By leveraging a lifetime involvement in technology, my research efforts have resulted in terabytes of ancestral data, earning me the moniker of Lineagekeeper. And yes - We are all related to Royalty.