Friday, September 21, 2007

It's All in the Details

Sooner or later, when people find out that I “do” genealogy they will ask the inevitable question, “How far back have you gone?” Invariably they will know someone who has taken their family history back to William the Conqueror, the Mayflower or some other very old, very proper family line. The question always makes me squirm, though it's a perfectly logical and valid question.

Early on, my goal was to take each family line back to when they had “crossed the pond”, but something funny happened along the way. I started getting absorbed into the daily minutia that was each ancestor's life. With each newly found ancestor, I was unable to move on until I had devoured every stray detail.

As a child, I used to imagine that if I colored the picture of Sleeping Beauty perfectly, with the right colors, staying in the lines, the picture would come to life. Apparently, I operate under that same principle when it comes to genealogy. If I can just fill in enough details, add the color of their daily lives, then maybe my ancestors will “come to life” for me. The approach didn't work at four, but ever the optimist, a half-century later my heart still believes it can happen.

Above is the only picture that I have of either my great-grandfather, John Perry Lynch or my great-grandmother Laura Jane Feasel Lynch. It was taken in either 1923 or 1924, a few short years before Laura Jane's death. In the picture, JP and Laura Jane are surrounded by their four living children, a daughter-in-law, and some of their grandchildren. John Perry is the grumpy-looking man on the left and Laura Jane is seated directly in front of him.

John Perry was a creative man — he was an amateur artist and a musician. As a creative fellow, JP found it difficult to make a living. He was, at various times, a farmer, a laborer, a merchant and a telegrapher. I don't think he found joy in any of those professions. He was always restless, ready to move on to something else. He lived in Seneca County, Ohio; Crawford County, Illinois; Greer County Oklahoma; Washington County, Arkansas; before finally moving back to Fremont, Ohio where he died in 1930. His obituary appeared in The Fremont Messenger, May 20, 1930 with a caption that read, “Poison Fatal to John Lynch”. (A typed account of the obituary appears at this link —

Somehow, JP always came back to Northwest Ohio. I think that it was Laura Jane, who acted as the rubber band that pulled the family back each time. I know from postcards and letters that even when the family was living in other places, Laura Jane would make extended visits back to Seneca County where her mother and siblings lived. The visits would be so long that young Katie, my grandmother, would be enrolled in school for the duration of the visit. Laura Jane died before my mother was born so mother has no first hand memories of either JP or Laura. My Aunt Florence, the little blondie in the back row of the picture, has filled in some of the blanks.

Florence tells stories of Laura letting the children play and run around on the front porch. There apparently was a music room in the house where JP had his musical instruments including a piano. The grandchildren were not allowed in this room. However, when JP was out in the fields working, Laura would open up the door to the room and let little Florence go in and bang on the piano to her hearts content, all the while Laura was watching out the door for any signs of JP. When she would see him coming she would tell Florence to close up the keys, and they would close the door. Florence was wise enough to know this was a secret shared only with Grandma.

In this picture, I can almost feel the sun caressing Laura's face, the casual swinging of a foot back and forth, and the contented smile of a woman surrounded by the family she loves. For me, this is where the research leads. For a moment, I feel connected to this woman, my great-grandmother. Just a moment, but for me that is enough.

Until Next time — Happy Ancestral Digging

Note this post first published online, September 21, 2007, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online


Dana Graham said...

Hello Terry I am the granddaughter of Theda L Lynch Clark Sheets whom was the daughter of Harry Victor Lynch, JP and Laura's son. I would love to speak to you about the family. Thank you for posting this :)


Hi Dana,

Good to hear from you again. You and I corresponded in February of this year. I believe I sent you the pictures that I had of Victor and a copy of this photo along with a couple of other pictures that I had in my possession.

Hope all is well with you. If you have any questions feel free to email me.

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