Sunday, February 1, 2009

Looking for Catherine

When I first saw her picture that summer of 2000, I admit I was not the tiniest bit interested. There was no sense of recognition, no feeling of familial kinship, just mild amusement at my mother’s latest passion, and maybe a sense of gratitude that I had not inherited the looks of the woman in the picture. I confess, now, to being a little embarrassed by my own shallow arrogance.

Still, there must have been something in that picture that reached out to me, because like a bag of forbidden Halloween candy, I kept stealing back to take a peek, picking up pieces of information here and there, studying them intently, looking for clues, trying to discover who Catherine Good Lynch really was.

I discovered that she had married George Washington Lynch in Seneca County, Ohio on December 17, 1852. I learned that the family had moved to Crawford County, Illinois in 1874, before moving to what was then Greer County, Texas. (A boundary change later would put the county in Oklahoma.) Catherine and George had run a general store in Mangum, Oklahoma. She was the mother of four children, her second eldest, a son, was my great grandfather.

I learned that she had died of typhoid fever in November of 1900, and was buried at Riverside Cemetery in Mangum. But knowing these few details was not enough. I wondered, who were her parents? Did she have siblings?

Through the census, I discovered three Catherine Goods in Seneca County. None was the correct age, but they were close enough to make me take a second look. Eventually I settled on Catherine Good, the daughter of Joseph Good.

I narrowed it to this Catherine because of the family’s close proximity to the Lynch family farm. When I had finally discovered Catherine living in Crawford County, Illinois in 1880, I found that both of her parents had birthplaces in Virginia, and only Joseph’s daughter, Catherine fit the bill. But how was I to prove it?

Joseph had not made out a will, but he did have an estate. It was my first look at probate records, and while the clerks in Seneca County were helpful, there was nothing in the microfilmed papers to suggest a relationship between Joseph and Catherine.

I began to collect names of other Goods who might be siblings, then reading the obituaries of these “maybe siblings” to see what I could find. I came up empty handed.

Finally, one night as I drifted off to sleep, I thought, “What happened to the land?” For Joseph, who was a farmer, had farmed the land right up until his death in 1873. The probate record, mentioned nothing about land.

By chance, I had made an Internet connection with a woman who did title searches in Seneca County. I posed the question to her in an email. She wrote back asking me for details of the land Joseph had owned. She told me she would take a look.

Finally, one day, she wrote me that she had found the land, and noticed that there was a court case attached to it. This made her curious, and she said that she would see what she could find.

A few days later, she called to tell me she had the case file, but in looking at a list of the heirs, Catherine was not mentioned. I was crushed. I had been so sure that Joseph Good was Catherine’s father.

About 20 minutes later, she called back and said she had found “something.” She would not say what, but asked if I could meet her at her house later in the week. Without a moment’s hesitation, I said, “Sure.”

On arriving at her home a few days later, she handed me a sheet of paper. On the top it read, “Statement and testimony of Susannah Miller.” It began as follows:

“My name is Susannah Miller. I am one of the defendants herein and oldest daughter of Joseph Good, deceased.

I was present when my father and my brother in law, Willis Morse, came to my house in Cass County, Michigan where I now live in September 1871 and heard my father give directions to said Morse in writing into a book he had for that purpose, the amounts he (my father) had paid on advancement to his children respectively and in number the amounts and items, and some of which I know to have been advanced viz: “

Susannah’s deposition went on to list her siblings, the children of Joseph, and the amount of money he had advanced to each child. The fifth name on the list, made my heart race.

“To my sister Catherine Lynch $50.00.”

Catherine had not been listed as an heir, having sold her share of the estate to a nephew-in-law, Dennis Blue before moving west. Dennis, anxious to get his share of the estate, which had been sold at a sheriff’s sale, was getting set to close the deal when Susannah and two other siblings, brought suit to halt the proceedings, thus the reason for Susannah’s deposition.

It had taken three years of tracking down leads, and in the end, my happy dance resulted from a generous, knowledgeable friend, a court case, and a $50 debt. It was as simple and as complicated as that.

Until Next Time – Happy Ancestral Digging!

Written for the 65th Carnival of Genealogy - The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy


Dorene from Ohio said...


What a great find!


Greta Koehl said...

Isn't it strange how once we could be so dismissive about family research and then do a complete flip-flop to being passionate about it?

Becky Jamison said...

What a fabulous story. Wow-that took perseverance! I enjoyed reading it and am so glad you had a happy ending! Thank you!

Judith Richards Shubert said...

I really enjoyed reading about your search for Catherine, Terry. Good post!

wendy said...

I really enjoyed reading this! Thanks so much for sharing!


Dorene, Greta, Becky, Judith & Wendy, thank you so much for your nice comments. This really was a Happy Dance!

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