Sunday, April 2, 2017

Going deep...while going long

Last month, I asked a question of you readers: Do I go "deep" into the individuals as I climb my family tree, or do I go "long" and add more names, dates, and events to their lives? The answers were, as I expected, thoughtfully provided. Many commenters explained that doing both is important and that by "going long," while validating and confirming information that would lead to other ancestors, I would, of course, also be "going deep."

The wisdom of this was confirmed earlier.

One day, I chose to spend some time looking into the background of my maternal grandfather, JOHN FRANCIS BURKE. To refresh your memory, I always thought he was an immigrant from Ireland; I learned that was not true and he was, in fact, born and raised in Wilton, New Hampshire. His father was born and raised in Wilton and it was his great grandfather, WALTER BURKE, my third great-grandfather, who was the first Irish immigrant on his side of my family. Learning a fact that conflicted with my earliest childhood beliefs was really what motivated me to begin working on my family tree in retirement.

While I was working on Grampy John's past, I somehow came across the name of a distant relative I had not heard or seen before:


Finding that name turned out to be a shocking, exciting discovery.

I probably came to Clarence through an "shaking leaf" hint, which is how I come to many new names. What was unique and very exciting to me was finding a distant relative from the Desert Southwest of the USA. Prior to this and for most of my life, I thought all my relatives were immigrants from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Canada. Finding a connection to Utah and Nevada opens up an entirely unexpected, very exciting new area to me. Learning that some, perhaps many, of my distant relatives were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), the Mormons, was exciting. I knew of my own connection to Christian religions including Catholics, Presbyterians, and the Church of England, but finding an LDS connection was new and unexpected. My former spouse was LDS and during our marriage, I learned a lot about that part of Christianity.

Because I knew nothing about my family connection to our West before, I allowed myself to spend some time learning about Clarence and my other distant ancestors. So far, I have learned they mostly lived in Utah and Nevada, in the late 20th Century timeframe. Most of them seem to have been born and raised, and were married in Salt Lake City, probably in one of the many LDS temples there. It is not uncommon for our modern population to relocate and the LDS community is no different. In Las Vegas, Nevada, my relative CLARENCE HARDING RIVES, was an LDS Church leader, a Boy Scout executive, and a retired Clark County deputy sheriff.

I spent some time working to find the original name that connected my grandfather, JOHN FRANCIS BURKE, to my family tree in the Desert Southwest. I wanted my excitement to lead me to "good" clues that I could validate, of course, and so far, I seem to have been successful. I still am curious about that connection to an area I never knew about until very recently. It is important to note that the branch of my family tree is pretty far from the trunk (to overuse the "tree" analogy.) According to, Clarence Harding Rives is the brother-in-law of my 1st cousin 1x removed. As a neophyte to genealogy, I have no mental concept of how he relates to someone I know; clearly he does and understanding how well enough to be able to describe it to my own children is my current focus. (Recall that I have no first cousins - my Dad was an only child and my Mom had only one unmarried, childless sister - so finding the branches that connect me to him is important.)

This is post is part of my on-going project to decide whether to "go deep" or to "go long." As I wrote before, most commenters suggested that doing both at the same time is the way to go. One made the spot-on point that genealogy is a long-term project that can lead the researcher in unexpected ways to unexpected, exciting finds.

Finding Clarence is an example of going deep. Very deep. It is akin to making a deep-sea dive far beyond any one has ever done before. Down there, a diver would see things totally new and unexpected. That is what happened to me. Now I must determine through which known relative he relates to me and see how far out West my tree branches go. I do recall my only Aunt, CHARLEENE FRANCES BURKE, living and working as a teacher for the US Department of Defense in Alamogordo, New Mexico, but I do not know why she moved there or if she knew anyone when she was there. Perhaps she did and CHARLES HARDING RIVES is part of that connection.

That would be the "going long" part.

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