Breakthrough via images

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Today I made a breakthrough in my friend’s lineage.  Since Jan 2017, I’ve been trying to help her determine if she’s eligible to apply to the Daughters of the American Revolution.  AND TODAY I DID IT!  It was a long road with lots of unintended diversions.

Experienced researchers say “Watch out for the rabbit holes.”, and I fell into one around July.  I found an ancestor of her’s in the Allerton Mayflower book (a.k.a. the silver books).  This itself was a huge WHOO HOO for me, but it definitely threw me off track.  I finally got back on track when Janine, a DAR sister, asked me why I was researching so far back and not focusing on my goal. In my excitement I had lost track of the goal.

As I researched her relatives, I was focusing on mostly John Hawkes (1733-1813).  He seemed be to the best prospect on her line. I had found his marriage to Jerusha Merriam (1735-1798) in a family history book  [Merriam Genealogy in England and America], but was unable to find much else.  This was a puzzle I couldn’t resist.  I spent months looking for John, and finally found him on 8 Dec 2017, which was the last full day I had been able to dedicate to genealogy.  But this story isn’t about John, its about my gateway boy, John Needham (1813-1880).

Between December and New Year’s day, I had little time to do any research.  The small amount of time I did have, I spent determining who could be a possible DAR ancestor/descendant.  I found a royalty free image to mark those I thought might be a possibility, and loaded this image to each individual’s portrait on  This gave me a visual line to follow when looking at the tree as a whole.  Following the other leads had left me laying down on my stomach picking through the weeds in the grass, instead of standing up and looking at the trees in the forest.

Just before the end of 2017, I signed up for Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  The premise behind the challenge is to just pick one ancestor and share something, anything, about that person.  That’s when I decided to start this blog, which prompted me to tell my family that every Monday is going to be a genealogy day – 52 Mondays devoted to what I love to do.

Monday morning, January 1, I looked at my husband and said – “See you in a few hours, I’m going to hunt dead people.”, and off I went to my computer.  I first set up this blog, then started hunting.  I decided to trace my DAR possibilities based on the image I had saved to each line the previous month.  As I looked at the big picture family view I realized there were branches I had not researched yet, namely the wives’ of my friend’s ancestors.  Starting with my friend’s 4th-great-grandfather, I traced back two additional generations and found a woman named Desire Dunkle (birth/death unknown as yet).  Since Dunkle is not a common name it was fairly quick to find her parents.

My breakthrough was Desire’s mother, Desire (Marsh) Dunkle.  A waving leaf hint proved to be an application to the Sons of the Revolution dated 11 Feb 1910.  In the list of ancestors were two Desire Dunkles.  Thank goodness for unusual names!  This list gave me the outline of the path to find two Ezekiel Marshs, the father (1710-1798) and brother (1740-1822) of the older Desire.

Both Ezekiel’s fought at the Battle of Lexington and Concord on 19 April 1775.  Both men marched almost 24 miles from Danvers, MA to Lexington, MA to fight the British – 24 miles on foot, in April weather (that itself is a feat for most people today).  Imagine walking Boston’s Walk For Hunger  and then fighting against an ‘army’ that’s 3 times bigger than yours. It was 240 British against 70 Minutemen. Both Ezekiel’s survived and returned to Danvers to live out full lives.

I have not yet told my friend that I have found her lineage to start the application for the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I will do that tomorrow.  For tonight, I’m happily dancing inside that I had an amazing breakthrough. Tomorrow, or next Monday, I will follow this particular line to ensure I have birth, marriage, & death dates and good, reliable sources to prove those dates.

What methods have helped you achieve a breakthrough? Did you use a non-conventional way?  Share your process and help me, and others, break the brick walls down.

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