If there's one thing we genealogists have learned, it's how to be creative to prove our points.
We've been forced to do this because so many records have not withstood the tolls of time. Records stashed in hot attics got brittle and disintegrated; many stored in basements were destroyed by flooding or rot. Courthouse fires took land, marriage and probate records.
New researchers suffer a huge blow when they learn that most states didn't require birth or death records until the 20th century. "So what do I do now?" they ask, stunned.
The answer: We find records to substitute for lost details, and records that indirectly tell us what we want to know.
I think genealogy would get boring if all we had to do was find birth, death and marriage records, and then tie in the children with a complete probate file for the deceased parents. It's more fun to find unexpected tidbits where we least expect them.
Many online trees - you know, the kind submitted to various sites without any source citations or mention of where the information originated - list my fourth great grandfather William Stalcup Sr. as being married to Mary Hyatt.
I didn't expect to prove the marriage with direct evidence because they probably wed in Burke County, N.C., where marriage records for the period do not exist.
As much as I wanted to conclude that Mary's maiden identity was Hyatt, I resisted and searched for evidence.
I found the key one day when combing Rootsweb message boards. There I found reference to a Tennessee divorce record in which a William Stalcup had testified.
I knew that my William had traveled between and lived in North Carolina and neighboring Tennessee, so it was worth seeing if this was my William Stalcup and how he was pertinent to the divorce of Seth Hyatt.
Tennessee divorces in the early 1800s were granted by the state legislature, so I wrote to the Tennessee Archives requesting the record. I got a quick response and eagerly ripped into the envelope to find a bill of divorce filed in the Tennessee General Assembly in 1813 by Anna Hyatt, wife of Seth.
In that case I found the evidence that finally identified my fourth great grandmother. Should I even mention that there also were scandalous details about Seth Hyatt?
William Stalcup testified before a justice of peace. He said that in 1806 he was living with his father in Burke County, N.C., when he heard of the marriage of Seth Hyatt, son of Hezekiah Hyatt, to Anna Dobson, daughter of Joseph Dobson. William was a veritable font of genealogical information, God bless his soul.
Fellow researchers, this is where my heart momentarily stopped and then began to race as William continued that he "married the sister of the said Seth Hyatt on the 27th day of October 1808." So if his wife was Seth's sister, which made Hezekiah my fifth great grandfather! A bonus prize!
I wasn't happy to learn of the pain and suffering that Anna Dobson Hyatt testified to in her divorce petition - Seth Hyatt truly was a scoundrel. But if she had to suffer, I'm glad his sister's husband chose to man up and testify against his brother-in-law!