Thursday, June 03, 2010


All genealogists have one: a brickwall. Alright, there may be a lucky few upon
whom the Gods of Genealogy have smiled who don't have a brickwall. These 
are probably the same people who got A's on their trigonometry finals. But the 
rest of us, we have brickwalls, ancestors whose names, or places of birth, or 
parents elude us. Finding the missing information and smashing through that 
brickwall to the ancestors beyond it is the Holy Grail of genealogy. Sometimes 
we have more than one brickwall to breakdown.

In my case, I have several, the big one of course being the enigma that is the 
Elusive John Cutter West. (Yes, I meant to capitalize Elusive.) But there's 
another that nags at me for my attention when I look at my family tree:

What was the name of my 5x great grandfather Caleb Coburn's wife?

Now I admit that I've been fairly lucky with the majority of my female 
ancestors.There are only a few whose maiden names I don't know. But
in the case of Caleb's wife, I don't even have a first name. Everything I've
seen online so far about him makes no mention of the woman who gave
birth to Moses Coburn, my 4x great grandfather.(I mean, I'm pretty sure 
Moses didn't come into being from spontaneous generation or cloning, so
he had to have a mother.) None of the queries I posted to discussion
groups for the Coburn/Colburn family have been successful, either.

The other day I thought I might finally solve the mystery. I found a copy 
of the book "Genealogy of the Descendants of Edward Colburn/Coburn" 
online. The book was published in 1913, only sixty-six years after Moses' 
death and co-written by Silas Coburn. Surely this might have the woman's
name. I looked through it in much the same way as Wile E. Coyote goes 
through the latest Acme Catalogue. And there on page 48 I found:

"Caleb Coburn(Moses 3 Joseph2 Edward1) was born in Dracut December 
12, 1738; he married ________ ____________; they dwelt at Tyngsboro."
followed by an entry about their child Moses.

Now I'm wondering if there was some reason the name is unknown. Could 
there have been some family scandal that removed any mention of Caleb's 
wife's name from the Coburn family history? Or was she so forgettable a 
person that nobody remembered her name?

So she still remains a mystery, along with my other brickwalls that I keep 
trying to break down, because that's what genealogists do. Like Wile E.
Coyote, we keep chasing after our elusive Road Runner ancestors.

Anyone out there have an Acme Genealogy Answers Catalogue handy?


Jo said...

Bill, so sorry the book didn't pan out for you, but remember, Never, Never give up. One day somewhere that Elusive bit of information will show up and then you can do the Genealogy Happy Dance.

Lisa Swanson Ellam said...

Hey, if anyone comes up with that Acme Catalogue I'll be needing a copy!
Oh, those brickwalls. They frustrate us but they also keep us searching.
Best of luck!