The TV commercials about "aha" moments make me think about all the aha genealogy moments I have had since beginning my family history research.
What is an aha moment? It is when you see something clearly for the first time. Something just clicks and you all of a sudden "get it."
In 2004, I had my most profound genealogy aha moment while researching at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.
I was working on the Joseph Brown family for a compiled genealogy for certification. Most of the research was completed; I was just tying up a few loose ends. One of those loose ends was to find a date of death and burial place for Joseph's wife, Ann Nutt. Joseph Brown, died 14 April 1855 and is buried in Head Cemetery, Hooksett, New Hampshire. The cemetery records do not list his wife Ann as being buried there. I knew that Ann survived Joseph because she is listed in the 1860 census living in Hudson, New Hampshire living near her daughter, Eliza Warren. Ann was not found in the 1870 census in New Hampshire so she may have died between 1860 and 1870. But where was she buried if not with her husband?
I also needed to complete the death and burial data on Philip Hart, second husband of Eliza Brown Warren (daughter of Joseph and Ann Brown). The union of Eliza and Philip is referenced in a local history and stated that Philip's second wife was Anna Warren whom he married in 1861 and who died in 1864. The marriage record for Eliza and Philip was dated 1868. I had a 1868 prenuptial agreement for the couple and knew that Eliza was listed in the 1870 and 1880 census records. Also, Eliza could not have died four years before she married Philip. Confusing, but I concluded that there were errors in the local history concerning Eliza's given name and the dates for her marriage and death.
Eliza is buried next to her first husband, William Warren, in Sunnyside Cemetery, Hudson, New Hampshire. Since Philip lived in Goffstown most of his life, I checked the cemetery records there for his entry. I found that Philip Hart is buried in West Lawn Cemetery, Goffstown, New Hampshire. Buried with Philip is his wife, Lucinda, and another wife, Anna. Great, I had the information that I needed. But who was this wife Anna? And did Philip have three wives instead of the two?
Later that night while looking at all the documents is when the light bulb went off in my head, my aha moment. Anna, buried with Philip, could be Ann Nutt Brown. Crazy, right. But I couldn't shake the feeling that I had found Joseph Brown's wife. I knew that if I was right, it would mean that Philip Hart married Ann Nutt Brown, then four years after her death, married her daughter, Eliza Brown Warren. I went on to prove that it was true and published the details in the September 2006 issue of the National Genealogical Quarterly, "Three Wives of Philip Hart of Goffstown, New Hampshire."
Aha moments don't occur every day. They usually take place when we least expect them. Enjoy your genealogy aha moments when they happen.