Seizing the Opportunities You Have

Occasionally when I write a research tip or suggestion, I receive an irritated email indicating that “it didn’t work for me.”

That can be true for one simple reason, not all tips will be applicable to all people during all time periods.

Sometimes what works (0r what does not) hinges upon the specifics of the situation.

This obituary from 1900 is a good example of that. Mrs. Elizabeth Hurley may be a relative of mine or she may not be a relative of mine. That statement is the most basic of tautologies and like basic tautologies, it really does not say all that much.

The obituary was located by searching the text of the Warsaw, Illinois, newspapers that are available digitally for the word “Coshocton.” My Rampley family, who is occasionally mentioned in the Warsaw newspapers, settled in Walker Township in Hancock County. That’s not far from Warsaw and the Warsaw papers regularly carried items from Walker Township. The Rampley family had lived in Coshocton County, Ohio, for nearly thirty years before coming to Illinois.

A search for Coshocton in the Warsaw newspapers was conducted for two reasons:

  • It might locate references to the Rampley family that also mentioned Coshocton and weren’t located originally because “Rampley” didn’t index appropriately or was two difficult to read.
  • It might reference other families who had lived in Coshocton County and settled in the Warsaw area. These references would be most likely in the gossip columns and in obituaries. Those other families may (or may not) have a connection to my Rampley family.

This would not have worked if the family was from a county whose location name was used in many locations or was a more common word. If the Rampley family had been from Lake County this search would not have been as effective. If the Rampley family had been from Adams County, it would not have been as effective either. Often what works depends on what you have. Search techniques are often built around attempts to work around the specific challenges of the situation.

My search for “coshocton” was not really conducted in an attempt not to find references to the Rampley family in the newspaper. This family is already fairly well-documented; my research difficulties with them specifically are concentrated in other locations and time periods. I searched for Coshocton because there are other members of the Rampley family who cannot be found and who I believe spent time with my Rampleys in Coshocton County, Ohio, only to leave that county and move on.

The problem is that I do not know where they went.

The other problem is that some of these relatives are nephews and nieces of Elizabeth (Chaney) Rampley (1804-1883), a native of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, who traveled to Ohio as an adult with at least one brother and who has several siblings who are “missing” after they arrived at adulthood. One sister after marrying in Pennsylvania also went to Coshocton County, Ohio, and later settled in Illinois about ten miles from the Rampleys.  It was hoped that searching the Warsaw newspapers for Coshocton might locate additional references to missing relatives.

So far it has not, but it was worth a try.

And there’s always the possibility that the search of the newspapers will teach me more about the migrations of others who spent time in Coshocton County, Ohio, and ended up near Warsaw, Illinois.


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