Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Popping UP Greer's!

Here's the thing. I know that the Greer and Gillespie families are intimately connected. After two years of constant digging, there isn't much question in my mind. But providing documented proof of these ties is another matter altogether. Sometimes I think the ancestor ghosts are just playing with me because in reality there is nothing left to find. Other times I almost believe I am being nudged along to find the next tangible clue, whether or not it's what I was ever expecting to find.

You have to imagine me in Michigan. It was at the end of my 9-day trip and I hadn't really found anything I was hoping to find. I had been at the Oakland County Pioneer and Historical Society for several hours and the librarians there were extremely helpful but there just wasn't much to find. So we were putting things away and I half-heartedly looked the librarian in the eye and said "I've come a long way so before I go home are you SURE there's nothing else for me to look at?" She brought out one more binder full of general clippings that somebody had associated with Bloomfield, Michigan. The Greer Golden Wedding article was sitting right on top. I got so emotional I started to cry and the poor librarians could only stand there and pat my shoulder. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined I would lay eyes on a picture of John and Isabella Greer and 15 of their 16 children. Even though I have no idea where this picture came from nor can I name anybody in it save for John and Isabella, I still look at this picture almost daily out of sheer wonder.

So now there are faces to go with my desire to find these people. But what did it buy me? Well, once again, more than I dreamed. I posted the picture on my tree on And lo and behold, last week, comes contact from a living descendant of John and Isabella. She is the mother of three little kids and has more than enough to do keeping up with present day life, but something about that Golden Wedding picture moved her too. She wrote to her mom and her mom wrote back. They started forwarding more photos, newspaper clippings, and letters from other Greer relations who have in the past tried to document this history. Because of those new letters, we've now uncovered John Greer's brother, Reverand James Greer. We now know James Greer was living in Newburgh, New York when he enrolled at Princeton. We have his biography telling of his ministry work in Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. He was the one living in Henderson, Kentucky where his mother Jane Gillespie Greer died in January 1868. And he was the one living in Denmark, Tennessee when Jane's estate was probated in August of 1868. It's all documented. The story, piece by piece, slowly falls together, until we begin to realize the story is real, the people were real, and everything about their lives was in fact quite vivid. All this digging is about shining the light into places that have faded just beyond shadows. The ancestors are tricky; they remain, they are in the fabric of us, they are tickling us with recognition. This is the part that was not in my research plan.

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