In genealogy there's a saying: The paper trail never ends.
Essentially, it means family historians never run out of places to search for information on their ancestors. That's a particularly comforting thought right now because it's clear I'll need to consult many more documents to reconstruct a line of my paternal ancestors.
My five-day genealogical quest at The Georgia Archive and National Archive Southeast Region was consumed with examining roll after roll of microfilmed records, checking subdivision maps and rethinking my research strategy.
Five nights were spent sorting through images on my jump drive, trying to spot clues that could have been missed during the day.
Eleven years of research, off and on, to confirm the parentage of my grandfather Minis have begun to feel like working a jigsaw puzzle. It's like a puzzle that seems to have more pieces every time it's touched.
As this puzzling research effort grows, careful evaluations to see which pieces fit and where they fit increase, too.
The focus of this genealogical research mainly is the Savannah River area from 1865 to 1900, those decades after the Civil War when African-American lives changed dramatically. It's a period generally rich with records generated by two or three generations of Lowcountry blacks who were establishing identities as free people. That time period includes the mid-1880s when my grandfather, believed to be an only child, was born in that area.
During my time at the two archives, located just south of Atlanta, I scoured many records while researching a nuclear family I strongly suspect my grandfather was descended from, based on Freedman's Bank records.
At the state archive, a man who would be my great-great-grandfather was listed among those paying poll taxes in Savannah. (Blacks voted for a period of time after the Civil War.)
At the federal archive, I found nothing about any member of that family.
However, I extracted names of dozens of possible ancestors based on their surnames, neighborhoods and occupations. I'm compiling a database of those likely to be kin and researching each person. The nuclear family that prompted this phase of my research will remain my top priority. Working the database should lead me to more records about them and reveal many ancestors.
The database will have names extracted from documents that include bank, court, hospital, marriage, poor, prison and tax records.
This is going to be quite a long and detailed genealogical journey. It will include consulting records that have never been filmed, digitized or organized. When I began researching family histories 17 years ago, I used to tell myself that as long as there was one more place to search for my ancestors, I would not give up. And I won't.
After all: The paper trail never ends. It never ends for any of us.
Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.