This past week my family had to deal with a lot of "what ifs". My grandson came into this world with his angel wings on January 5. Each of us have had moments when we asked ourselves, each other and the hospital staff "what if we/I had done this or that"? The answer was always the same -- It wouldn't have changed things. Really?
I got to thinking about this "text book" answer that I assume is supposed to make you feel better and, of course, the genealogy lobe of my brain took over. Not only could I see that it might not really be true, but it gave me a whole new research concept.
What If. . . . . . . . . .?
As I sat all alone in my living room I thought about what had just happened and I slowly realized that there was a time when the end result of pregnancy was not a given. Mothers died. Babies died. Mothers appeared and disappeared in the census records. Other women took their place and then they were gone. Widowers married sister-in-laws and widows just to be able to to maintain the household and take care of the surviving children. Yes, surviving! Birth was not a free ticket to adulthood.
And then it dawned on me. What if my sister would not have been stillborn. I am sure my life would have been a lot different. I would not be an only child. I would have nieces and nephews. Or maybe I wouldn't even be here at all.
What if my grandmother would not have immigrated from Germany. None of us would be here. What if they would not have left Russia? Let's not go there.
What if my grandmother would not have fallen out of the hayloft, suffered a miscarriage and died that afternoon? My dad might have stayed in Clermont County and never would have met my mom.
What if. . . . . . .?
So how does this become a genealogy tool? Well! Let's think about those brick walls. What if there was a "what if"? What if this had not happened where would my ancestor be? What if something happened that created a fork in the road? Maybe you took the wrong fork in your research. Maybe you didn't know there was another fork.
What if there was a war? What if your ancestor was looking for religious freedom? What if there was no way across that mountain? What if there was gold in California? What if your ancestor killed someone and headed west to disappear? What if your ancestor had to return to the Old Country to take care of family members? What if your ancestor just went on vacation for a few years!?
"What ifs" create detours in genealogy research. Maybe you missed that right turn. Think about what was going on that might have created a "what if". Look at your genealogy problem from a different angle.
Unfortunately in our case we have already experienced the "what if" and no amount of wishful thinking will bring our littlest angel back. The "what ifs" have already happened and that chapter in our family tree has been written.