Sunday, July 1, 2012

Behind-the Scenes: Flights of Fancy

Amanda and Jim Woodrow at Scotch Settlement Cemetery

While researching my dissertation, I had the great fortune to meet local historian James Woodrow (d. 2004) who had been collecting data on Scotch Settlement for longer than I had been alive. On one of my several visits with him, he lamented the fact that the earliest church records for Yellow Creek Presbyterian Church did not exist. I was sad about that too, but at that moment I was lamenting the fact that the ice-cold well water he had served me tasted, well, awful.

While I was wondering if I could pour out the water behind a planter in the yard without his noticing, he continued, referring to the loss of the church records, "It's almost like they don't want to be found."

This casual comment stayed with me as I pursued my research. While I felt that much of my dissertation research was blessed because it came together so easily (okay, easy is a relative term), it did seem as if these Highland emigrants really didn't want to be found. They had they left Scotland behind and never again, in all eternity, wanted to be connected with it.  I solved this problem by focusing my research on these families that left some semblance of a trail across the Atlantic.

Now many years later, and two years after turning my attention back to my Scotch Settlement project, I am finding many more connections, either by examining new data or re-examining data I had already collected. So far, these new connections only support the conclusions I reached in the dissertation. Fingers crossed it remains so.

The rational, skeptic in me has devised a litany of reasons why I'm uncovering new data now: I'm focused on it, I'm a better researcher, many more documents and indexes are available online, I'm looking at more families in depth than I did previously.

However, it pleases and encourages me to believe that these Highland spirits have changed their minds. Now they want to be found.

Next Sunday: A Tale of Two Sentences

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