Thursday, December 18, 2008

The "Forrest Gump Principle of Genealogy Research" strikes again

I just love it when things happen out of the blue... read my story, learn about the lesson I learned (again), and see if you agree with my definition.

I posted a picture of the gravestone of my great-grandaunt Elizabeth Lucinda (Seaver) Blanchard, and her husband and daughter, on Tuesday in my Tombstone Tuesday post. I found that I didn't have information about her son, Kenneth L. Blanchard (1891-1918), in my Master database (he was in the Seaver database), so I decided to search for information about him. I recalled that he had died during World War I in France. I Googled him immediately, and found this American Legion post web site, which had this information about the entire Frederick Blanchard family in National City:

"At a meeting held December 8, 1921 the name of the Post was changed to Kenneth L. Blanchard Post 255 in honor of a National City young man who paid the supreme sacrifice.

"THE BLANCHARD FAMILY (source unknown): Mr. and Mrs. Frederick G. Blanchard came to National City from Boston in 1888. They lived for a long time in the house known as the “Blanchard House” on Tenth Street, near where the Luther Harris family lived. They brought their son Fredrick with them and later added 2 more boys: Lawrence and Kenneth – and then a dear little girl who soon left them for a home in another world.

"Mr. Fredrick Blanchard was an expert gardener. He loved to trim rosebushes and other shrubs and was quite probably the first expert gardener in National City. But there were not enough gardens here to keep him busy, so he decided to try his skill on lemons and other fruit trees. He may even have pruned the orchard at the head of Paradise Valley which D.E. Strahl planted, the first orange orchard on the Rancho de la Nacion, which was later purchased by Mr. Owens and by the way of Miss Owens finally became the property of Joseph Fritz – her husband and one of our former National City Councilmen. (The oranges originally were all seedlings.) However that may be, Mr. Frederick Blanchard made pruning his steady occupation and so well was his work done, that he was called further and further away from home, with more to do than he could take care of, until added years forced him to confine his activities to his own large garden east of Highland, near where the Corey’s’ lived.

"After Mrs. Blanchard died, Mr. Frederick Blanchard lived alone and went nowhere except very rarely to Coronado where he visited Mrs. David Webster whose daughter Mary was married to his son Fred (Professor Fred Blanchard, former head of the English department at the University of California, Los Angeles branch. After son Lawrence and his wife returned from Australia and added Jane to their family, they were very good to the old gentleman (Mr. Frederick Blanchard) in every way, until death called him.

"Son Lawrence was always an electrical genius. When the nation called for volunteers, he was taking a post-graduate course in electricity at U.C. while son Kenneth was studying to be a lawyer. Both dropped everything and enlisted - going over with one of the first hospital units. “Over there” they made good, and were promoted several times – son Kenneth always just a jump ahead. When son Lawrence had almost completed an electrical circuit connecting the various posts in France, a bomb sliver struck him over one eye, causing him to lose his sight. In addition to this, he had several times been gassed. In spite of this, he was made head of the auto division receiving the foreign dignitaries who came to Paris to sign up for the armistice, etc. Later, son Lawrence coming home by way of Gibraltar was in charge of a division of soldiers.

"Son Kenneth had been put in charge of a hospital in France and would have to wait 2 years before coming home. He was suddenly taken with pneumonia in a violent form and in a few days had answered to the last roll call. This is the Kenneth Blanchard after whom the local Post is named."

I broke the text up into paragraphs for easier reading. I wish that they had written more about my first cousin twice removed, Kenneth L. Blanchard. I'm not sure if he died in 1918 at the end of hostilities in France, or later while performing his hospital duties.

I'm wondering what the source is for this biographical entry. Is it a published Blanchard surname book or a collection of biographies in a San Diego local history book. I did not find it in a Google Book search for ["kenneth l blanchard" "national city"]. There is a book by Emma Gladden, titled The Blanchard Family and related families, published in 1959 (no publisher), listed in the Complement to Genealogies in the Library of Congress (found using Google Books for ["the blanchard family"]. It may have come from the Gladden work.

I relearned a lesson here: "There are resources that are not published, or on the Internet, that rest in repositories all over this world. You never know what you are going to find any time you visit a repository, where there might be periodical collections, family papers in a vertical file, or unpublished manuscripts."

I call this the "Forrest Gump Principle of Genealogy Research."

Why do I call it the "Forrest Gump" principle? Remember the 1994 movie, Forrest Gump, where the most famous quote was "My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"

So the Forrest Gump Principle of Genealogy Research is "Genealogy research is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to find, but you have to look everywhere your 'genealogy gem' might be hiding"

Other people call it "serendipity." I wish I would apply it more often! All you have to do, in genealogy, is go to repositories and look for the books and other records that might be available. Road trips are a lot of fun, sometimes!


Dorene from Ohio said...

I totally agree with you.
At work one day (I work at a public library) an out-of-town genealogist told me that my great grandmother was accused of driving a car for a bootlegger, and he had the article to prove it! ( didn't have the date on it anymore...but...)
Amazing things happen to me all the time...and I love it!

Lee Drew said...

I love finding those hidden nuggets. Granted they aren't always a quality chocolates and are sometimes a "Bertie Botts earwax" candy, but the find itself is always a delight!

Marty Acks said...

What an interesting coincidence. I was in Seattle this week on vacation this week and popped into the Seattle library, It is a beautiful airy building but that is another story. On a whim I went up to the 900s and started snooping around. I found one book with mentions of my Porterfield line that I had not sEEN before. It simply confirmed some facts but none the less was a fun moment in the trip. One lesson learned is to be better prepared. My cell phone died in the middle taking some pictures. I need to keep my charger with... next tome.