Synchronicity In Genealogy

by JL Beeken on 10-11-2007

Do we believe in synchronicity? In ghosts? Of course, we do. We’re genealogists. Ghosts are our specialty.

Sometimes I can feel one tapping me hard on the shoulder saying, “No, not 1852. It was 1855.” Or “No, not his brother. It was his uncle.” Sometimes I imagine they’re twisting in their graves with everything we get wrong.

Someone asked the interesting question “Why genealogy?” And the answers came back along the lines of it being a drive we have to connect the world at a time when the world is so disconnected. Makes perfect sense to me.

But is the world really so disconnected? I’ve noticed a synchronicity factor that’s hard to fathom and it makes me do a double-take every time.

For instance, a few of us had been pondering for awhile over the possible existence of an original source document that a long-deceased writer may have taken excerpts from. If it did exist it was one of those things we would have given our eye-teeth to get our hands on.

One day I got an email from one of these fellow-ponderers. She had just had a call from her sister (not a genealogist) who had just had a call from a distant cousin, (not a genealogist and not ‘in the loop’) who just happened to be cleaning out her basement. She had come across a box of old papers including a document my cousin might be interested in? You guessed it – The One! If we’d found a sunken galleon we couldn’t have been more excited.

It had been a few months between the time we were champing at the bit and the discovery of the document. In this next story it took a week.

A more distant cousin and I sometimes correspond about our more distant common ancestors. One day I was skimming through one of his charts and I noticed a description of a Will, division of property, etc. I’d probably looked at it a hundred times but it had never registered before. This time it stopped me in my tracks. I have another document that makes a passing reference to the original family farm in a location about 200 miles further north.

So I sent an email over saying “Something about this is other than what it seems.” He wrote back that he didn’t know anything about another family farm and we let it go, being distracted by other things. You know how that goes.

A week later I got an email from this same cousin attaching an email from another person, unknown to both of us, who said he had found a land deed for one of his ancestors. He thought my cousin might be interested to know that the land was bordered by property owned by one of ours. You guessed it – The One! Other family farm.

Things happen in 3′s, they say, so here’s another one.

I was looking up census records and got stuck at a person called Christophe, who married one of my German cousins. I couldn’t find him anywhere in the public records. But that was really a side issue because I was too busy being fascinated with the name. Maybe someone wrote it down wrong and it was really supposed to be Christopher? It’s funny how these kind of details can eat up an entire day.

I decided to go out for groceries. I picked up a few and headed to the nearest cashier. Right at eye level, in front of my nose, was his name-tag: Christoph. That’s the first person in my life I’ve ever met called Christoph and I’ve been on earth for a really long time. So, of course, I said out loud, “Christoph … is that supposed to be Christopher but the name tag wasn’t wide enough?” and he said “No, my name is Christoph. Do you mind telling me why you asked?”

So we had a conversation about Chris, and Christoph and Christophe and Christopher. He said “Christophe” is the French version. Now, I probably could have looked that up on the Internet, but why bother when all I had to do was go out for groceries and get the whole shebang in person?

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kevin 4-11-2011 at 7:54 PM

I see how ‘ancient’ this posting is, but I’m researching synchronicity in hopes of find answers for what I’ve been experiencing. What you’ve written is different from what happens to me, however it still makes sense. Mine is more with words. I’ll read a word on the computer, for example, and someone on tv will say this word at the same time. I’ve been documenting it for under a year now, and I don’t believe these are coincidences. If you have any additional insight, I’d love to hear about it.

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JL 4-11-2011 at 8:11 PM

I can document them; I don’t know that I can explain them.

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Kevin 4-11-2011 at 8:26 PM

I wish we had more science on it. I’m baffled.

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JL 4-11-2011 at 8:33 PM

I think ‘science’ would be too narrow of a viewpoint to explain it. Sometimes you just have to think, “Gee, that’s interesting.”

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Mardo4 6-03-2013 at 8:20 AM

I am curious what LDS community thinks about this. Genealogy is part of their religion and ministry but I do not know much further. I had been looking for a family name and farm that my aunts had been searching for 30 years. A distant cousin I did not know contacted me through a genealogy site asking about this surname. I had not researched it in almost a year. I stopped studying for a final, and in my attempts to assist her in a brief 20 minute search I found an article posted just for that week for a library’s “visit the archives” event detailing a land agents report on some indigent farmers. Here, listed in this featured letter was the family surname and farm. Apparently we were looking in the wrong county, this was one county over. This was 1 week before we were visiting the country on a family visit. This resulted in us being able to visit the farm and find their family informaiton all in one visit.

I often have instances when I get cold, extremely cold, when a document is important. I have fallen in a cemetery when nothing was there to trip on, just to find that was the row I needed to go down to find the headstones I am searching. I have had a little choke or cough when I have passed a billboard naming a town of significance to the research. Those are the main things. I have no explaination other than our past relatives want to be found.

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JL Beeken 6-03-2013 at 8:58 AM

Those are some great examples you give.

I’m not LDS. It’s my understanding that they believe dead people need their attention in the way of baptism-by-proxy so families can live together in heaven. Just a modicum of rational thought would suggest otherwise.

Sure, it’s fun to play with the idea that our ancestors are as attached to us as we are to them but I don’t think people who have passed on want anything from us. In our human experience, I see it more like “action follows thought”. First our questions, then our answers. Where you put your attention, there you will go.

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