Trouble with the Maxwells

My human Jenga puzzle

Photo by MichaƂ Parzuchowski on Unsplash

Picture any branch in your family resembling Jenga, and you had better make sure you don’t have to pull out any blocks. In my world, assembling the puzzle properly and never pulling a block out would be the ideal scenario. Due diligence is the key, and hindsight sucks.

Before I begin, I’ll just say that my mood has been gloomy since Friday night. It matches the weather today. I had to remove one of the key blocks to rework the master plan, and the outlook isn’t good right now. That pile of blocks is coming down, and it’s ugly and a huge disappointment. I’m emotionally invested in this commitment, and failure is not an option.

Item 4 on my gratitude list last week is 99% scrapped for now. It’s not for lack of trying. For the past 2 1/2 years, I’ve been hunting down people on the Maxwell branch of my tree so that I can have a Revolutionary War ancestor who fought in the Battle of Lexington, Bunker Hill and was a member of John Hancock’s tea party. So what’s the problem?

I introduced you to William Maxwell, my 3rd great grandfather, in my post titled Deja Vu. I have no direct evidence linking him to his father. I am good from Thompson Maxwell down to William’s father, and also solid from me up to William, but the link between father and son just doesn’t exist. At least right now. At least online. At least in the records I’ve reviewed personally. Might there be a smoking gun out there? Yes. But just not right now. The indirect evidence I have has not been solid enough to have a conclusive analysis pass muster. So what am I going to do about it? (Other than cry while watching my Jenga blocks tumble to the ground?)

I’ve spent the past 4 days considering this exact question. I’m not shelving it forever, because there is just too much here to make me leave it for good. However, I’m going to take a break from researching this family. I need more mental bandwidth.

For one thing, I’m moving my office home as my lease expires at the end of December. Moving is a lot of work – both mental and physical. Most of it up until now has been mental, because I’ve had a couple plans that have had to be abandoned for a variety of reasons. I have a new plan now, and this requires some physical effort to prepare. It also requires Kevin’s electrician skills and his truck. It’s exhausting, and the holidays are on the horizon. I haven’t started shopping. Hell, I haven’t even considered making a gift list. I’m not even finished my grocery list! I’m opting for the path of least resistance so that I have enough brain power to do the things that must be done between now and New Year’s Day. My problem with William Maxwell is just going to have to wait.

Ultimately, my plan with William is going to remain what it’s been: link him to his brother, James. James has all the direct and indirect evidence. I have plenty of incidental (maybe coincidental) things that connect William to James, but no smoking gun there either. I have a several options when I pick this up in 2020 or later:

  1. Take my search back to Brockport, New York. This is where my 2nd great grandmother, Lavinia Maxwell Hale, was born. Maybe there are some obscure records documenting her birth or the marriage of her parents. Previously, I had worked with the folks in Niagara County. Why? Because her father was living there in the 1840 census in his father’s household, identified as a male between the ages of 20-29. When I finally got my hands on Lavinia’s obituary in 1905, it said she was born in Brockport. Brockport is in Monroe County, which is the next county east of Niagara. Whether that turns out to be a physical trip or I pay a local person to search for me remains to be seen.
  2. Take my search to the Polk County Press archives in Wisconsin. I will be in Minnesota next summer and plan to drive. I can make a detour to River Falls on my way back to Colorado to pore through microfilm and see if there are any articles that help the cause. You know: the 1860s version of Facebook. See if I can find a dumb article that mentions one of them going to their brother’s house for dinner. They lived in land plats almost adjacent to each other, so this isn’t out of the question. When I last looked at the newspaper microfilm (October 2018), I was searching for obituaries and the like and not dumb social stuff.
  3. I realized as I looked through my DNA links to the Maxwells that ALL of them are through William’s line. None of them are the descendants of James. Or even further back. However, there is a Maxwell DNA Project on FTDNA, and 2 of James’ descendants have uploaded their data. On Saturday night, I wrote to my mother’s full 3rd cousin to see if he would be willing to take a Y-DNA test for the Maxwell project. He’s 82 years old and this would be a help. I offered to pay for the test. If the results are solid and conclusive, the probability is high that I can use the DNA link for my analysis in a few years. I haven’t heard back from the gentleman yet, though.

One last plan is on the horizon for me. And that is to start learning how to map DNA. I’ve got a lot of work to do to get up to speed on the subject. With the help of some of my more knowledgeable genie friends, I’ll get this party started.

In the meantime, I’m going to allow myself to feel the heavy disappointment for a couple more days (if necessary) and move forward. I have a date with the shelving stacked in my garage, plenty of boxes to sort, furniture to donate, and a basement that needs reorganizing. Then I can finish working the 2nd half of my plan for my home office/guest room. Getting organized is going to help my mental processes as well. I just don’t operate well–if at all–when my mind is jumbled.

Happy trails to all of you, and I hope your fall season is pleasant and under way. Until next week…

Author: Betsey K.

Mother of two daughters, two Siamese cats and a 3 legged dog. Genealogy hack. Research nut. Search engine proficient. Daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece and ex-wife. And a person who strives for balance and peace.

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