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18 June 2020

Quarantine Quests: Finding Enoch

This Quarantine Quests story is from CGS member Shirley Thomson and written by Chris Pattillo.

More than fifty years ago Shirley Thomson began her quest for the birth family of her husband, Tommy’s, earliest known ancestor, Enoch Thomson, born in 1784 in New York. Shirley started searching for Enoch’s parentage when she discovered the wealth of genealogical records in the local library where she was working in 1962. Since that time, she has persisted in her efforts to discover Enoch’s connection to one of many Thomson family trees.

Enoch Thomson (1784-1872),
farmer and part-time Baptist preacher,
 Sullivan County, Indiana
The best part of being quarantined is that “it eliminates my need to make excuses for working on my family history” says Shirley. After many years of searching and not finding the desired connection, Shirley decided to hire the CGS Research team to help with her quest. That decision was made in February of 2020, shortly before the quarantine began. Initially, hiring the research team – that includes Lavinia Schwarz and Pat Smith – increased Shirley’s workload. As the team of researchers dug in, they presented Shirley with lots of questions. Shirley was very busy answering their questions starting in February and into the early weeks of the quarantine. Since then she has taken a bit of a break from genealogy.

When asked what tips Shirley had to offer, she said “Perseverance.” That is what is needed when tackling a tough problem. After fifty-plus years of pursuit I’d say Shirley is a model of perseverance.

Shirley has been using DNA to look for Enoch’s parents since 2006. She has found several autosomal and yDNA matches – some with lines going back to the mid-1600s. Each new DNA clue confirms the same family line, but she has yet to find Enoch from any of these leads. One of her challenges is the tradition in this family to use middle or nicknames, so while she is focused on looking for Enoch it may be that he was known as “Ed” and that is why she has yet to pin this man down.
Deed to land purchased by brothers-in-law Justis Clark and Enoch Thomson
of Lysander, New York, on 30 July 1811. By 1820, both Clark and Thomson
families were resettled on farms near the Wabash River in Indiana

I asked how she managed to come up with new questions to ask after fifty years of searching – how does she formulate new questions that enable her to approach the problem from a different perspective? Her answer was prompt and emphatic: “Oh, that’s easy, because technology gives us new opportunities all the time'” When asked for an example, Shirley said she has three pages of names of other Thomson descendants who are doing research on this same family. She was able to print this out from the GEDmatch.com site. The report lists people who match Enoch’s autosomal DNA. She can refine the list and see their ancestral lines and what they are focused on. Using their GEDCOM identification number she can compare them to other matches to her husband. Studying this information continues to provide new clues.

So far neither Shirley nor the research team have found the link they are seeking, but all are persevering.
Enoch's son Reuben Thomson (1827-1907) with his wife Margaret McKinney
 and nine grown children, mid-1800s
If you have a Quarantine Quests story to share, please contact Chris at [email protected].

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