Sunday, April 10, 2005


Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it's a boon for a genealogist. I had recently had a breakthrough yielding several generations further back on one of my family lines. Amidst lots of interesting new information, one little tidbit of data caught my eye. My 5x-great-grandmother was listed as born in 1771 in Curacoa [sic], W.I. How intriguing, I thought. What was she doing being born on some island in the Dutch West Indies? (Images of Kyra Sedgwick playing the governor's daughter in Pirates of the Caribbean flashed through my head.) Google didn't turn up anything, so I found an online bulletin board associated with Dutch Antilles genealogy and posted a few queries. At first I was striking out, as my relative's name did not turn up in various church records and other records from the period that a kind respondent searched for me. Then just yesterday, a connection came through. It turns out that my 5x-great-grandmother's father was from New York, a sailor who plied the colonial West Indies trade route, and who lived in Curacao for a brief period. It further turns out that he was quite a character, and among other things, an expert nautical pilot who was highly regarded and employed by George Washington during the Revolutionary War for his knowledge of the New York harbor and Hudson river navigation. He served on a number of missions during most of the war, but it seems that late in the War he was caught and killed by the British. Thus, from simple curiosity about an unusual birthplace, my mother can now join the DAR. As it always goes with genealogy, each puzzle solved leads to more puzzles, but it certainly pays to keep one's eyes open for the out-of-the-ordinary bits that can often provide the key to finding new information.

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