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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Ancestor Tracking

Hunters are sometimes in dangerous positions when they are tracking game. Tracking ancestors is a time-consuming sport but I never thought of it as anything dangerous. Until Sunday.
In the process of trying to track down some unrecorded deeds, we went to a farm at Bowmansville. I did not know who the current owner of the farm is but knew it is the place Ulrich Burkholder purchased from Hans Musselman in 1764. The previous owner had all the deeds descending from Ulrich. I hoped the current owner would be able to tell me what happened to those deeds when the previous owner died in 2002.
As I feared, the owner, Karl Martin, told me the old deeds were sold on public sale. What a shame! I was a couple years too late. Karl had a few deeds he purchased at the sale but the oldest ones were not among them. He graciously called several people he thought might have an idea who bought the oldest deeds. We were told that one one Karl's neighbors had bought them. Karl called him and then handed the phone to me to tell him what I'm trying to find.
Before I finished my story the neighbor said, "Oh yes. I have them here somewhere but I mislaid them."
I jokingly said, "Well, shall I come look for them?"
He said, "Sure. Come on up. I'll put my vicious dog away and meet you at the end of the lane."
As it was now dark, two of Karl's boys went with us to show us the way. We followed the man in his long dirt lane and into his house.
I explained again what I wanted and he repeated that he has them but doesn't know where they are at the moment. His wife took my name and phone number so she can let me know if and when they find the deeds. Our host launched into a long discourse about various subjects without connecting the dots. The longer he talked the less I believed anything he said. He seemed to have a distaste for Mennonites. I was getting nervous and wondering how we are going to get out of there graciously. All of a sudden he stuck out his hand, said good by, and dismissed us. I was ready to go!
We took the Martin boys home and went in the house to give Karl a report on the visit. THEN we learned this neighbor is an eccentric guy who lives almost like a hermit on that hill. He does not trust anyone. Going up there without an invitation is running the risk of being shot, especially at night.
Although I didn't bag any game on my tracking adventure, I did escape without being harmed. Given the attitude the man has toward Mennonites, I'm not expecting a call from him. I suspect he wanted to see who I was before he remembers where the deeds are and he won't be looking too hard just to satisfy the curiosity of a ancestor tracking Mennonite. I hope next time I think twice before I make jokes about search and rescue missions. But wow! What an adventure!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What an exciting story! And what exhaustive knowledge you have of your subject. Mary H