Saturday, July 02, 2005

Art, Science, Serendipity

A relatively cool [85 deg. F.], slightly overcast, but muggy, start to the Independence Day weekend around the Nation's Capital . . . my parents, visiting from California, are content to spend this humid day checking out my new abode in Tysons Corner and having the conversations that older people have with their middle-aged progeny. We've been to breakfast, watched the Nationals whip the Chicago Cubs, had lunch, and cleaned my kitchen. The chatter turns to our unconcious family pastime of "Did I ever tell you . . . ." Dad begins casually. "Did I ever tell you about Mr. Richardson who lived next door in Rockport [Texas]?" he says, watching the television as I surf the 'Net idly. Mom is reading the last chapter of The Pelican Brief. "You mean your Aunt Pearl's husband, Eddie Richardson," I reply from my rapid recall of my paternal pedigree. I don't even look up from my keyboard.

"No," Dad says, "I mean Mr. Richardson, the Civil War veteran who lived next door to me in the late '30's or '40's. I never knew his first name. But he wasn't related to Aunt Pearl's husband." Dad's affect, as the professionals say, never changed as he spoke. But he now surely had my full attention.

The Civil War veteran . . . who lived next door . . . ! Who had the same surname as a relative by marriage [and hence as our cousins] in a town of less than 3,000 people . . . ! Yes, Dad, you've got my complete attention now!

"Did you ever speak to this Mr. Richardson?" I ask my father. "Gosh, no," he says, "He was old and a mean curmudgeon. I was just a kid. I saw him, though."

As I listen to my father, I've pulled up my paternal genealogy on Personal Ancestry File and have quickly searched for my father's Aunt Pearl. Pearl Bryant was born in June, 1897, in Rockport, Aransas County, Texas. Among her ten siblings were Hattie Bryant (1888-1944), my dad's grandmother, and Sam Bryant (1889-1951). In 1916, Pearl married Eddie G. Richardson, who had been born on May 20, 1892, also in Rockport.

I say to my father, "Aunt Pearl's husband, Eddie, was the son of a Thomas Richardson, born about 1867." I then use PAF's Internet search feature to swiftly locate Thomas Richardson on the 1880 census. There are a lot of Thomas Richardsons, but only one in Refugio County, Texas, the parent and adjacent county to Aransas.

"And his father was one Grant Richardson, born about 1840 in Alabama," I continue. "That would make him old enough for the Civil War."

Now I've got my father's attention. He's at the computer, gazing over my shoulder. "He lived next door. He was old. I'd see him out slopping his hogs. He had a wife, but she may have been a second wife, becausw people referred to 'his' children, not 'their' children."

We search on-line census records. At the time of the 1880 census, Grant Richardson lived in Refugio County, Texas, with his wife, Ellen, and sons Thomas, William, Walter, Adam, and Galvan. Grant's age is given as 30, which, if correct, would make him almost too young for the Civil War. But who knows?

In the 1900 census, we find Grant Richardson in neighboring Aransas County along with Ellen, Walter, and a son born after the 1880 census, Silas. Grant's date of birth is given as April, 1840. In the 1910 census, Grant Richardson is found living alone in Rockport as a widower. The entry in the age column is not legible.

The last available census on which Grant Richardson appears is the 1920 census. But what we found there was completely unexpected.

Next: Serendipity II

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