Spring is in the air and lazy days of summer are in the immediate future. My thoughts wander as I view fresh flowers sprouting and buds appearing on the trees. In genealogy lessons, instructions are to create a research plan, stay focused and be diligent. While I agree, when spring fever arrives I find it difficult to follow rigid schedules. During my online searches from home and in research travels, I allow thirty minutes or so for random searches. I call these mini sessions “Chasing Rabbit Trails.” Some trails are dead ends and some only lead to a rabbit hole. Amazingly, many of my proven lines began with randomly chasing a single clue.
While searching for records of my in-laws who died in Stanislaus County, California, I found my brother-in-law on the U. S. Veterans Graves website. He was buried in Ft. Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas. We had been out of touch for years and my last known address for him was San Diego, California. A further search of the Texas death index on the Ancestry, Inc. subscription site confirmed that he died at age 51.
I called the Department of Health Vital Statistics Division in Austin, Texas. They have a twenty-five-year right to privacy law. Access to records is restricted to the spouse and parents. He was divorced and his parents are deceased. I called Ft. Bliss National Cemetery. The same right to privacy applies. They could only confirm the birth and death date and the plot and site number. They referred me to the Texas Archives Library to request an obituary. After a few minutes on the phone, I learned that they do not retain obituaries and referred me to the Center for American History, another Texas repository. Their records were not computerized, so I waited on hold while the clerk checked their listings. They have many newspapers in their archives, but none for El Paso County.
Maybe this was just one of those dead end rabbit trails. I searched the oversized container of old family photos stored in my closet and found the picture of my brother- in-law in Army uniform dated 1963. I posted my information and his photo to the Find A Grave website and then posted a request for a photo of his grave. In a few days, I received an email that my request was fulfilled. I emailed a note of appreciation and included the story about my search for his obituary and death records. I received an immediate reply. My photo volunteer has a son and daughter-in-law who are employed at the El Paso Times newspaper. They volunteered to search the newspaper archives for me. That’s the results I love to find when chasing rabbit trails!