Friday, October 21, 2011

And All the Stars Aligned

It has been one heck of a week, okay more like one heck of a couple of months, but I digress.  But amidst the chaos, I did experience serendipity.  One by one the stars aligned and led me to quite the discovery.  It’s a mystery I knew I’d solve one day, but figured it would take a tremendous amount of time and research in facilities and records that are not exactly nearby.  But in a strange twist of fate, there it was.

The Back Story

Barbara is a cousin of mine and we met in early 2008 when she emailed me about a common ancestor, Philip Rottman.  We exchanged a few emails and then lost touch until June 2010.  We converse here and there about our Rottman clan periodically through Facebook, trying to learn more about Philip and his wife Mary Eva.  Neither of us has had much luck on this front.

The Stars Begin to Align

The other day, Barbara posted a note on my Facebook wall about a possible passenger ship record for Mary Eva.  Several comments were exchanged, one of which was the following (in part)  from Barbara: 

“…Aunt Anna always said her father told her that Phillip left the family and went to Colorado where he died in a bar fight...He had asked Mary Eva to go with him, but she refused...just a family story, but it may have a hint of truth….”

My response was:

“In my grandmother's notes, there is a mention of Golden, Colorado by his name...the story could very well have some truth to it.”

Here I had someone else mention Colorado, so now I’m working with the assumption that the reference my grandmother made about her grandfather and Golden, Colorado had to mean something.

On Wednesday night, I was reading the September issue of Family Tree Magazine and checking out their top 101 website list.  Listed was Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection.  Now mind you, I’ve known about this possible connection to Colorado for years and I have checked for death records and online newspapers in the past, but this website seemed new to me, and since Barbara and I were on the subject of Philip and Colorado, I made a note of the website.

Last night, I was checking out some of those 101 top websites and came to the Colorado newspaper one.  I did a quick search for Rottman, Rotman and Rothman (all with double “n” too) and got nothing.  Not knowing how good the OCR search was, I decided to browse by newspaper.  I looked at the newspaper in Golden and the ones in Denver, but none of them had the time period I was looking for.  Bummer.

All Hope is Not Lost

I then wondered if I had ever searched GenealogyBank for a newspaper article.  I was sure I had, but they add new stuff all the time.  Something told me to go there and search again.  I did a search for Philip Rottman and a bunch of New Jersey papers came up.  And just as I was about to throw in the towel and get back to what I had previously been doing, I saw it:  an 1885 article in a Denver newspaper.  I just knew it had to be him, right?

I start reading the article.  It seemed promising.  The man was a “stranger” and fell out of a window to his death.  Blah, blah, blah, they don’t know him, his son is there, yaddy-yadda…it seems like this is going nowhere and that there will not be enough information to determine if this is MY Philip.  Then I get to the last paragraph, it starts:

“During the day something was learned of the man.  His name was Philip Rothman and he came from Lisbon, Iowa…”

Mind you, the opening paragraph included his name (the surname was spelled Rottman).  Why it took to the last paragraph of a fairly lengthy article to get to this, well I’m sure the foresight was to annoy me some 120 years later.

Anyway, I knew from that second sentence, this was without a doubt, my Philip Rottman.  The article goes on to talk about his wife, whom he was separated from, and children, suggesting that part of what Barbara has heard was in part, true.

Then, to add even more dancing to the already super-happy dance, it mentions that “he has a mother living at Lisbon, Iowa, who is about 75 years of age.”  Seriously?  While a name would have been nice, just that fact that his mother apparently immigrated to the US, was 75, and living in Lisbon is certainly a huge step forward in learning more about this family.

Another Moral This Week

Even though I was focused on several other things this week, and not really working on this family, something pulled me in a different direction, namely, cousin Barbara.  Then the events followed they way they did in a nice, neat package.  It just goes to show you that things really do happen for a reason.  And, when life hands you a box of chocolates, you better stop what you’re doing and open it…you never know what you might get!

A PDF version of the newspaper article can be read here (I hope, I always seem to have problems with Google Docs).



PalmsRV said...

What a great find. The newspaper article on Google Docs was readable.

kathryn said...

Congratulations on your find. I'm doing the happy dance with you.

Nancy said...

How exciting! Reading something likes this gives the rest of us hope for some of our own ancestors who are being difficult to find. Congrats.

Michelle Goodrum said...

I'm excited for you! Yeah.

Sujomi said...

I'm laughing because I believe that any and all quirks/vague references in old newspaper articles were done deliberately to annoy and frustrate me when I finally find them for genealogy research these many years down the road.

It's always fun to find them regardless...good for you!

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