Never Say Never
May 29, 2019
I don’t know about other researchers, but for me, it seems when I hit a certain period about 1800 (at least in U.S. research), I tend to run out of records. Much as I search, some of these folks just don’t seem to want to be found. That’s been the status for my 4th great grandfather for a long time now. Parshall Terry isn’t really a brick wall ancestor; although he was born in 1756, I do know quite a bit about him. For example, he was a Loyalist during the Revolution and switched from the American to the British side during the war. Family lore says it was because he stopped to fix his shoe as his unit was marching along, and an officer came up and yelled at him and pushed him back into place. Apparently, young Parshall (only about 20 years old at the time) couldn’t take this and hit the officer. He’d grown up on the frontier of what is now Pennsylvania and apparently was a typical independent backwoodsman. However, he was smart enough to know that hitting an officer was a big problem, so he deserted and went back home. Sitting out the war certainly wasn’t an option, so he joined the British. After the war, he moved to Canada where he lived the rest of his life.
All of this is pretty well-documented, but there is little information about his family. He was married twice and had a large family, probably at least 16 children. Most of them lived to adulthood, and at least 11 children received land grants in Canada as a result of Parshall’s service. In spite of this, I’ve found comparatively little about most of these children. Part of the problem is that only four of the children who lived to adulthood were sons, and, as everyone knows, it’s more difficult to track daughters who marry, often more than once, and change their names. Adding to the difficulty is the fact that the Terry Family was pretty conservative when it came to naming their children; once they found a name they liked, they tended to stick with it. Even when the name they chose was something a bit unusual among the general public, such as Submission, that name was used repeatedly over the generations by the Terry Family, meaning that there were multiple Submission’s who were cousins and aunts, and it’s very difficult to figure out which one is which. Finally, Parshall Terry’s children were mostly born in Canada, but many of them didn’t stay there. The family seemed to use the U.S./Canadian border as merely a suggestion, and family members often moved back and forth, so that records for both countries need to be researched.
After spending literally hundreds of hours over the last twenty years researching Parshall and his family, I finally came up with a reasonably complete list of children, but trying to figure out what happened to each and every one of them has been a challenge. In fact, during the last couple of years, I’ve pretty much put this family on the back burner and moved onto other lines. Imagine my surprise, then, when this week I received two messages about members of Parshall Terry’s family. One was from someone who’d seen my tree on MyHeritage and the other was from someone who’d seen a change I’d made on Parshall Terry’s information on FamilySearch’s Family Tree. Each of these people were direct descendants from one of Parshall Terry’s daughters. Neither of them know as much about Parshall Terry himself as I do, but they each know details about the daughter they descend from that I don’t.
I’ve had information about this family online for years and have never heard from anyone who descends from these daughters or any of the other children of Parshall Terry before. What a coincidence that I’d hear from two people within a few days; I guess it reinforces the idea that if you put your information out there, eventually someone will probably contact you. I know that I’m excited by finding these distant cousins; I’m enthusiastic to share what I’ve learned about our common ancestors with people who are really interested, and I’m also happy to be filling in a few blanks about the other members of my ancestor’s family.
Sometimes it seems as if we’ll never find answers to our family questions, but I’d say: post whatever you learn and don’t give up. You never know when you’ll get an email out of the blue saying something like “This is who I’m descended from; I believe we’re related . . .”
Researcher/Director at Large