I am not a gambler by nature. I don't play our state lottery. I was bored stiff in the casino of an Alaskan cruise ship several years ago. I've never been to Las Vegas. So I am still wondering what possessed me to gamble $25.00 on a Civil War pension for a man who I only hoped resided on my family tree!
Please, tell me there are some readers out there who are saying, "Duh! If it helps break through a years old brick wall then it was worth the gamble, no matter what the outcome!" That just might make me feel a bit better about losing my $25.00!
It was a years old brick wall that began my trip into the gamble. It was, to be exact, my great-great-grandfather, William Wayson, the elusive man with seemingly no parents, siblings, or other extended family before his marriage to Ada Catherine Dean, that beckoned me to fill out the paperwork, write the check, and mail it, in hope of finding all the above aspects of his life.
William was born about 1863 or so in Ohio or Kentucky, depending on the resource I am working with. The very first record I have of him is the 1889 marriage record from Cabell County, West Virginia which states he was born in Greenup County, Kentucky. The 1900 Cabell County census states his birthplace as Ohio. In 1910, it is back to Kentucky as it also is in 1920 and 1930. I tend to believe he was born in Kentucky so it is there that I put my focus when I am searching for any earlier records.
It just makes sense that I should be able to find him in the 1870 and 1880 census. But...I can't. I've done it all - name and spelling variations, creative searches, browsing each census page in suspected locations, and still... nothing. So when I stumbled across the fact that a Civil War pension had been filed on behalf of the minor children of a man named William Wayson who had died during that war, I crossed my fingers and, as I wrote the check for the $25.00 package of pension papers, hoped that just maybe my William would be mentioned as one of those poor fatherless children.
It wasn't a total leap of faith. The possibility was there - the man had enlisted in Ohio, that is just across the river from Kentucky, after all! The dates worked. The man had died of measles in a hospital just a month after his February 1864 enlistment. It would explain why I couldn't find my William in the censuses. I happily theorized that his mother had remarried and the children were going by a new surname. It was enough to give me hope and allow me to go against my nature.
But, alas, there was no big win for this non-gambler. The file came in the mail. There was no prize caravan. There were no balloons or confetti. There were only five pages of a pension file on a CD. The first two of which had no more information than the man's name. The third was a note apologizing for the print quality of the other pages. That left only two pages of the actual pension, for which by the way, I refuse to do the math to determine how much each of those pages cost me! My William was not a child of that William Wayson. His children were named Sarah Catherine, Mary Jane, and James A.
I guess my experience, while sad, was not a total loss. There were two lessons learned here. The first - I do know now who is NOT the father of my William! The second - I am not your average gambler. Mere money winnings do not motivate me! I am a specialized breed - the Genealogical Gambler. I play only for ancestors!
Now, will I ever gamble again in the hopes of breaking down a years old brick wall? Ummm, if you are a gambler, you should bet that I probably will! As my husband says, "Somebody has to win!" and maybe next time, it will be me!
PS Just in case you are looking for any of those Wayson's I gambled on, save your money, here are the two very expensive pages of that file! Enjoy them! I hope they can help someone!