A Genealogist’s Dream Haul

As genealogist we wait for the day that we hit the jackpot. Hitting the jackpot means we get a load of information and resources, like photos, obits, heirlooms, etc., on a family line. Well that day happen to me once. Back in 1999, Mom, brother Bryan and I visited Charles Town, Jefferson County, West Virginia. Mom had communicated with a James Goens back in 1976, and in a letter he said his grandfather was Joseph Goens and was buried in Berryville. So our trip was to meet James Goens. We had met a few people before on a couple of other visits but still trying to make connections to my 3rd great grandparents; Lawson Goens/Goins/Goings and Sarah (Hart) Goens/Goins/Goings. We hoped James would be the key. Well let me walk you through this special day providing a short version to a long day.

We went to the house of Essie Goens in Bolivar (next to Harper’s Ferry), who I believed was related. She was elderly and welcomed us in her home. Mom and I explained who we were and why we were there. We were sitting on Essie’s sofa showing pictures and chatting. Essie made some comments and was excited about seeing the pictures, but she never gave us a name. The pictures were familiar, she knew them by her reaction, but didn’t say their names. Kind of odd, right? We asked about James and that we wanted to meet him and needed directions to his house. She said she would show us where he lived. It began raining, she got in the car, did not put on a jacket, just got in the car with us, Mom got in the back seat, and I was driving with Essie as the passenger. I am so excited we are going to meet James who wrote the letter about Joseph being his grandfather. Joseph is one of Lawson’s sons, which means he is the brother of my 2nd great grandmother Mary Catherine (Goens) Marsh. We were chatting in the car, it’s still raining and then I felt something wasn’t right, Essie’s wasn’t making any sense with the directions, and we didn’t find James’s house. I told Mom, something ain’t right, I am taking her back. So I turned around and took Ms. Essie home, with no disagreement from Essie. I left my contact information. Whew, something just wasn’t right. First I worried that I put someone in my car that I really didn’t know, but knew she was a relative and got a bit worried. That was enough for that trip I knew I had to do a better job of planning my research trips. I should have never been riding around with strangers. LOL! Essie on the right. Mom and Essie GoensHere is some information on Ms. Essie’s-http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=107094776

Next visit to Jefferson County, still trying to locate some relatives, my brother pulled into a gas station and asked a couple of guys if any of them knew any Goens. One gentleman said, I think my wife knows them or is related. So he took us to their house, (here we go again, as a genealogist, we can’t resist any leads) and met Virginia. Whew, she seemed “normal” to me and we could talk and I heard responses that made sense. She said she was related to the Goens, her great grandparents were Goens (William & Harriet (Washington) Goens, one of Lawson’s grandson’s). She provided a wealth of information and I took plenty of notes. Also, Virginia took us by the old homesteads of her great grandparents, and St. Paul’s church and a couple of cemeteries in Kearneysville. Mom and Karen St. Paul cemetery KearneysvilleShe also showed us where James Goens lived. Finally, we get to locate James. I am getting excited. We shared about Ms. Essie taking us to see James, etc. She said, “James died in 1985, 15 years ago” she said, and I said, oh damn, and she said Essie had Alzheimer’s. Ut oh! That was my “something ain’t right” feeling. Anyway, she told us we needed to meet another cousin Marie and her son Brian Ross. So off we go to their house and were in the driveway, all chatting and gathering information on the Goens. Marie and Brian, who is a distance relative as well are lovely folks, we were all excited to meet each other. Brian shared stories of Mr. Jim as he called him. Mr. Jim had went blind and Brian had to help take care of him before he died. James’s house was left to Brian’s older brother. Again, I am still taking notes like a mad woman. I didn’t have a smart phone to record, so had to rely on the notes. Then…

Brian said, I knew someone would come. Huh? someone would come? He went into the house and came back with a box, then went back in again, came with another box, (oh s#it, I said to myself), then another, what is all this? It was James Goen’s personal belongings. What? his personal belongings! I said really, okay, okay, and now visualize this: I hopped to the back of the car, not walked, hopped, and popped the trunk open. yes popped the trunk like I had just stole something. From there we began loading boxes, large charcoal typed photos that Brian said was on James’s wall, and a small record cabinet (which I have in my bedroom now). To sum this up, the boxes were full of items, military records, photos, bills, newspaper clippings, and there were numerous letters (15 to 20) between James Goens and his sister Leanne Goens Riley, who lived in Nebraska, documents, newspaper clippings, and a bible. Yes, a family bible with an 1856 advertisement flyer for the Shannondale Springs resort (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shannondale_Springs). At the time it was just an old flyer about a local venue and it was old, dated 1856.  shannondale springs flyerLater I learned that the Shannondale Springs resort is where Lawson Goins worked, it was noted in Lawson’s obit, which said he was a boatman and worked for Shannondale Springs for 30 years, Lawson died 12 July 1874. Also, listed in the bible were all of Lawson and Sarah’s children, their birthdates and later entries of their marriages.

Now that is making a genealogy haul!

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