Here is Valerie’s success story!
From Frustrated to Pacified! Finally Another Link!
My searches were exhausted to the point I put everything away, and didn’t want to look at it again for a very long time. Any genealogy researcher who has hit that brick wall in their tree line knows what I’m talking about.
My father, John Sweet, is elderly and had begun to question his living arrangements as a child. It seemed his mother, Iola Benefield Sweet (b. 1911, Illinois – d. 1965, Arkansas) gave him away to relatives when he was just a baby, to raise, and yet, Iola and his father John Richard lived nearby. It hurt him deeply. John would never consider sending one of his children away, and he needed to know he was loved despite their decision. As my father John faced his final years, he really wanted a few answers, but answers were hard to find. John’s mother and father passed away before he summoned the courage to ask them. In fact, most of our relatives had passed away except a few cousins who knew little to nothing.
So, I began my lineage search to find distant relatives and descendents who may have an answer. I wanted to find out why John’s mother gave him away, and why her mother gave her away. I also wanted to find the burial location of his maternal grandmother (Ida May Cohoon, b. 1888, Illinois) and grandfather (Samuel David Benefield, b. 1885, Illinois), who, according to what John and his mother were told, had supposedly died in a black powder factory explosion when Iola was very young.
I started with everything my father could tell me about the family, hoping to find an older living member who could fill in the gaps. I joined every online genealogy group I could find. I sifted and sifted through all the censuses, contacted every distant cousin I could find in the forums, and exhausted every family member’s name in Internet searches.
The amount of information was staggering. I found my father’s 90-year-old aunt Ruth through newspaper articles announcing her 75th wedding anniversary and her husband’s death soon after. I waited for what I hoped was an appropriate amount of time to respect her grief, then sent Ruth a letter. Her son (my cousin), Jack, responded. I was dancing on air. Through Aunt Ruth, Jack was able to give me quite a few of the answers my dad was seeking about why he ended up living with other relatives when it seemed his parents could have cared for him. The answers gave my father a little peace of mind.
But it was too late for peace of mind for me. I was hooked. I wanted it all. I’m sure all the family tree searchers can relate to that feeling. I couldn’t be pacified. Like many, I had found some captivating mysteries in my family tree and I wanted to solve them. I’d search and search, then get frustrated and put it all away for a while. I’d get it out and search some more, then put it away yet again. I traced dozens of branches of our family tree, in all directions, for a number of years. Then I hit those nasty brick walls that we all hit sooner or later. I could not find the black powder factory explosion that killed my grandmother and grandfather. I was sure the information might lead me to some of Ida May Cohoon’s living relatives, which might help complete my tree. I had the wonderful assistance of a lady who writes a column for the Illinois newspaper, who gave me lots of Benefield information. Despite family stories, together, we found my grandmother and grandfather never died in any black powder factory explosion.
My continued search showed grandfather Samuel Benefield lived on for a number of years and remarried and had other children. But I was unable to find any current addresses of the descendents. I found that the family of my grandmother, Ida May Benefield, never knew she had baby Iola, whom was given away. My father’s family revealed that John’s mother, baby Iola Benefield, had been placed on a train when she was very, very young, and sent to live with relatives because her mother, Ida May, had disappeared and her father did not really want to raise her. It was also stated that Ida May Cohoon Benefield went a little crazy after the death of her first husband (last name Davis) who died in a fire, prior to her time with Samuel. So, there was no explosion and no deaths at a factory, even though Iola Benefield was told that her parents died in such a fashion. The mystery deepened. Sadly, Iola Benefield also died before ever knowing her father was alive and living nearby throughout her childhood.
This incited my search for my paternal grandmother, Ida May Benefield. I wanted to know where she died and how, and where she was buried. I wanted to know if she remarried, had more children, or maybe had a living relative who could tell me her side of the story about her daughter (my father’s mother). I wanted to know if maybe she suffered from mental illness after her young husband’s death, or maybe she just couldn’t cope with the death at such a young age â€¦ or maybe it was something more sinister like she died or disappeared mysteriously or maybe there was a domestic incident no one knew about. Or maybe, she just disappeared and no one really knows what happened. No one from Ida May’s side of the family even knew she had a baby with Samuel, and none of them know what happened to her. I hit my first brick wall. I bounced my head off that wall for a number of years, and never broke through.
I hit the second brick wall when I traced my Sweet line back to Moses Sweet (abt. 1773, Virginia). I found this was a brick wall that held up many researchers. I bounced my head off that wall for a few years, as well, with no luck.
When I saw a new genealogy group advertised, World Vital Records, I almost passed it by. Most of the sites just duplicate each other, and I was too frustrated to deal with that. But, I broke down and decided to give it a try. I joined World Vital Records, but only for one month. I was sure I had exhausted anything they had to offer and didn’t want to waste too much time or money on more duplication.
I logged on and entered my the information for my first brick wall, Ida May Benefield. As I scanned down the page of results, I saw something new – a listing of books! There were books on genealogy, history, soldiers, LDS records, etc. Some of the books were written by family lineage researchers like me. I clicked each book and Bingo! I found several genealogy and lineage books written by distant cousins of mine that named Ida May Benefield. In addition to this great find, the site allowed me to place each of these selections in “My Library” online, to hold, until I could make purchases or contact libraries or authors about the books.
I am so glad I decided to try World Vital Records. The book listing has become a new and vital source of information for me. I contacted each library, holding books I wanted that were out of print, and although they could not sell me the books, they were able to make copies of any pages where my family names were mentioned or tell me where I may be able to purchase the book. Needless to say, I have ordered about half a dozen books with several that mention Ida May Benefield. Maybe one will lead me to the “sweet” answers I seek.
The thrill is back. I pulled out all my genealogy papers and began searching again. I’m very excited about this new source of information and the ease of searching through it. But mostly, I am excited about the results. I found results. I found new avenues to chase. Peace of mind may be within reach. At the very least, I am pacified for a while, thanks to World Vital Records.