Sunday Afternoon Rocking

Ghost of a Chance

I have been visited by the "Ghost of a Chance" more than a few times. And perhaps someone reading this will have been visited by one by the end of that reading. For I have a 166 year old secret to disclose, and I want someone somewhere to meet the "Ghost of a Chance", who for you, has appeared.

The Ghost of a Chance, is exactly that, arriving unexpectedly, a tangible glimpse of the past, a tangible wisp of something not quite possible that simply, for whatever reason, IS.

It was the "Ghost of a Chance" that made possible a stone for my great uncle in a National Cemetery, more than 75 years after his death in World War I. Two illusive scraps of information I had to find in order to apply for that honor for a long dead patriot whose body never returned from the battlefield in France he died on. His identification number and his birthday. The first I finally found in his wallet, on a listing of personal possessions returned to the family. Finding the second I feared to be a "ghost of a chance". He was born before government birth records were kept, if there had ever been a family Bible no one knew of it, no one still lived who knew that birth date. And the "Ghost of a Chance" appeared. Going through a box of old papers belonging to my grandfather,a tiny torn scrap of paper fell to the floor. So tiny, so nondescript, I might not have even noticed it had fallen. But I did, and started to throw it away. Then looked again. And on it, in my grandfather's handwriting, was scribbled "Jud's birthday", underlined twice, and then the date. My grandfather had been dead for over thirty years. A mere box of scraps had been kept by my father, and passed to me on his death. I have no idea why my grandfather wrote his long dead brother's birthday on a tiny scrap of paper, or when. I have no idea if my father even realized he had gathered a tiny scrap of paper with that birthdate when he piled old papers into a box. I have even less idea how it managed to survive and wind up falling to the floor of a house hundreds of miles away precisely when I needed it. But I figured it was the "Ghost of a Chance" again.

Yes, I have been visited by the "Ghost of a Chance" many times in my searches, but the most magnificent and dramatic visitation of all was not for me at all, yet just as exciting. For someone, somewhere, that illusive dream we all hope for and dream of has happened. Those descendants do not know it yet, because I do not know who they are. But I am hanging on to the "Ghost of the Chance" for them, so she does not get away.

We all have the ancestor who seemingly was never born, never married, never held a job, never appeared on a census list, never died, was never buried. We have all dreamed that ancestor would suddenly and miraculously "appear", in some long forgotten family Bible, on some ancient crumbling bit of paper, somehow and some way make his or her long ago presence upon this earth tangible. All of us who have ever searched the past have not just one, but many such stumbling blocks. In our greatest dreams of all, we think how wonderful it would be to find an actual diary, an actual journal. Of course that is impossible (isn't it?), but perhaps somewhere, in an old trunk, a dusty attic. And we keep hanging in there, hoping the "Ghost of a Chance" will appear for us.

I hold the "Ghost of a Chance" tightly by the end of a wispy gown right now. I am hanging on because I know that "Ghost of a Chance" is important to someone somewhere. The "Ghost of a Chance" breezed into my life a few weeks ago. She was 166 years old. I wish she had been my ghost, but alas, she is mine only because for whatever reason she chose to come to me to make herself known.

Somewhere out there, someone has an ancestress named Sarah B. Jackson. She also called herself "Sally". She had a "Cousin Julia", an "Aunt Strong", and a brother James. Sarah attended Goshen Female Academy in Goshen, New York in 1835. Sarah wrote a journal that began in January of 1835, and ended during her days as a schoolteacher in Babylon, New York later in the summer. 166 years later, Sarah's journal resurfaced between the boards of a very ancient house in Kentucky. After its discovery, it was simply placed upon a shelf in a country home as a curiosity. By being in the right place, at the right time, by meeting the right person under the right circumstances, I was given the opportunity to transcribe that journal. It has been returned to its owner, but photos and the transcription are waiting for the descendent. There are no clues how that journal wound up in Kentucky, how it survived so many years hidden away. There are no clues what happened to Sarah, and only by following the clues of everyday life in her journal was I able to finally place where she had written it and substantiate that the events she spoke of actually happened. But for someone somewhere, there is a treasure. The treasure every single one of us who ever traced genealogy have dreamed of, longed for, and known, realistically, was only the "Ghost of a Chance" and not realistic. Or is it? Are you the descendent of Sarah B. Jackson? Your "Ghost of a Chance" has become reality.


Copyright ©2001janPhilpot



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Thanks, jan)