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The Peck Challenge

Genealogy is appealing to me because it is a challenge. I love the detective work of piecing together a person’s life from only the crumbs of information they’ve left behind.

There are cases where you immediately find everything to you need to paint a picture of a life including vital records, burial records, obituaries, and even published biographies. These are fun and fast-paced cases.

There are also cases where the very first search shows zero positive results. That’s when I sit back, take a breath, and know I’m in for a journey. The challenge can be caused by endless factors - difficult name spellings, name changes, multiple individuals with the same name, locations where no records were kept or all the records were destroyed, etc. But regardless of the cause, an antsy feeling starts to creep in when questions aren’t easily answered. And when one page of notes suddenly turns into ten pages of notes on searches and negative findings and potential pathways and dead ends - only to have nothing to show for it - that’s when any genealogist can get overwhelmed.

When facing a challenging case, I have to remind myself often to go back to the basics. As an example and an exercise, I’ll write about a challenging case I’m currently working on regarding my second great grandfather. Writing a case out in a draft or narrative style can prove to be incredibly helpful in combatting the overwhelmed and discouraging feelings we get when we don't find answers. I chose this particular case because I am optimistic that there will be an answer at the end of my journey and, though I can’t say that for many challenging cases, I hope this may be especially helpful to my fellow genealogists who are just starting out.

Annie Emiline Peck

My great grandmother was Annie Emiline Peck (pictured). Annie was born in Simsbury, Hartford County, Connecticut on 6 Mar 1885. She married Reuben Frank Smith and they had one child, Doris Vivian Smith. My mother remembers her very fondly but nothing was known about her parents - and so my investigation began.

Annie Emiline Peck’s birth record(1) named her parents as:

John A. Peck, age 36, born in West Redding, Fairfield County, CT

Alice E. Brown, age 31, born in Bloomfield, Hartford County, CT.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the town of their birth was listed, as usually only the state or country is provided. Alice E. Brown’s line from Bloomfield has been confirmed for me over the years by many autosomal DNA matches on Ancestry. And many years ago, my grandmother’s distant cousin did a great deal of research on this side of the family tree and in his records I found his conclusion that John A. Peck was the son of Arza Canfield Peck of Brookfield, Fairfield County, Connecticut. This Peck line is well documented and resided in the Fairfield County area of Connecticut from as far back as the year 1700.

However, while gathering and analyzing documents, I discovered a discrepancy in this conclusion. The 1900, 1910, and 1920(2) census records disprove the possibility that John was of the Fairfield County Peck line as he states multiple times that his father was born in Vermont and his mother was born in Massachusetts. The Peck family of Fairfield County