A Genealogist’s Most Powerful Tools: Luck and Karma

A Genealogist’s Most Powerful Tools: Luck and Karma

by Sally Sheridan

I have had many exciting breakthroughs in genealogy, and atruly bizarre one.

I have known for a long time that my 5th great grandmother, Barbara Culp, was scalped by Indians in the tiny settlement of Fishing Creek, South Carolina in 1761. She survived to have the child she was pregnant with and two more children, including my 4th great grandmother.

My husband and I have now been married for 40 years. He was raised in Illinois and Wisconsin. I grew up in Arizona. We met when we were both in our late twenties. He came to my home town of Yuma as a stranger who happened to land a teaching job here when he finished graduate school in another city. He had been here a year and a half before I moved back to this town. We met in 1972 on a blind date and he asked me to marry him two weeks later. We married in 1973.

When my father-in-law died in northern Wisconsin in June 2009, the question came up about my husband’s family’s genealogy materials. My 90 year-old father-in-law, Ed, had collected a great deal of his family’s information but my husband’s sister wasn’t interested in it. So, even though I wasdrowning in my own family history, I had said to her, “I’ll take it.” (The true test of a natural born genealogist.)

Two weeks after my father-in-law died, his 80 year-old cousin, Jim, whom I had never met, called me and was very excited that someone in Ed’s family was interested in Ed’s genealogical materials. Jim had talked recently to my sister-in-law, and she made it clear that she was clearing out Ed’s house and sending Ed’s stuff to me, the daughter-in-law. Jim was ecstatic that I was interested in keeping all of the stuff. So Jim and I now became bosom buddies.


Now get this picture:

Here I was, trying to write a book about my own Culp and related ancestors who owned slaves.

I had found 48 slave names and I was working with a university project (LowCountry Africana) to get that information online. Ten of those enslaved people were the children of my 3rd Great Grandfather, Peter Culp. They are my cousins and I am still trying to find their descendants.

Then my father-in-law died and I got all of this totally different family’s stuff. I didn’t need this. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want to “do” my husband’s family. “I don’t have time for this!” I wanted to say. But this Cousin Jim told me in his first phone call that he was coming up on the first anniversary of the death of his dear wife of 57 years. It was just a matter of a few days away. And he was so happy to talk to me for two and a half hours about Ed’s mother’s Thomas family and I didn’t have the heart to cut him off.

He had tons of materials that he was itching to send me immediately and what am I going to say? (Shall I say, “I’m really busy with my own family right now, Jim.”?) He was genuinely elated as he talked of getting this package together to send to me.

So instead I said something like, “I’d be thrilled to have that hundred pound package of new genealogical materials.”

This is when the Universe decided to teach me a lesson in Karma. You can’t avoid it if you are sending out the signals to bring things to you.


This is THE REST OF THE STORY. This is where it gets strange.

You must trust me on this. My husband and I were raised thousands of miles apart, met on a blind date and he asked me to marry him two weeks later. We had just celebrated 36 years of marriage in 2009, when I received this package of new materials on my father-in-law’s mother’s Thomas line.

I still cannot report this without getting chills. What I found in the Thomas family records:

• In 1761, the man responsible for protecting the settlers, the Commander of the British Militia at the tiny settlement of Fishing Creek, South Carolina at the time my 5th great grandmother was attacked and scalped, was my husband’s 5th great grandfather, Colonel John Thomas.

Two hundred fifty-two years ago, my husband’s ancestor failed to protect my ancestor from being scalped.

My husband has always said he “recognized” me as soon as he met me and that’s why he asked me to marry him so soon after we met. He was looking for me and he knew I was the one he was looking for. He has always said that, and now we know why. KARMA. He has spent this lifetime making me feel safe and cherished.

The second part of  THE REST OF THE STORY.

• When I looked at Colonel John Thomas’ will, I found the names of eleven more enslaved persons in South Carolina: men, women and children, who I can document on Low Country Africana.

So, my husband’s family documents, that I didn’t want and considered to be a distraction from my own work, turned out to be impossibly interwoven with my own family history and to my work finding and saving slave names.

Adapted from a blog originally posted on Genealogywise.com,October 19, 2009


Elizabeth Catherine Culp Woodard, 2nd Great Granddaughter of Barbara Culp.

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