Genealogy Fun - Travel Back in Time

Be Careful Where You Walk – “An Outlander” Themed Genealogy Blog Party

While walking down Broad Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, I stumbled and fell. The pain in my head and the drops of blood down my eye told me I had fallen and blacked out for just a moment. However, when I woke up, things were very different. The cars were gone. The cell phones had disappeared. Horses and their droppings replaced the smell of gasoline engine exhaust. 

What had happened?  

A newspaper revealed that the year as 1817 and I was in a small town where the most significant technological advancement of the day was the improvement of a road (or the Morris Turnpike) between Elizabeth and Morristown, New Jersey. I was missing my new Dodge Grand Caravan.  

Suddenly, I realized that I had the opportunity to settle a dispute that 200 years later is still being discussed. I quickly found directions to the home of Effingham Townley, whose 16-year-old son John was relaxing in the family home. As a female, I struggled to develop a cover story for why I wanted to have John introduce me to his father Effingham and his mother and siblings. I struck upon the idea to suggest I was a member of the British Townley in the old country wondering what happened to the family line after it moved to America during the days before the Revolution.  

Thankfully John was amicable to the discussion regarding family members, ages, and who had married whom. John revealed who his mother was which made my heart skip. I knew exactly which Effingham Townley to align with my John Townley. I wouldn’t drop any hints that John would be married within seven years to a woman from Stratford, Connecticut. I also wouldn’t suggest that he would settle in the Ohio Territory. However, I would ask about whether his Townley’s participated in the American Revolution because his grandfather might have been the age to have served or contributed to the cause. I would suggest to John to write more about his life (in hopes that when I returned to the future, those records would await my venture to this town.) 

After gaining these details and solving this mystery, I would thank John for his introduction to his extended family. I would then head back to town before I would have to eat oxtail soup or some other less desirable sounding meal. As I walked on Broad Street in Elizabeth, I once again fell. Thankfully I missed the fresh manure in the lane. But when I came to, I was once again in the modern day. I’m a suburban girl who loves modern conveniences in transportation and food, so I was happily back in the future. I call my husband to tell him that I might need to see a doctor because I keep falling and hitting my head. However, before I head to seek medical advice, I venture to the Litchfield Historical Society (in Connecticut) and discover a diary that belonged to Effingham Townley. It turns out that John didn’t heed my journal writing council, but his father had. In the journal, I had the documentary proof to support the time-traveling experiences people would scoff off without evidence.  

Once I adjusted the family tree online, I’d tell the Townley family that I knew I had the solid proof (beyond a burial record for John Townley identifying his birthplace and father’s name; and the will of an Effingham Townley mentioning a son named John) of who John’s father was. 

Genealogy Blog Party – Outlander Theme

Ha! Wasn’t that fun? I don’t like most creative writing assignments, but this month’s Genealogy Blog Party sponsored by Elizabeth O’Neal just struck me in the right way.

Genealogy Blog Party - Outlander

The goal was to travel back 200 years and visit a relative and then asked if you’d return. Heck yeah, I’d come back to the future! I love my hubby and my children too much to stay in the past.  What I also discovered is that I don’t have many options of where I could go 200 years ago from a similar place today.

I don’t know the names of 3 grandparents from 200 years ago. For ten ancestors, I vaguely remember their origins. Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Bavaria, and Hanover, are too large an area to be transported back in time to a specific reference point to locate my ancestors. There were only two options:

  1. Gillershiem, Germany and visiting my Mack, Tinnappel, and Rottger and Henke lines (if they are accurate).
  2. Elizabeth, Essex, New Jersey. Since the answer to who is John Townley’s Effingham is one that many Townley relatives would want to be resolved. (I’m all about benefiting my extended family in my research. )

Thanks, Elizabeth for this fun thought exercise. If you could ‘fall through’ a time-wrap that transported you back in time 200 years, who would it be? For more blog party details, visit this website.

If you could travel through time to visit an ancestor, where would you go? #genealogy #geneafun
Share this post to Pinterest.

Devon Noel Lee is passionate about capturing and preserving family stories so no one alive today has to be researched, or forgotten, tomorrow. She has authored 6 how-to books, a memoir, two published family history biographies, and over 60 family scrapbooks. She's an enthusiastic speaker who energizes, encourages, and educates at the same time.


  • Devon Noel Lee

    Liz… awww. So fun to make a connection to someone from Elizabeth, NJ. Glad the photo brought back memories for you. Too bad you did some tripping and didn't time travel. Wouldn't that be lovely?

    I haven't encountered John Dixon yet as I'm still trying to figure out the Townleys link to Elizabeth. Then I can start exploring the FAN Club!

    Feel free to link back to this post. I'm honored.

  • Devon Noel Lee

    Thanks Linda. Yes, I'd love to have the end have a reveal, but sadly, I need the story to be fact rather than fiction. And, I keep hoping for the elusive document to appear. I did discover a City Directory that validates Elizabeth, New Jersey as my ancestor's origin. I didn't know City Directories (especially those in the 1820s) might include place of origin. Pretty amazing!!!

    Thanks for noticing the stumbling medium of transportation. I didn't want a touch stone or time machine. I recently read a book where a woman transported through time in her dreams, and those dreams lead her to supporting evidence. That had me considering a fall rather than a dream.

  • Linda Stufflebean

    I loved your story and was hoping that the end would reveal the (magically?) discovered proof of lineage. We can always hope that elusive document will appear, can't we? I especially like how your stumbling accident became the means to transport you both ways.

Share your thoughts on this post

%d bloggers like this: