serendipity

Prepared by Elisabeth Lindsay.

Serendipity is an unexpected but fortunate discovery, in particular when looking for something else entirely, and can be related to almost any pursuit. The word derives from Serendip or Serndib, a former name for Sri Lanka, coined by English writer Horace Walpole in 1754, after his reading of a "silly" fairy tale, Travels and Adventures of Three Princes of Serendip, whose heroes, he said, were always making unintended but fortuitous discoveries.

Genealogists are no strangers to serendipity. Unintended and fortuitous discoveries are often experienced by researchers in their quest for family information. Anything from walking directly to an ancestor's grave without guidance, having never been there before, to chatting with a neighbor in the library about your research, only to discover you are both working on the same line. Researchers often feel they are being guided by an unseen hand. Stories of serendipitous finds are both interesting and encouraging. See also, Genealogy Today's Serendipty collection of stories.

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