Climbing Family Trees: November 2005

Climbing Family Trees

More great stories, poems, and helpful hints about genealogy and searching for your family's roots from the twin authors of "Climbing Family Trees: Whispers In The Leaves"

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dear Ancestor - Author Unknown

Dear Ancestor
Author Unknown

Your tombstone stands among the rest;
neglected and alone
The name and date are chiseled out
on polished, marbled stone
It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn
You did not know that I exist
You died and I was born.
Yet each of us are cells of you
in flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
entirely not our own.
Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
one hundred years ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
who would have loved you so.
I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
and come to visit you.

The Computer Swalled Grandma - Author Unknown

Author Unknown
(Seen on

The computer swallowed grandma.
Yes, honestly its true.
She pressed 'control' and 'enter'
And disappeared from view.

It devoured her completely,
The thought just makes me squirm.
She must have caught a virus
Or been eaten by a worm.

I've searched through the recycle bin
And files of every kind;
I've even used the internet,
But nothing did I find.

In desperation, I asked Jeeves
My searches to refine.
The reply from him was negative,
Not a thing was found 'online'.

So, if inside your 'Inbox,'
My Grandma you should see,
Please 'Copy', 'Scan' and 'Paste' her
And send her back to me!

Charlemagne's Greatest Accomplishment by Michael Jensen

“Charlemagne’s Greatest Accomplishment”
Michael Jensen
There are so many stories connected with genealogy that have happened to me over many years. Perhaps a love story would best relate how the past and the present intertwine. When the Ancestral File T was first introduced I was a new volunteer at our local LDS Family History Center and went to the annual Utah Genealogical Society conference in Salt Lake City. That year's featured speaker was introducing the new five CD-ROM version of Ancestral File T. Ancestral File T was introduced as the "Descendancy of Charlemagne". Of course, the expert went on to explain that over ninety percent of the people in Europe, the United States and Canada descend through Charlemagne or his family that he put in power.
On the way home I stopped in a bookstore to see if I could find a good history of Charlemagne. I couldn’t find what I wanted, so I ordered one of 300 pages in French. The clerk convinced me that it would be months before the book came in and suggested another in English. When it arrived a few weeks later I was never so disappointed in my life. It was a glorified comic book of 36 pages and three paragraphs of text spread out with less than a sentence per page.
In the disappointment over the Charlemagne book I researched an old "Book In Print" book and found that Bullfinch, of the Bullfinch's mythology fame, had written a three volume set. The third volume was the History of Charlemagne, but it was out of print. I called my daughter in Salt Lake City and asked her to go down to the largest used book store and see if she could find this three hundred dollar set of books at a less expensive “used” price. My daughter, Amy Jo, said she needed a Chemistry Handbook for work and had to go there anyway, so she was happy to look for my book. She called me from the store and said that a clerk had found a newer printing of Bullfinches and it was only fifty dollars. Thrilled, I told her to buy it for me.

Two hours later she called back and said she had just got off the phone with the clerk of the store and had received not one date, but two! It seems that Bob, the clerk, noticed that she had purchased a Chemistry Handbook, a History of Charlemagne and a Science Fiction book, leaving her name and number for the store to call her when the books came in. Seeing they had a lot in common, he said he couldn't wait and wanted to call her right away to ask her if she would like to go see the movie “The Last of the Mohicans” with him. When she agreed he then added that in order to see the film in its "true" context they had to see the movie "1492" first. Two dates.
Of course, at Thanksgiving he came home to meet us and by Christmas they were engaged. In June they were married. All because we’re related to Charlemagne. Out of all of the great accomplishments that Charlemagne had, I would say this was one of his greatest!

Are you really you? - Author unknown

Are you really you?
Author unknown

My grandma says
I've Daddy's nose.
Before I came
He'd two I s'pose?
She always adds,
"And what is more,
You've Mother's eyes."
Did she have four?
I understand
About my hair,
For Daddy's head
Is kind of bare.
But what I'd like
To really know,
What puzzles me
And tries me so....
Is - Am I just some odds and ends,
Parts of my relatives
And friends?
Or do you think
That it can be
There's something left
That's really ME?

Personal Notice by Jean Childress

“Personal Notice”
Jean Childress
Upshur County, West Virginia

My husband's grandfather's sister, Julia Childress, was married to Henry Eagle. Henry was the assumed turncoat who betrayed the Union Troops at Centerville, (now Rock Cave) (W)VA early in the Civil War.

The pattern was for the Union troops (home guards) to practice their drills each Saturday morning on the parade grounds at the Fort at Centerville, while the wives and children did their weekly shopping. The men would stack their rifles on the edge of the field while doing their drills. On this particular Saturday morning in 1862, Henry, his brother and father were missing from drill practice. The Confederate troops captured the Union troops without a shot being fired and marched them down the Beveraly Pike to prison. Many of they died in Andersonville.

Later, Henry joined the Confederate Army and was subsequently captured and taken to prison at Camp Chase, OH. I have copies of the letters he wrote to Julia in 1864 from prison, which give no sign but that he expected to be released from prison and hoped to return home to take his wife and children west to escape further danger or involvement in the War.

Just a few days after the letters were written, Julia is said to have heard a noise at her door. She went to the door to answer the knock and "saw" Henry laying dead on the door step. A few days later she received word that it was the exact time that Henry actually died in prison.

It Was Only A Flesh Wound by W. Wayne Mikell

“It Was Only A Flesh Wound!”
W. Wayne Mikell
Charlotte, Harbor, FL

In my family, the fable was told that four of eight brothers (my great uncles), Allen, Seaborn, William and Mikell, fought for the Confederate Army at the Battle of Olustee, Florida. While advancing against the Union troops and climbing a fence, Allen fell back. One of his brothers grimly said, "Looks like they got Allen," whereupon Allen jumped up and said "Like Hell they did!” The fable continues that the brothers reported that Allen had been hit between the eyes with a rifle ball which only pierced his skin, following up and over his head under the scalp and exiting at the back of his head. They said he went on to gloriously finish the battle.

When I got into family genealogy, I found out that the four brothers had, indeed, been in the Battle of Olustee, and that Allen had, in fact, sustained a head wound. Allen was sent to the hospital, where he recovered from his wound. He didn’t continue to fight gloriously, but it was glorious that he wasn’t’ killed in battle! He returned home, fathered seven children, who in turn blessed him with 16 grandchildren. He died in 1892.

I have come to believe that a lot of the old stories which are passed down through the years have at least some factual basis.

Foiling Old Fables by Catherine Foote Lynn

“Foiling Old Fables”
Catherine Foote Lynn
Copyright 2001-2005

I was on a genealogy mission. I had traveled to North Central Iowa in search of evidence that my grandmother, who was adopted, had been taken as their own by another member of her actual birth family. I suspected that she was the birth child of her adoptive father’s sister and I wanted to find out all that I could about the Bickford family. My destination was the small and lovely village of Rockford, Iowa.

I had called ahead to the library in Rockford to find out if they kept any genealogy records, and I mentioned to the lady who was just filling in that day to help that I was interested in Bickfords. When I arrived about two weeks later, I was surprised that the whole library was only slightly larger than my kitchen! The regular librarian literally met me at the door. Her name was Rita, and she enthusiastically asked, "Are you from the Chauncy Bickford line?" When I said yes she nearly jumped for joy. She explained, “Seems the town lost all track of any of the Bickfords after 1951.” That was when my great-great aunt Mary Sido (pronounced Seedo) Bickford had died.

Rita had several things ready for me, including the obituaries for my great-great grandparents, Chauncy and Electa Bickford. I was really excited about that, but she kept asking what I knew about Mary and Sim, especially Mary. She was being a bit strange and after I had finished hand- copying the obituaries (because there was no copy machine, and I didn't want to seem too "big city" by bringing in my portable scanner and laptop), I finally just flat out asked what was the big deal about Mary (Sido) Bickford. Here's the story:

Rita was about my age, mid 50's, and she said she actually met Mary Bickford when she was a child, shortly before Mary died at age 76, in 1951. She said her mother took her along to Mary's house since she was making sure Mary had food and medicine. Even as a small, girl Rita seemed to know that her mother was the only one in town who cared what happened to Mary. I told her that last year I had found a living Sido relative, an elderly woman who is a niece of Mary's and who also lived in Iowa. I had called her, asking if she had any information on the Bickfords. She refused to talk about them. Rita said, "Oh no, of course she wouldn't. The Sidos virtually disowned Mary!" Remember that Mary was the wife of a Bickford great-uncle and not really an object of intense interest to me - until then.

So, I pushed further, which was not difficult since Rita was anxious to talk about it. I knew that Mary and Sim had two sons who both died in infancy and were buried in a single grave next to their parents. Rita told me that when the first baby died everyone said, "Poor Mary." But when the second baby died, "the same way", the town was suspicious. Rumor was that both babies literally “starved to death." She said she often heard people refer to Mary as "strange" and "crazy." Her mother told her that Mary wasn't crazy, just very sad and very bitter. I remembered having something about the boys in my files and looked to see if I had it with me - I did. Floyd County Death Index (which I had copied, also by hand, last year when I was at the courthouse) stated: Bickford, Melvin C., son of Sim and Mary, died age 23 days, cause of death "Marasmus" and; Bickford, Roy Arthur, son of Sim and Mary, died age 20 days, cause of death "Marasmus."

Now, I hadn't given this much attention and had no idea what Marasmus was. So Rita grabbed a medical dictionary and looked for it. Not listed. Then she went to another stack, pulled out an old tome, dusted it off, and looked again for Marasmus. This was a medical dictionary from the turn of the century (the 20th.) Sure enough, there it was, describing an unexplained malnutrition and wasting away of infants, predominately males, resulting in death between the age of three to seven weeks. Bingo! I had bells and whistles going off in my head. I told Rita to get the "newer" medical dictionary again and look up Pyloric Stenosis. She found it easily: a birth defect involving a partial to complete blockage at the pyloric valve of the upper intestine, which affects mostly male infants causing malnutrition, and if not correctly diagnosed, and surgically treated, death usually ensues before 8 weeks postpartum.

Since Rita and I were alone I stood, lifted my shirt, and pointed to the scar that runs down my middle from breast bone to naval. "That" I said, "is one of the first successful surgeries performed on an infant with Pyloric Stenosis. And that operation occurred in February, 1946, in Kenosha, WI. I was five weeks old and within days of death from malnutrition and “starvation.” I then told Rita of at least one other documented case of Pyloric Stenosis in my family. I had witnessed my sister Mary’s son wasting away until the right diagnosis was made and the needed surgery saved his life. It’s an interesting irony that his mother’s name was Mary! Rita was stunned. "Oh my heavens!" she said, "She didn't kill them after all!"

That night I couldn't get Mary Sido Bickford off my mind. I remembered a vague reference to her and Uncle Sim in a letter that my father had written to his mother, Lutie. My father was apologizing for being remiss in writing to his great aunt and uncle. I recalled that in my father's postcard album there were literally dozens of cards from Aunt Mary to her sweet little nephew and "Lover Boy," all of them expressing the sentiments of a woman who apparently adored this child, my father. I remembered that my grandmother, Lutie, though adopted, was listed on the 1910 census as the one living child of Anna Bickford. She also listed four children born to her, but not living. I dug through my files and saw a pattern: Sim and Mary Bickford, two infant boys died in Rockford, IA; Charles Arthur and Lillie Bickford, infant boy died in Rockford, IA and then they left town. Luther and Anna Bickford had at least three infants who died near Rockford, IA, and then they left town. I began to remember how my mother would avoid talking about "the Bickfords."

Just a year ago I asked my oldest sister why she didn't remember Uncle Sim. She said “The adults would shoo us away when they talked about them.” And then my own grandmother Lutie, who deeply loved her adoptive parents, was also very secretive about the Bickfords. I had read a letter that my mother wrote to my grandmother Lutie while I was in the hospital, recovering from my Pyloric Stenosis surgery. She wrote how I was too small and frail for anesthesia so the doctor gave me whisky. This has always delighted my children who couldn't wait to tell their friends that their mother was drinking hard liquor when she was only a month old! (No wonder their parents looked strangely at me!) This night I tried to picture grandma Lutie reading that letter from my mother. Was she too, finally making the connection? She never said a word to me, or anyone else that I know of but I always felt that there was something- something about me that she found uncomfortable. Was it that I lived? Was it just my imagination? It was a long and melancholy night.

The next day I was planning to spend in Marble Rock, IA doing research on another family line for a break. When I was putting on my sweater to leave the hotel that morning I noticed that the beautiful American Flag pin that had been on it was missing. I couldn't find it anywhere. I knew that I had worn it the day before, so I decided to stop by the two places in Rockford where I had been, a darling little combination restaurant and gift shop, and the library. I went to the restaurant first. No luck, but I left my card anyway in case the pin turned up. The lady, who had treated me like just another tourist the day prior, looked at my card and said, "Oh, you're the Wisconsin Bickford!" I chuckled and said I was a Bickford descendant. You could have heard a pin (but not my flag pin) drop in the middle of the restaurant. I walked across the street to the library and Rita was there, nearly ready to hug me! She was so happy. She said the whole town was happy. The fabled Mary Sido Bickford, "Poor Mary", was not a murderess!

Imagine, over a hundred years had passed since those babies died and the community was still mourning. But I wasn't. Not only had their mystery probably been solved but a big clue had been added to mine. If, in fact, those infants died from Pyloric Stenosis, and they were Bickfords genetically, and this genetic trait is in my DNA, then I was closer than ever to showing that Lutie had to have been a genetic Bickford.

On my way out of town, I pulled off the road and gathered up a huge armful of bright yellow, wild, Black-eyed Susan and Queen Ann's Lace. At the cemetery I waved to the elderly couple who were mowing the lawn on twin riding mowers. I knew them from my visit last year. He tipped his hat to me and she blew me a kiss, and they kept on mowing. I respectfully walked passed the graves of my great-great grandparents, Chauncy and Electa Bickford. I smiled and gave a little wink toward the tombstone of the "Merry Margaretta," as I think of her. I briefly wondered again at the many, worn and unreadable stones. Some were so very small in the Bickford plot and now I thought I knew why. I didn't stop until I came to the end of the row. I knelt down and put flowers on the freshly cut grass just beneath her name etched in stone, and said, "God Bless and finally, Rest in Peace, Mary Sido Bickford."

Betting On Grandpa by Betty Lovell

“Betting on Grandpa”
Betty Lovell
My great grandfather was a gambler. One morning he got up and threw all his cards in the fire. His mom said “What’s the matter with you, Cracker?” That was his nickname. They lived in south Georgia and he had to walk through the swamps at night to go play cards. He said “I quit gambling. Last night when I played cards I won all the money from a widow woman's son. As I was walking back home through the swamps I saw the devil. Something ran around him in a circle and looked like a ring of fire.” He gave the money back and never played cards again.

Gentle Folk - Author Unknown

“Gentle Folk”
Author Unknown

It's nice to come from gentle folk
Who wouldn't stoop to brawl.
Who never took a lusty poke
At anyone at all!

Who never raised a raucous shout
At any country inn,
Or calmed an ugly fellow lout
With a belaying pin!

Who never shot a revenuer
Hunting for a still,
Who never rustled cattle
and agreed with Uncle's will!

Who lived life as they ought
without uncouth distraction,
And shunned like leprosy a thought
of taking legal action!

Its nice to come from gentle folk
Who've never known disgrace,
But oh, though scandal is no joke
It’s far easier to trace!

(A revenuer was a person working for the government who was responsible for halting the unlawful distilling or bootlegging of alcohol.)

Top 10 Indicators You're Spending Too Much Time Doing Genealogy

10. Your favorite film of all time is the 1850 census index.
9. You hyperventilate at the sight of an old cemetery.
8. When all of your correspondence begins “You don’t know me, but I think we might be
7. You have more photographs of dead people than living ones.
6. You ask your relatives to bring DNA samples to your family reunion.
5. You’ve traced every one of your ancestral lines back to Adam and Even and still don’t
want to quit.
4. You marry the County Clerk so you’ll have access to more records around the clock.
3. You asked Santa to bring your very own microfilm reader for Christmas.
2. You get locked in a library overnight and you never even notice.
1. You’re pretty sure your ancestor has been spotted in several places with Elvis!

All Things To Nothingness Descend - Author Unknown

Master Wace - from his Chronicles of the Norman DukesFound on the Chart of Harold F Umstott (1907-1922)

All things to nothingness descend,
Grow old and die and meet their end,
Man dies, iron rusts, wood goes decayed,
Flowers fall, walls crumble, roses fade …
Nor long shall any name resound
Beyond the grave, unless 't be found
In some clerk's book, it is the pen
Gives immortality to men.

My Grandmother My Twin by Diane Rooney

“ My Grandmother My Twin”
Diane Rooney
San Francisco, CA
My great-grandmother, Anna Bernota, died in Gilberton, Pennsylvania in June 1949. My grandparents, uncle, and my mom (who was four months pregnant with me at the time) went from New Jersey up to Gilberton for the funeral, which lasted several days in those times. My mother felt ill much of the time, and remembers the funeral as the first time she felt me moving around.

I was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on October 30, 1949. My maternal grandfather William, Anna's youngest son, was the first person to see me when I was brought out. His first words were, "Oh my! It's Mom," referring to his mother who had died in June. Throughout my life, family members and older people who remember my great-grandmother have remarked on the eerie resemblance.

Great Grandma Bernota has always helped me with my Lithuanian genealogy. My mother was her only granddaughter and, in a way, replaced her only daughter, who died at the age of 12 in the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918.

Letters Link This Family by Kelly J. Watkins

“Letters Link this Family”

Kelly J. Watkins

In 1870, my great great grandfather, Conrad, came to America from Germany. He was 18 years old and alone. Letters provided the only contact he had with his family. He wrote to the them faithfully. As the years went by, Conrad encouraged his children to keep contact with their family in Germany. Eventually, letters were no longer from brother to brother, but rather, from cousin to cousin and then to ever-more-distant cousin.

Correspondence became more challenging during the wars. When World War II came to an end, my grandmother in the U.S. sent care packages to our relatives in Germany. One of our cousins was dying of a stomach ailment. The only thing that gave him relief from pain was cocoa. As you can imagine, in post-war Germany, everything was rationed. There was no cocoa to be found. My grandmother wanted to help, but she knew she couldn’t just mail off a tin of chocolate and expect it to arrive. It would be confiscated long before it ever reached our family.

My grandmother was a smart woman. She finally hatched a plan to remove the lining from a coat, hide the cocoa there, and re-sew the lining. She included the coat with other items and mailed the package. Later, we discovered that the precious cocoa she sent cocoa provided the only relief from pain my cousin had until he died.

Even as a young child, I knew the importance of a letter from Germany. I still remember the excitement that filled the air when we received a thin, fragile envelope with red and blue slash marks on the edges and the word “Luftpost” stamped on the front. My mother would stop whatever she was doing and read the letter.

In 1970, my mother and I went to Germany. It was the first time the two branches of the family had been together since Conrad came to America 100 years before. When Mom and I arrived in the tiny Bavarian village of Weickenbach, we were greeted by our cousin Adolf and his wife Hannelore. Herzliche Wilkommen! Welcome!

Our ancestral home was built in the late 1600’s and has been in our family ever since. Over time, it has been expanded and renovated. I was delighted to discover it had indoor plumbing!
The staircase in the foyer stood as a testament to time. Each wooden step had an indentation in the middle. You could almost see the tiny feet of children running up the stairs and the weary feet of their parents following behind. Three centuries of feet – fast, slow, happy, sad, healthy, ill – had all made an impact on the wooden steps and the lives of those who lived in the house.

At the top of those stairs, on the left, is a bedroom. But, it’s not just any bedroom. My great, great grandfather, Conrad, was born in this room, and, his father before him, and his father before him! Yes, I have slept in the room where my fourth great grandfather was born!

Charcoal renderings of these ancestors hung on the wall. You could almost feel their spirits, as they smiled down on us from heaven. Back in the house’s main room, Adolf showed us a small box. He opened it with care. Inside was every letter my mother and grandmother had ever written to him. He begged us to never stop writing.

When I returned for my fourth visit in 1987, I was older and wiser, and I understood more. You see, a road ran beside the village of Weickenbach, and on the other side of the road was . . . the East German fence. The communist border came right to the edge of the town.

After World War II, all the neighbors on the other side of the road ended up in the East. They were removed from their homes and sent far into the interior of the country. The Communists were afraid the neighbors in the West would be tempted to help them escape. My family never saw their friends again.

I stood on the side of the road. In front of me was a fence, then, a field. It was called “no man’s land.” Since there were land minds buried in the field, no man wanted to walk on it. Beyond that were small houses for the dogs. Beyond that were towers. Inside a tower, one guard was watching me through binoculars. Another guard was watching me through the scope of a gun.

As I stood there, I realized how close my family had come to being on the other side of that fence, field, land mines, dogs, guards, and guns. If so, they would’ve been moved away, and I would have never seen them again. Instead, I’m able to stay connected with my family and my heritage and sleep in my ancestral home that’s over 300 years old – all because of where somebody drew a little bitty line on a map.

Since that initial trip in 1970, our cousins have visited us in America four times. They attended my wedding and my sister’s. I’ve also managed to return to Germany for several visits. The last trip was for my cousin Peter’s wedding. During that trip, I noticed that my elder cousins were beginning to age. At some point, it will be up to me and the next generation of my German cousins to keep up the traditions. We must maintain the family ties and continue to write. Who knows? Maybe next time, they will be sending me clothing, or food, or money.

What a huge responsibility we have. Yet, what a phenomenal opportunity it is also. It is such a comfort to know they will always be there for me, and I will always be there for them. After all, we are family.

A Bridge Across Time by Darlene Stevens

“A Bridge Across Time”
Darlene Stevens
Spokane, Washington
(Written about her great great grandmother, Ellen Ring)

She calls to me from long ago;through sunlit skies; through drifts of snow.In clouds that dance upon the sea, I call to her, and she to me.So real was she. She laughed; she cried.She loved; she lost. She lived; she died.She hoped and dreamed; so real was she. She lived a life that I may be.The blood through which my veins does flowis the same as hers from long ago.So it will be that when I'm gone in an unborn child it will flow on.I'll live my life and when it’s doneI'll live again in those to come.For I'm a bridge from she to me; from those that were, to those to be.

The Adventure of a Lifetime by Gregory D. Preston

“The Adventure of a Lifetime”
Gregory D. Preston

Four months before I was born, my father died of Tuberculosis, a common plague in those times.
As soon as I grew out of my innocent childhood, I wanted and needed to know more about my family and where I came from. It was burning in me. My burning curiosity erupted into a volcanic session one weekend at my sister’s house. I started asking my mother questions and taking notes. Questions bubbled and boiled out of me as if I were a professional private investigator. Questions I’d asked all my life. Questions I had to have answered.

The questioning session with my mother went on for at least four hours and I wrote down every answer she gave me. She was so patient and I was so driven by my need to learn about my biological father and family. I wouldn’t allow anyone to leave until I got the answers I needed and so desperately wanted. Some of my questions were close to the heart, some very close to the bone, some impudent, some outrageously stupid, some right on target and some bordered on ending the whole discussion right then and there because of their emotional nature. I didn’t care.

For instance, I had a thousand questions about my dead and his relationship with my mother. I was asking these questions in front of my step-father. I didn’t know then what I know now, being a step-father myself. I’m certain some of the more personal questions had to emotionally smart a bit, for both my mother who was answering and my step-father listening to them.

At that time, my mother was the oldest known living member of the family. All of the grandparents were dead and gone and I knew nothing of my family or even the word genealogy. I just knew I had a desperate need to know and to record what was offered.

Once that emotionally draining session was complete, I sorted through the collected information and put each person on a different 3x5 index card. Each had an indication whether they were on my mother’s side of the family or my father’s. Each had birth / death information and any notes taken, based on what my mother had said.

At that time, there was no Internet. There were only archives, family recollections, index cards, libraries and court houses. I traveled to and spent time in most of them. For a young man full of spit and vinegar, this was appalling. I decried the census records being so protected in the state archives. I had to have an assistant with me to look at the originals. I decried how long everything took and I was totally frustrated with the whole process. There was always travel involved to the state capital or a court house. It seemed dark and mysterious. It seemed unmanageable and unfruitful. What I knew then as “the hunger” pushed me on. I could no more stop my quest, than stop breathing. One was the same as the other. Life itself rested on my quest.

Things got frustrating and busy, and my researched stopped at that time. I married, my own small children needed my attention, my job was challenging with many long hours, and I relocated from Illinois to California. For awhile, I put those index cards in a special shoebox labeled “FAMILY RECORDS - DO NOT TOUCH”. I warned my wife not to touch my special records.

As my family grew, so did the Internet. My chosen profession was Information Technology, so I was involved with the Internet before it was ever named the Internet. From time to time during the next 10 years, I would pull that dusty shoe box out of the closet and go through those index cards to complete a chart of the family relationships. Time and technology were both converging to enable my research to get underway without traveling or spending copious amounts of time inside state archives.

I have come to understand that which I called “the hunger”, was my ancestors driving me on. They inspire me and conspicuously guide my research. Again and again, just as I’m ready to give in and give up “for good this time” – a bright and right bit of information surfaces and leads me to more, which leads me to more. It always starts with some faint whisper, some very small bit, but once followed, leads me to genealogical nirvana!

In a research session lasting two solid weeks during vacation, I searched and read through 3000 books on-line for any sign at all of my family. Very late, on nearly the last night of my vacation, I was about to give in and give up when I was inexplicably drawn to a book I believed would never contain any information I sought. It was literally one of the last things I would do before going to bed.

Suddenly, I found a single paragraph, written long ago as part of another family’s biography, describing my great-great grandfather and his family! It was very brief but very intense. Right there, in that single moment, so many pondered questions were answered. So many dilemmas solved. I could sense my ancestors hand in making it happen. The very next day, I wrote to Colorado and a week or so later, was holding a copy of my great-great grandfather’s death certificate.

By listening closely to my ancestors and our Lord, whose land they now inhabit, I’ve made contact with several other family members I never knew existed. I’ve gathered together my living relatives, on a private, “by invitation only” web site called Gathering Us Together.

I’ve received pictures and documents on ancestors, long since gone from us. I’ve had the pleasure of their time and their company. I’m writing a book called Gathering Us Together, which is now 1,329 pages. When completed, it’ll be a behemoth volume, containing more wonderful information about MY family than I ever would have suspected I could have amassed when I first began my quest.

I wrote for and received my father’s WWII submariner records. I have his metals and his awards. I shared these records with my mother. There were things in those records that she didn’t know. It explained a lot for her because when he came home from the war, he was different, he was upset. Turns out, being a torpedo man in a submarine in WWII was no picnic. They were in many engagements. He saw many other subs lost at sea with the men on them. He narrowly missed being on a sub that was sunk, he was reassigned to another sub the day before it left for duty and action. On one of his last missions, his submarine was pursued by the enemy for several days and depth charge bombed again and again for days. It was intense and shook him up so badly that he had to leave the Navy. He never told my mother this. She only learned about it from me more than 50 years afterward! The Lord allowed my father to be a part of that discovery. He wanted and needed it to be revealed so we could better understand him.

My ancestors tell me there is more to be done, and I must continue doing whatever it takes to find more of the richness and fullness of our family. Over many years, I’ve researched our family history. I will continue researching the family history in order to pass on the vitality, strength and diversity of our family, and to learn who I am and where we’re from. Just being here today, writing this to you, means we have survived! Our ancestors’ blood flows and lives on in our veins. They must have been pretty tough, wise and smart in their own way to be able to survive and pass on children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren in order to carry on in this great nation of ours.

Their times and days are gone, but I love discovering the things they had to face, their lives, and the times they lived through, in order to preserve those things, so they are not forgotten completely. I believe my ancestors are very pleased that I am interested, that I care enough to want to document our history and pass it on, for my children and my children's children. They need to know where they came from and what they are made of.

Four generations from now, not one of those future people will suspect what joy there was in getting one of the first new washing machines, or moving into a new house that was earned by sweat and blood, nor the pain of a world war (I pray), nor the awe of seeing the first man land and walk about on the moon. They will not know what we learned from life, unless we record it and tell them. Show them from our history, that their world, with all its technology and wonder is really a parallel to our own times. Show them they are living on what we’ve been able to build and what our ancestors were able to build for us. Show them that the core family values and traits we share across the intervals of time, will be very similar. Life’s lessons are the same throughout time, only the names change.

I’ve combed every source I can find, up to this time, to try and discover as much as I can about the family. I’ve made every attempt to make certain information goes rightfully with each individual. Just for the record, I am no writer and no historian; I’ve just done the best I can and am proud at least to bear the title: “genealogist”. To future family researchers, I have seven words, “Take it now and build on it!” That’s exactly what I did to generate the information I’ve scraped together to document what our families did down through the ages. I continue to build on what we have. I tell my children, “If my book is wrong; make it right! Your children and the children of future generations will thank you for the work you do to make it a complete an accurate document”.

For people who want to share. Take a bit of time and describe your life and times. It would be so very special and valuable to any interested family member who, sometime in a future we cannot know, reads what we write to find out where they are from. Who will ever remember our lives and times 200 years from now or benefit from what we can impart to our family's future generations, if we never get around to recording it? Whatever you are able to do, do it for your ancestors and for the future, so that your words can carry on and so you will be remembered.

After I’m gone, and if it’s possible from beyond, I’ll be watching over them as much as I can, because they are Family. I will whisper to them in their sleep, be in their dreams and guide them to be whole family members we can be proud of when they joins us. I converse with my ancestors nearly every day. Sometimes they are proud of me, sometimes they have to slap me upside the head. I’ve seen coincidences that cannot be explained by mere chance as my research directions unfold and more is revealed.

My family watches through the veil of time and participates here as much as they want and the Lord allows. I have learned from them and the work of genealogy about friendship, gentle compassion, patience, diligence, tenacity, honor, respect and deep belief. Before I die, I’ll complete my work. It has truly been the adventure of a lifetime and I love it dearly.

Finding Irene - Author Unknown

“Finding Irene”
After my husband, Edward filled out his family group sheets he began wondering about his step sister, Irene. He hadn’t heard from her for years. Armed with Irene’s last known address, and fervent prayer, Edward began his search. He sent a letter, explaining who he was and asked her to contact him. He did not mention that he had joined the LDS Church. It was through the Mormon Church’s emphasis on families that he became interested in his lost family. Time went by without a response.

For the next year, he continually thought about Irene. One morning he announced, “Today, I’m going to find Irene.” “Oh, she finally contacted you,” I said. “No. I thought we’d drive to the last known address I have and go from there.” It was a pleasant drive through the back roads of central Illinois, but at the address, we found a vacant house. The screen door hung on one hinge and windows with torn shades stared back at us. I waited in the car while Edward knocked on the door. No answer. Edward approached the neighbors, who were working in the yard next door. “We just moved in,” they said.

Back at the car, Edward sat in silent prayer. Suddenly he ran to a house across the street. In answer to his knock, a woman and her husband came out on the porch. They pointed and talked. Finally, Edward came back to the car and followed their directions across town.
At this house, we found Irene’s son and his family. Irene was visiting her daughter in another town. “We just came by to feed the dogs,” the son said. Five minutes later, we would have missed them.

From her son we learned why Irene had not responded to Edward’s letters. Their father was of a different religion, as was the rest of Edward’s family. She thought Edward wouldn’t want anything to do with her since she joined the LDS Church! Because of their shared religion, which places so much emphasis on family and genealogy, they found their family again!

A Heritage of Kindness by Jerry Blaylock

”A Heritage of Kindness”
Jerry Blaylock
Houston, TX
In the 1880's a member of one of the Kansas Regiments that fought at Backbone Mountain returned to Fort Smith and inserted an item in the Fort Smith Elevator, a weekly paper published in Fort Smith at that time. In the article the [Union] soldier stated his desire to get in touch with a woman and two little girls who, so benevolently, brought him water and attempted to relieve his agony when he lay wounded on the battlefield at Backbone Mountain. There was no response to the old soldier's plea.

Several years later the story was retold by Phebe Park in the "Old Folks and Facts" column of the Fort Smith Times Record. To the surprise of all, Darthula C. Gilliam (who later married Francis Marion Blaylock-my great grandfather) and Mary Heathcock, both more than 80 years old at that time, answered the column and said that they were the two little girls who carried water to the soldier. It was learned that Mrs. Susan McClure was the woman at the well who drew the water. But this time no trace could be found of the Kansas soldier. Evidently the Yankee soldier had already gone to his reward without knowing the identities of the two little southern girls who befriended him when he needed help so desperately those many years ago. Genealogy reveals the family name, but family history reveals the character of those names.

Are You Anne? by Anne Acree

"Are you Anne?"
Anne Acree
Alpharetta, GA

My paternal great-grandfather, Dr. William O. Burbank, was a physician in Orleans County in upstate New York. He had a lovely cottage on Lake Ontario, built in 1889, which passed on to my grandfather, Homer. Living for three-quarters of the year in Rochester, New York, "The Cottage" was the summer home of my grandparents and their children. It was the center of the Burbank family life, and all of my relatives have spent countless days there throughout the years. The house was filled with the most interesting combination of old pictures, antiques, memorabilia and junk, and I loved it.

In 1989 I felt very strongly that we should have a family reunion at "The Cottage" to celebrate its 100th birthday. Homer and Marie (my grandparents) were aging rapidly, and I felt that perhaps we would not have many other opportunities to gather as a complete family again. It was a wonderful reunion. All of the Burbank clan was there, and we created many memories.
This was fortunate, because within a few years, both grandparents passed away.

The question of what to do with "The Cottage" was a difficult one. Taxes and upkeep of a home over 100 years old on the shores of a Great Lake are "nothing to sneeze at," as they say. Most of my family had moved to Georgia and the relatives who remained in New York were unable to purchase the home for various reasons. Reluctantly, "The Cottage" would have to be sold.

What about all the memorabilia, I worried? Ever since I was a little girl I had always been interested in family history, journals, scrapbooks and antiques. I urged my father to make a quick trip to "The Cottage" to collect pictures and artifacts, since no one else in the family was interested in those items. We gathered the treasures and looked around one last time. Soon afterwards, our cottage, including the remaining contents, was placed on the market.

When news came of the sale I was truly saddened. Would the "new people" throw away or sell the cherished "stuff" that gave "The Cottage" its character? Would they remodel it? Would they even care that five generations of family had enjoyed so many special times there? I decided I would never go back and look at it; rather, I would just let the memory stay as it was in my mind.

In the summer of 1998 I had an opportunity to travel to Rochester, New York with my parents. We decided to also plan a visit with my aunt whose home was not far from "The Cottage." Although I had resolutely decided never to look at it again, I couldn't resist the nagging feeling that I should stop by and just take a peek. As we rounded the corner I hesitated to look. Much to my great relief and joy "The Cottage" had NOT been remodeled! Even better, it had been lovingly painted and the yard was well cared for. Feeling a bit more consoled about the sale, I knocked on the door. There was no answer. A neighbor had seen us drive up to the house and came over to inform us that the new owners were not expected to come up to the lake that weekend since they had plans in town.

Disappointed, my parents and I went over to my aunt's house to continue our short visit. A few hours later there was a knock at the door. The visitor introduced herself as Sandie Owen, the new owner of our family cottage. She had not been planning to be up at the lake, but events had changed and she had felt inspired to make the trip.

As my parents and Sandie introduced themselves and spoke about their families, Sandie asked me "Are you Anne?" When I nodded, she told us that she had an old suitcase full of pictures, newspaper clippings and a letter to Homer, requesting family history information. Sandie was going to give the suitcase to the "Anne" whose signature was on the letter.

She immediately invited us to go back over to "The Cottage" with her. When we stepped inside, any remaining ill feelings about selling the place vanished. The Owen family had kept much of the decor as it had been and the finishing touches were in perfect keeping with the original style. In fact, it was very much like I would have decorated it if I had owned it.

Sandie gave me the suitcase, once hidden far under a bed, which held family history about Homer's family. Much of the information it contained was previously unknown to me. We talked about my grandparents and grandparents as warm feelings flooded my mind.

Then, Sandie directed us to a wall in the living room. Near the picture of Homer and Marie, still displayed, she had placed several pictures of her 19 year-old daughter who had just recently died of cancer. She had loved music and singing, just like my grandmother who had been an opera singer and chorale director. The Owens had bought "The Cottage" so that their family could spend time together in a beautiful, peaceful place where their daughter would spend her last memories. And then I knew that "The Cottage" was meant to be a part of their family, as well as ours.

Genetics by Jim Bates

Jim Bates
I saw a duck the other day.
It had the feet of my Aunt Faye!
When it walked it was heading South.
It waddled like my Uncle Ralph!

And when it turned, I must propose,
Its bill was formed like Aunt Jane’s nose.
I thought “Oh, no it’s just my luck.
Someday I’ll look just like a duck.”

I sobbed to Mum about my fears,
And she said “Honey, dry your tears.
You look like me, so walk with pride.
Those folks are all from Daddy’s side!”

The Search For My Great Grandmother by Ed Murfin

“The Search For My Great Grandmother”
Ed Murfin

I traveled to a little cemetery in 2004 and found some treasure. I was visiting the Lancaster, County, Pennsylvania area, as an Amish Country tourist and as a family genealogist – both delightful activities in that area. My grandfather, John Burkhart Garman (1855-1938) was born and raised in Lancaster County. I had attended a Garman/Steffy family picnic reunion in a park in Ephrata, PA where about 40 persons were present. It rained off and on all that week in that area.

The next day I used the best information I had from the family records, that this particular cemetery was in a clump of trees with about 7 tombstones, located behind a little school house on a side road off Hwy 23. I drove up and down that highway and along several side roads that afternoon. I saw several little schoolhouses, but none that fit the description. I went up one road and found a man working in his upholstery shop in his backyard. I engaged him in conversation. He wanted to give me the life history of the Patton family (he traces back through General Patton). I thought I’d never get away from him! He told me there was an old school house “up thataway and up thisaway.” When I told him I was looking for Garman people he finally told me that quite a few Garmans lived on a nearby road, about a mile away.

I eventually located the road and stopped at the beautiful frame house behind a mailbox that read “Noah Garman.” A sweet little old Mennonite lady welcomed me and told me that her husband Noah had passed away a year ago, but that if I went across the road to see Aaron Garman, he'd probably help me locate the school and cemetery behind his house. I was getting nervous by now. Aaron (black beard, black hat, black suspenders and black trousers) was at his barn near his house. They were using gasoline tractors in the field, but there was no sign of an automobile. He told me that there was a little school house at the back of his cornfield and that there was a clump of trees with tombstones in it. “One of them is Elizabeth Garman,” he said. “Another is a small child, David.” He didn’t know who the others were.

He told me I was welcome to go through the edge of his cornfield to see and photograph the tombstones, and to please come back and tell him of my find. I could nervously see the school and trees in the distance. He hurried out into the field to join a co-worker. I was able to drive on a paved road about a half mile and around the corner a little distance to the white, wooden one-room schoolhouse. I had to go past it to find a place to pull off the road and find enough room to park my car. There was a chain-link fence surrounding the school. My heart sank – I thought I was at a dead-end because the full corn field was right up against the side fence all around the schoolyard, with no room for me to walk, especially with shorts on.

To my surprise, the big double gate along the highway was not locked, so I proceeded to go into the schoolyard. Walking back through the yard, I saw that there was a single gate at the back. From that point I could see the aforementioned trees, just 20 yards away. I only had to walk by the edge of the cornfield ten yards to get to the gravesite. It was covered thickly with weeds and poison oak. I tramped down all that I could safely take care of. Remember, I was wearing shorts, and this clump of trees was full of waist-high weeds laden with poison oak vines!

I was able to read the name (Elizabeth Garman) and the date (1858) on the only accessible stone, but little else. I could not get close enough to any of the other stones to be able to read them. I did take digital pictures and video profusely, however, and they show the proof in excellent detail. Of course, I stayed there for awhile, visiting with my ancestors. I excitedly went back to the farmhouse and found Aaron, his wife (dressed in traditional black with blue trim dress), and two lovely, smiling, blue-eyed, auburn-haired teenaged daughters waiting on me. Their dresses bore the signs of hard work in the field, with reddish brown smudges from the knees down. The mother was seated on a stone bench, with her husband standing at her side and the two girls standing beside her. I really wished I could have taken a picture of their gorgeous family, but I knew better than to ask. Thankfully, he had not objected to my using the camera in his field.

They were very friendly and very inquisitive about my family background. They were very much interested in the fact that I was a retired Methodist minister and that my grandfather had been a lay Mennonite preacher in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. They showed me a printed book of the history of his Garman family. There was nothing in it that rang a bell in relation to anything in my family line. I would love to have been able to copy some of that material. They did tell me that their family stories say that someone in Aaron's family raised the son of the woman who was buried in their field. They could not give me any specifics, however, and could not name me anyone who might know more.

I came just that close to finding a close touch to my grandfather's childhood. All I know is that he was born and raised in Bowmansville, just to the northeast of that location. My mother is recorded as having said that her father and his sister were raised by an aunt. I drove through the town of Bowmansville on the way to this site, but found no one who knew of this story. I also saw his sister, Anna Burkhart Garman Glass's, grave in Adamstown. He is buried with my grandmother, Grace Truman Scott Young, his second wife, in lower PA, near Hancock, MD, a grave site I have visited many times.

My grandfather, John Burkhart Garman, was only three years old when his mother, Elizabeth, died. He died when I was just three years old. After the death of his first wife he had gone to Austell, GA, near Atlanta for work, where he met and married my grandmother in 1902. His sister, Anna B. Garman was just 15 months old when their mother died. Other family stories say that their father, David C. Garman, gave the two of them to two different Mennonite families to raise, but no one knows who they were. David then went on to marry a much younger woman (14 years his junior), with whom he had 11 more children. There is no mention that they ever took John and Anna into their home. Apparently, the new young wife did not want to raise children that were born when she was just eleven years old. Could the “David grave” be a small child from that family not mentioned in family logs? And who would be in the other graves there?

On July 21, I visited with descendants of my grandfather by his first wife, at a family reunion in Ephrata, near Lancaster. My family has always kept a close tie with those half-relatives, and also the half-relatives by his father's second wife, Mary Ellen Davis. Since my grandmother was married and widowed before she met my grandfather, that makes for an awful lot of half-relatives in that part of my family! Keeping up with all of them is fun. We now have an enduring relationship as friends and second cousins once-removed. He says all of his Glass family records have been lost due to a family rift in the generation ahead of him. As far as he knows, everything was destroyed that had any detailed information in it. I have been able to obtain a good bit of Glass information in my research on his family, but it yields nothing in relation to Anna and the “mysterious mother-in-law.” I never thought that I was going to get this close until it happened one overcast day in mid-July, 2004.

Out Of The Void: Real Lives And Real People by Judith Liddell

Judith Liddell

The search to piece together the puzzle of our ancestors began in 1985. Our mother, then 75, voiced her lifetime longing to learn about her unknown relatives. However, the seeds of interest had been nipping at my sister, Chris, much earlier. Chris had always been fascinated with history and old things. She wanted to know about our ancestors, and no one seemed to know much, if anything. Our mother didn’t know about her uncles, aunts, or cousins, because the past just wasn’t talked about in our family. As Chris describes it, “Grandma Stage only told us what she thought we wanted to hear.” We now know there were pieces of truth to many of her stories, but her web of deception – to avoid talking about the fact she was born in a coal mining town – led us down many false paths.

Chris once asked Grandpa if he was born in London – the only city in England she knew. “No,” he answered. “Way up north, near the border with Scotland.” “He seemed very proud of that,” Chris remembers. As far as our mother knew, her parents never kept in touch with relatives back in England.

Our mother, Christiana Margaret Graham Stage, was born in 1910 in Gateshead, England. When she was 11 months old, she and her mother and a three year old brother boarded a boat in Liverpool, England to sail for Quebec, Canada. They were going to join her father who had gone before them to start a new life. We don’t think Mom ever knew that her mother crossed the ocean with two small children all by herself. Imagine our surprise when we finally found the entry on a ship’s passenger list to see only three names and the entry, “Joining husband in Amherst, Nova Scotia.” When World War I came, her father joined the Canadian Expeditionary Forces and the family followed him to England where he was stationed at Shornecliffe. Because of the war, they were not able to visit relatives in the Northeast. By June 1916, there were regular air raids, and our grandfather was being sent to the front, so my grandmother took the children back to Canada. Our grandmother kept all of the letters he sent from the war. We have poured over them many times, trying to pick up snippets of information. Our grandfather’s comments, in response to news he received from our grandmother, have given us a picture of our mother’s life in Montreal during this period. The trail of clues was difficult to follow because by the time our mother had graduated from high school, she had lived in 18 places and attended 12 different schools!

Chris was the initial researcher. Mother told her what she knew, but that was very little information. We knew our grandmother was born in North Brancepeth, Durham County, England and that she had married in Northumberland. Chris started her search by going to the Mormon Family History Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. While her daughter was taking music lessons, Chris would search the parish registries on microfilm. This involved looking in the registries in the Tynemouth area of Northumberland. Every two weeks she ordered microfilm from the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, waited two weeks for it to arrive, and then raced to the library to begin her search. For a long time, she couldn’t find anything.

She then went to the library at the University of New Mexico and started reading everything she could find on Durham and Newcastle Counties. This helped her locate the slipway where our grandfather worked. She was then able to zero in on the correct registration district. In 1992, while their children were at camp, she and her husband Bill went to Salt Lake City and spent two days looking for information on both the Stages and the Brodies. She exclaimed, “Imagine my excitement when two hours before the library closed, I was able to locate information on the marriage of our maternal great grandparents - Thomas Jones and Christiana Graham!”

That same year, Mom visited me in Seattle to celebrate the marriage of my son BJ. Following the wedding, Mom and I went to Vancouver, British Columbia to search for long lost cousins. Mom’s family had lived there from 1929 to 1930. Mom used to tell us the story of an unexpected meeting with relatives. Our family owned a small gas station and grocery store next to the Narrows Bridge. One day a man came into the store, and my mother shrieked ‘Robert!’ It was one of her brothers. She had not seen him since he had run away, taken his mother’s maiden name of Graham, and joined the merchant marine! It had been a memorable experience for Mom to meet and get to know his two children, Lena and Ronald, who were about her age, and the only cousins she ever knew.

As had been the pattern, once our grandparents moved back to California, they lost touch. My first foray into genealogy was helping Mom search city directories In Vancouver to try and locate the family. I felt like my childhood hero, Nancy Drew. When Mom and I stood in the park that now occupies the place where their store once stood, I began to understand the draw to the past that Chris felt.

By 1994, I had moved to Albuquerque and began to get interested in the results of Chris’s research. At Christmas that year, Chris gave Mom a certificate that introduced her to her grandmother, Jane Bell. By that time Mom was 84 and not as interested when pieces of the puzzle revealed themselves. Chris said, “At first I was devastated when she just stared at the certificate. I had worked so hard to verify that piece of information and assumed she would be as excited as I was. My interest in genealogy was confirmed, and I realized the quest was now mine.”

In 1999, I took my first real genealogical steps and began reading the surname bulletin boards for Brodie, Stage, Bell, and Jones on . Occasionally, there would be an entry with a name or place that intrigued me, and I would respond. Mom passed away April 14, 1999. By the time she died, we had not located any living relatives. She, Chris, and I had always talked about traveling to her birthplace someday. During her final days, we told her we would go to England the following summer - and that she would be with us in spirit. We knew that deep down, the trip we planned to take was something she always wanted to do.

Prior to our trip, we hired a genealogist from Durham, hoping he would be able to find information that we had not been able to locate from our distance. By the time Chris, Bill and I left for Britain on July 1, 2000, my birthday, we were no closer to finding relatives, but had arranged for the genealogist to drive us to see the places where Mom and her family had lived.

The first day in Newcastle, we took a “milk run” bus through the countryside and a number of villages to visit Beamish, an open-air historical museum. We were interested in seeing what life was like in a colliery town, since our grandmother had been born in the village adjacent to Boyne Colliery. The following day, the first stop in our guided tour was Segedunum, a museum depicting life at the Roman fort that had once occupied that spot. Little did we know that Joe and Gladys Nicholson (Gladys was Mom’s cousin) lived only a few blocks from that spot! Later we saw the house where Mom was born in Gateshead. The unknown past began to seem real.

After returning from our trip, we felt even more determined to find out more about the lives of our ancestors, and hopefully locate living relatives. Chris and I promised each other we would return when we located someone, but little did we know it would happen so soon. On May 8, 2001, I received the following e-mail message: “Purely by chance, I have come across your entries in the Stage Surname Bulletin Board relating to Jane Bell Stage. I have a lot of information on the family of William and Jane Stage; they were my great grandparents. From, Alan Nicholson.”

We both immediately wrote back to Alan. In my e-mail, I confessed, “I literally started crying when I read your message; my sister and I have been trying to locate Mom’s relatives for such a long time. We would love to hear more about the family.” The first thing I did when I got up the next morning was to turn on my computer to see if there was a reply. There was! Alan had written, “I am delighted that we have been able to make contact and I am so pleased to have discovered family relatives in this way (our mothers were cousins although they didn’t know it!!) I will be phoning my Mum to let her know the good news – she will be delighted. This will be the first of many e-mails I will be posting over the next few weeks – so be prepared!” Over the next few days, Alan began to provide us with extensive, verified information about our grandfather’s 10 brothers and sisters!

By August, Chris and I decided we would travel in early November, and not only meet Alan and his family, but visit Elgin, Scotland where our father’s ancestors originated. Then the terrorist attacks of September 11 threatened to shatter our dream. However, by the end of September, we felt confident we could travel safely to Britain. When we arrived in Newcastle, Alan Nicholson met us and drove us to his parent’s home in Wallsend, where we spent the next 7 hours getting acquainted, listening to stories, sharing pictures, and learning about our Stage heritage, as well as life in Wallsend at the turn of the century. We were able to visit many sites from our ancestors’ lives and create wonderful memories.

Since our return, we have had Alan’s professional, on-going help in identifying Jones relatives. He has obtained birth, death and marriage certificates for various members of the family. Through information about Eliza Jones Walker, and Alan’s perseverance and guts, we were able to locate another second cousin, Carolyn Taylor, who lives in the Walkergate area of Newcastle. What a wonderful surprise to find out that her uncle Jimmy was a professional accordion player, as was our mother! He died during the past year, but we feel blessed to have heard his story through visits from Alan. We are blessed to now have five Stage and Jones second cousins and their families in the United Kingdom whom we have added to our family circle.

The puzzle is not yet complete. Like a 1,000 piece puzzle where all of the shapes look alike, we only identify a piece every once in a while to fill in part of the picture. However, we are not deterred. The puzzle will probably never be complete, but both the search and its results have certainly enriched our lives.

A Summer Day 139 Years Hence by Linda Soloski

“A Summer Day-139 Years Hence”
Linda J. Soloski
Brandon Florida

Was it all just coincidental? Was it just happenstance? I like to think it was “divine intervention.” For you see, on a hot day in July of 2002 I was given the great honor of standing at the burial place of my Civil War ancestor and proudly reading his name on the memorial marker at that cemetery site. It was just a few days short of 139 years to the day of his death. He died August 23, 1863 in the Confederate hospital at Dalton, Georgia.

He was just a young boy of 16, but he wanted to do his part for the Confederacy, as did two of his brothers. No doubt he slipped quietly away from his family home in order to join the troops. I have often thought of how distressed his mother must have been, especially when he did not return home from the war. He was the baby of the family. Records show that he served as a scout. He had been brought up in the mountains of East Tennessee and Western North Carolina, and taught to hunt in the dense woods from an early age.

Military muster rolls show he was absent from duty at least twice due to “disease” prior to his being placed in the Confederate Hospital at Dalton, Georgia where he died from “disease.”
Far away from home and with no way to get his body back to his family home in Tennessee, due to advancing Union troops, they laid him to rest in the Confederate Cemetery.

Actually, this entire event was a miracle. My husband, Ken and I had traveled from our home on the central west coast of Florida to a cabin retreat in the mountains of northeast Georgia. Our only thought was to get away from the merry-go-round of every day life and spend a week just relaxing and resting. I took nothing of my genealogy tools or records with me. But, as any family researcher knows, genealogy is truly an addiction and never far from your mind.

Late one afternoon, while just resting, my mind drifted to my family tree and the research I still needed to accomplish “someday.” Suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, my mind flashed a message to me. “You are in Georgia. Didn’t your Confederate ancestor die in Dalton? Where exactly is that?” Like a shot, I was on my feet, seeking my trusty road map. Imagine my surprise to find that Dalton was just due west of where we were staying! The map showed a distance of about 75 miles down the mountain foothills and along the base. Hey, how bad a trip could it be? After all, the road was a fat red line on the map! Surely that indicated a nice, paved road. Thinking the hardest part would be to convince my husband to get under the wheel and drive there, I was elated when he readily agreed that it was something I should pursue.

Now I have to tell you one of the strangest pieces of this whole puzzle. When we arrived at the cabin a few days earlier, there was a bookrack with tourist pamphlets in the lobby. There was also a travel magazine called “Georgia” which was dated 1996, over 6 years old. I quickly grabbed the 6 year old publication to see what it had to say about Dalton. The very first “must-see” location was listed: “Confederate Cemetery. 421 Veterans who died in the hospital located at Dalton, GA are buried here.” The hair stood up on the back of my neck! That old magazine had survived 6 years just for the purpose of telling me where to go that day!

Upon arriving at the cemetery, we were dismayed to see that it covered a tremendous amount of land on the crest of a hillside and was at least two city blocks wide. It was then divided off into many, many sections. Each one had several entrance roads off the main road, which then wound around the gravesites. We drove far to the back and I spotted two elderly ladies at a grave. My husband pulled alongside their vehicle and I got out and walked toward them. Not wanting to alarm them, I called out from several feet away, “Hello! I wonder if either of you two ladies might help me with a grave location.” I explained what I was looking for and wouldn’t you know it, one of them was a family researcher also. She was only too glad to give me directions to the area I needed to find.

Arriving at the section, I found it cordoned off by a low, wrought-iron fence. Row after row of hundreds of small, white headstones, all exactly alike, and bearing the inscription “C.S.A. 1861-1865" covered the area. I had absolutely no way of knowing which grave was his. Then I spotted a huge granite marker placed at the opening of the area by local SCV and other organizations. In and of itself, it was a beautiful memorial. I walked into the fenced-off area and when I got to the backside of the marker I discovered to my sheer delight that all the names of those buried there were inscribed on it– and in alphabetical order! Almost fearfully, my eyes ran down the list and there it was-his name engraved among the others!

And thus it was, that shortly before noon I stood looking out on the hallowed ground where that young soldier was laid to rest. Not once in almost 139 years had any family member been this close and could call out his name, Newton Thomas Rogers, to say thanks for his effort and the giving of his young life. In my heart I said a prayer of thanks. Amen and amen!

More Than Just Names by Colleen Peters

“More Than Just Names”
Colleen Peters

I had no idea that I would love the whole process of genealogy research so much. At Christmas in 1994, my parents gave to me and my siblings a three-ring binder filled with tidbits of information on our family’s tree. When my youngest son started school the fall of 2003, I decided that I needed a hobby. I found my three-ring binder, blew the dust off of it and began my genealogy journey.

My mother once told me that every family has at least one historian and once you find that person you can get the answers you are looking for. On my dad’s side of the family my uncle is the one who has collected family information. Thanks to the wonder of e-mail, I have had his assistance in all of my queries. In one such e-mail he informed me that my aunt had all of my grandparents’ old photos, so I was soon knocking on her door. We spent a whole afternoon going through and labeling photos. I wrote down all of the names to add to my family tree and enjoyed listening to the stories she remembered about these families.

One story that she heard as a young girl was about an accidental shooting. She remembered that the father of the family had heard animals, probably coyotes, outside of the family cabin and grabbed his rifle to go outside and investigate the livestock. Suddenly, the rifle accidentally fired inside of the cabin, shooting two of his children that were sleeping in bed. I remember thinking how awful that must have been for that family. I tucked that sad family story away and hoped that it wasn’t true.

My computer and I have spent many hours searching and enquiring to find documentation for my family tree. When I felt that I had exhausted my resources on one family line I would just work on another one. There were several discoveries along the way when I felt as if my ancestors were right there, leading me to the one tidbit of information that I needed to solve the unknown.

One evening, I was waiting for my husband in one of the college libraries, when a librarian asked me if I would like some help. I told her what I was working on and she asked me if I had tried a search engine called I hadn’t and so she advised me to type in the surname, a location and a year to narrow down the possible answers. I typed “Myers Gallatin County MT 1880”. I got many possible matches to my query! I went through the first page, carefully going through each answer looking for anything familiar, and then the second page and so on. Then, to my surprise, on the third page I found a cemetery record that listed several Myers. The most interesting were two children of A. and M. Myers that had died eight days apart. Both of them were girls: Nellie, age 5, and Mary, age 7. At first, I thought something like Small Pox might have been the reason they had died so close to each other, but as you can imagine, the story my aunt had told me about the two innocent children who had been shot accidentally came to my mind.

The Internet is a wonderful tool, but I have learned through my journey that it is the kindness of others that is where the treasures really are. On April 14, 2004, I posted a query on the Internet via Gallatin County MT and got a response from Jeri. Jeri lives in the Bozeman area and voluntarily does research for others. She was so intrigued by my query about the two girls that she began searching right away. Jeri and I spoke with each other almost every day. She found several different items on my Myers family and even a few on my other family lines, but she wasn’t finding any evidence of the children. Jeri even took a road trip with her daughter, who was a photographer, to the cemetery where the girls are buried. They found Nellie’s stone placed flat on the ground because it had broken into two pieces and was not readable anymore. Someone had a new headstone placed next to the old one, identifying whose stone it was. Mary’s stone was also broken and placed flat on the ground, but hers is still readable.

I remember my own children’s reactions when I received the photos of tombstones via e-mail. They weren’t sure how to feel about my interest in the lives of people who died so long ago. The photos somehow made these two little girls more than just names on a family tree. I really wanted to know what had happened to them, and so did Jeri. I remember when she e-mailed me a possible lead: the University in Bozeman had copies of old local newspaper articles stored on microfilm. The name of the Bozeman newspaper in 1887 was “The Avant Courier.” Jeri had warned me that the collection wasn’t complete and that she might not find anything on the girls.

I can still remember the chills that crawled up my back when I read Jeri’s e-mail that she had finally found articles about the girls. Neither one of the articles mentioned the names of the girls, but clearly describes the sad events that came to the children of Allen and Martha Myers. As I read the articles I was filled with the emotion of the loss of the girls and the grief that their family must have felt. This event happened over a hundred years ago and yet I felt it as if it had just happened. These emotions were mixed with the excitement of the discovery that I had validated my aunt’s family story and had found the family it belonged to.

This was a sacred moment for me, one that I shared with a woman whom I have only talked with through my computer. It is hard to explain a bond that is felt between genealogy researchers, but we all seem to have an unspoken understanding of how the other might be feeling because of common experiences. I hope to someday have a copy of a photo of these two children. I know my chances aren’t very good, but I also know that anything is possible with a little kindness from others and a little help from those of the past.

My Fruitful Distraction by David DeFord

“My Fruitful Distraction”
David DeFord
Omaha, Nebraska
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On my last day of vacation I sped over the back hills of southern Indiana, hoping to unravel a mystery. I needed to find information about my great-great-grandfather and his family. With a common surname like “Jackson” it wasn’t going to be easy. I had tried everything else: the LDS Family History Center, queries to the town newspaper, and letters to the County Clerk. I decided I had to make a personal visit.

I arrived early in the morning before the old limestone courthouse opened, and I planned to stay until it closed that evening. This was the only day I could spare. As I sat in my parked car on the sleepy town square, I prayed that I would find all I needed about Columbus Jackson and his wife, Nettie. I prayed that I could work alone and not be distracted by other genealogists. After all, they often waste valuable time talking endlessly about their own research. A distraction would slow me down. My time was short. I needed to hurry!

I waited impatiently at the huge courthouse doors until a worker finally unlocked them at 8:00am sharp. An attendant directed me to a dark basement room that held the archives. Huge ledger books, filled with records of past generations, sat heavily on dusty shelves. I started my search immediately. Two hours passed in quiet bliss. Columbus still evaded me, camouflaged among tens of thousands of his neighbors, but I was becoming familiar with the records. Happily, no distractions kept me from my search.

After three hours, I heard the clomping of feet descending the wooden stairs. Here came my first distraction—a silver-haired lady, carrying an armload of files. She smiled broadly, obviously pleased to have companionship in the dark chamber. My opportunity for finding Columbus Jackson had ended, I thought. I smiled in her direction, but avoided eye contact. We worked in silence for a few minutes until she asked, “What’s a young man like you doing in an old person’s pastime like genealogy?” I winced inside, knowing that my work was done.

“Well, I’m looking for anything I can find about Columbus Jackson, my great-great-grandfather,” I reluctantly replied. “Lum?!” She got excited. “Why, he used to live right across the road from us! He used to throw big barbeques and invite all of the neighbors. He’d make ice cream and break open watermelons from his huge garden. He was the nicest man I ever knew.” She became more animated. “He’s buried up the hill. Here, let me show you on your map. He died in 1952—near Christmas. Let’s see if we can find him in the death records here.” She did. “His wife, Nettie, was such a sweet woman, and she was so beautiful! She had long, thick hair that she rolled into a tight bun. Now they were probably married in the 1880s. Let’s take a look.”

In an hour this wonderful lady, who had known my great-great-grandparents personally, showed me where they lay in the cemetery, found their death and marriage records, listed for me all of their children, and told me stories that made them come alive to me. All afternoon she filled my notebook and my heart with beautiful stories of my family—not just their names and vitals, but tales of rich lives lived well. I had prayed to find some information without distractions. I found the information I needed and more. I found family, people who lived and loved, ate and served ice cream, and who spread their love to their neighbors. I thank God for my silver-haired fruitful distraction!

My Spiritual Homing Device by Brenda Sanders

“My Spiritual Homing Device”
Brenda Sanders
I have had many spiritual experiences. The most recent one is about doing some research on a Dockery family line. I had been to the library and looked up the death certificate on a woman, finding her tombstone in the cemetery on her actual birthday. I find that interesting. The next day I went to a different cemetery to look for a particular couple. The husband had died in 1904, so I knew I wouldn't find his information in Vital Records. The night before I went to the cemetery I had an impression of where they were buried in the cemetery. The next day I found them with very little effort in that exact spot. I had, somehow, seen the spot before in my mind’s eye.

Rewriting History by Wendy Ward

“Rewriting History”
Wendy Ward
Evanston, IL
I was taking my last graduate class, and I still had no topic for my Master’s Thesis. Near panic, I started to pray about it. A few days later, as I watched my lunch cooking in the microwave, the words “Vinegar Hill” popped into my head. On my grandfather’s death record, Vinegar Hill, Illinois, is listed as his birthplace. The township no longer exists. It was a desperate long shot, but I thought maybe I could research the settlement and why it disappeared. When I mentioned it to my advisor, he got very excited and started talking about the rich history of the Galena Lead District. My father grew up on a farm, and his father died when he was a young boy. In turn, my father died when I was very young. I had never heard of the Galena Lead District.

I searched online for Vinegar Hill, Illinois, but I found only information on Vinegar Hill in Ireland. Somehow, I came across a passenger list with an introductory paragraph about miners from Allendale, Northumberland, England. This caught my eye, because my great grandfather, Christopher Ward, came from Allendale. It mentioned a mining strike in 1849 that resulted in the banishment of about 100 miners, and their families. The Guy Mannering’s Passenger List included a Christopher Ward, and several other familiar-sounding names, but his wife was not my great grandmother. I printed out the list, compared it with my family records, and they coincided! Chris had been married twice, his first son born on the voyage. That explained the surprisingly large number of children with which he was credited!

This “accidental” discovery led me to research the mining strike. I learned that Christopher, his
family, his wife’s family, and many of their friends constituted the 58 who were the first to
depart from Allendale. They were the more active of the strikers. More research revealed that
most of the 58 were either related to Christopher, or were shoulder fellows—members of the
same partnerships. Also on the ship was Christopher’s uncle, Samuel Vickers. According to
newspaper articles, Samuel was denied pay even though he didn’t strike, because the mining
agents thought he would share with the starving strikers. Samuel did very well in America, and
was mentioned in an early history book of Lafayette County, Wisconsin. Several of his
descendants fought in the Civil War. There were Reeds on the ship, and they later sent for
relatives, one who became my great grandmother after Christopher’s first wife died.

I contacted a library in England, inquiring about local histories, but antique books were not being circulated. However, the librarian extracted references to the strike, and forwarded them with some pamphlets, which helped locate other things. Somehow, I ended up e-mailing a number of people in England. A woman in Allendale let me use some of her photographs in my thesis. Another woman voluntarily went to the archives, looked up Chris’s work records, and forwarded a spreadsheet with the names of his partners, his brother’s partners, and what they earned. A British expert on historical smelting, told me how to locate a new excavation of a smelting mill in British Hollow, Wisconsin. One woman sent me a copy of a poem written about the first 58 to leave. It sold for 10 pence a copy at the time. One line says, “we’ll tell our tale in other lands.” As a direct descendant, I am fulfilling that prophecy!

Everywhere I looked, and sometimes where I didn’t look, things fell into my hands until I had accumulated quite a story. Through my search for the 58 miners and their families, I extracted hundreds of names. I had many miraculous experiences along the way. It was not just about me helping them—it was also about them helping me. Whenever I took the four-hour drive to Galena, I felt like I had a full car, although technically, I was alone.

When I went to the Galena cemetery to find Christopher’s burial plot and asked about the cemetery in Gratiot, I was told I had perfect timing. A woman from Gratiot just happened to be in the store ordering a monument for her recently deceased husband. We chatted for a few minutes, and discovered that we shared the same great grandfather—not Chris Ward, but Wash Noble. She told me exactly where the cemetery was. If I had found the store a few minutes earlier or later, I would have missed her.

On my way back to Chicago the next morning, I passed through Gratiot and traveled a few miles farther, but I didn’t find the road that led to the cemetery. I doubled back and stopped at a convenience store. The young woman at the register said she thought another woman named Biddy could tell me about the cemetery. She lifted the receiver to call her, then asked what name I was looking for. I said, “Noble.” She said, “I think Biddy is a Noble.” Five minutes later, I was sitting in the living room of my father’s cousin and childhood friend. My father died when I was eight, and I knew little of his life except what I could remember of his last few years. We lost touch with his family after his death. She told me my father loved to go dancing. He and a friend would come up from Rockford on Fridays, do all the girls’ chores, and then take her and her sister dancing somewhere. She said when he was younger he often stayed with their family for the summer, and did all the chores. When I left, the road to the cemetery was right where it was supposed to be. I know my father liked to play practical jokes, but I felt I was surrounded by a number of jokers who were having fun chasing me from pillar to post so I could have these wonderful experiences. Sometimes their mischief and amusement was so strong, I half expected them to leap out and surprise me!

I can sense that my ancestors know me, and they want me to know them. They didn’t just help me find their names. They helped me write an award-winning thesis, and gave me a sense of who they were and how they lived. I had the thrilling experience of writing new history. People in England were trying to find out what happened to the exiled miners, some of whom had gone to the Galena district, some to Canada and some to Australia. I had the advantage of being related to many of them, which gave me access to the people themselves, through the veil between heaven and earth. I got a stronger sense of myself, having lost touch with family at such a young age.

Being single, I have no one to pass this treasured information on to. As I sorted through my research, I filed some things and I threw some things away, but I knew that even the things I filed would eventually be thrown away when I die. That made me a little sad. One evening at a women’s Enrichment Night at church, they were demonstrating how to do decoupage. From there I got the idea to take an old run-down deacon’s bench I was debating whether to throw out, and decoupage it with pictures from my family history. I hammered and glued it back together, painted it, and then I pulled the more interesting items from my thesis: photos, maps, documents, etc. Using copies, I arranged them on the many facets of the bench and began layering on the Mod Podge. I finished it with a couple of coats of dull varnish. Now I have them where I can see them every day, without adding clutter to my little apartment, and my old deacon’s bench never looked so good.

This is not the end of the story either. I am off on another adventure to find my mother’s family in Germany. Who knows what surprises they have in store for me? I know if I am looking for them, they will find me.

Connecting the Here and Now by Cassie Bizzigotti

“Connecting the Here and Now”
Cassie Bizzigotti
San Marcos, CA

Earlier this year in August, a volunteer from the Family History Center came to our church and gave an awesome presentation on genealogy and her own family research. It really got to me. As I was sitting there, I felt as though someone was tapping me on the shoulder and whispering, “Look up Evelyn." It was so real to me.

When I got home I went straight to the computer and looked up my great aunt Evelyn on the IGI. I was so surprised to actually find information about her. I got very excited and decided to look for her husband too. When I found his information I realized there were other distant relatives whom I didn’t know that were working on the same family line.

Through various sources I found someone who was part of my family. The name was George Houck. I called him, but just got an answering machine, disappointed that I had to leave a message. He called me back only ten minutes later and was very excited! We were thrilled to learn that we were both members of the same church too! He told me his life story and we talked for quite awhile. I asked if I could send him a letter or call him again soon. Before saying goodbye, he told me how relieved he was to know that someone else was helping with the genealogy in our family, especially since he didn’t feel he knew very much on the subject.
Unfortunately, I delayed getting back to him - sick kids and busy life got in the way. Two weeks later on September 15th, I finally found some time to write him a letter during my children’s naptime. It was an unusual day because both of my children fell asleep at the same time and stayed asleep for several hours! I spent a good portion of three hours working on the letter. I had so many questions for him. I couldn't wait to meet him. My mom didn’t know him because she had been told that he had the measles as a three year old and was mentally retarded. He actually was physically disabled, but not mentally disabled. My mom was eager to talk to him too. After all, he lived only an hour away! My maternal grandfather’s family had many children but they didn't keep in touch with each other, so my mother didn't know much about George.

That whole day, I couldn't stop thinking about George. I felt like something might be wrong and decided against sending the letter right away. I figured that I would send it the next week. That weekend, I found out that he had died that day. I know that he knows what I wrote in that letter, so it didn't matter that I didn't send it. He was only 47 and had a heart attack at home. I went to his memorial service and met his other friends from church. I found out that he had been in a wheelchair. I would never have known that by just talking to him on the phone! He had sounded very young and strong, with an enthusiasm for life that was infectious. If I had waited just two more weeks to contact him, I would have missed him completely! Ithink a lot of times people forget that family history isn't just about our ancestors – it’s about theliving people in our families today! I'm so glad that I listened to the promptings I felt. Now when I feel a prompting to look for a certain name, I just do it!

An Unexpected Reunion by Ron Bremer

“An Unexpected Reunion”
Ron Bremer
Paradise, Utah

A lady in Indianapolis, Indiana shared the experience that when she was ten years old her grandfather died. She attended the funeral and burial services. Years later when she was older, she began to do genealogy and wanted to tie the links of her family together. She wanted to find the cemetery and her grandfather’s tombstone, but because she was only ten years old when she first saw it, she wasn’t sure she could remember where it was located. She drove east of the cemetery area and managed to locate the old cemetery. After walking around for awhile, she found her grandfather’s plot. To her amazement, standing beside the tombstone was the spirit of her grandfather. He had tears running down his cheeks as if to thank her for beginning the great work of their family’s genealogy.

A Genealogist's Pay by Brenda Sanders

“A Genealogist’s Pay”
Brenda Sanders
One day I was doing some miscellaneous research at the local library, thinking I should go home or go visit someone. All at once I heard my name being called. I went to the front desk and was introduced as a genealogy expert to a couple. That usually embarrasses me a bit. I found out that this young woman and her husband had come down from another state to search for her father’s records. She had tried to find something about him for 20 years now, starting her search when she was only 11 years old. She was given some dates and places, but the information was only about half right.

I led her to some Vital Records books and we even went on-line at the computer. I was able to find his obituary that said he died in Tennessee. I found his birth record and remembered that she wanted to go by the funeral home, so I ran down there and gave them the new information. While I was there, the funeral home Director gave them some information about living relatives and called another location to fax over a death certificate. He also gave them directions to her father's grave. She got very emotional when she learned that he really was dead, but she needed to know.

It was really rewarding to be a part of this. I never know how my day is going to turn out! It made me feel good to make a difference in someone's life. In the morning she had told me that she didn't want to leave the area until she had found what she came for, even if she had to sleep in the truck. She now has lots of relatives to meet. I hope her new family will treat her like family. Family is really all that matters.

The Angel of Graziskiai by Diane Rooney

“The Angel of Gražiškiai”
Diane (Kerelevicius, Bernota) Rooney,
Lithuanian Genealogical Society Membership Director
It was a cool day for June in Lithuania, and a steady rain had been falling all morning— not ideal weather for exploring rural ceme­teries. My cousins, Zita Kerelevičiūtė and Agnė Rasimavičiūtė, and I, as well as Agnė’s grandfather, Jonas Rasimavičius, our driver, were wet, muddy, and discouraged. We had been searching the ceme­tery of St. Michael the Archangel church in Gražiš­kiai for over an hour, looking for the grave of my great-great-grandmother, Magdalena Daugirdžiutė Kerelevičienė, who died in December 1922. The cemetery’s layout was irregular, and recent burials had been made around older graves as the church­yard had filled. The wet and worn stones were hard to read, and we used our fingers and the points of our umbrellas to scrape mud and moss from them.

Just the day before, working with professional genealogist Sigita Gasparavičienė, I had seen Magdalena’s name in St. Michael’s death register in the Lithuanian State Archives in Vilnius, indicating she had been buried in the church cemetery. The chance to see my family’s parish church and pay respects at my great-great-grandmother’s grave was exciting. Perhaps the journey that had started nine years before in conversations with my grandfather, William Bernota, had reached a signi­ficant destination on that summer day in 2002, one with evidence that would take my family’s roots back before 1850.

Cemetery and construction workers told us when we arrived that most of the old graves were gone, destroyed years before by the Soviets. We had searched anyway, but without success. On our way back to the car, Zita saw an elderly woman and asked her if she knew the location of Magdalena’s grave. Miraculously, she said, “Yes, I believe she is buried very near my father,” and led us directly to the grave. We could not believe our luck. If we had not encountered our Angel of Gražiškiai, I would never have seen Magdalena’s last resting place. Our angel, whose name was Ona , posed for a picture in the cemetery and promised to keep an eye on Great-Great-Grandma for us.

Like many genealogists, I found Magdalena by slowly working backward in time, from my grandfather, to his mother and her siblings, to their mother. I relied on a mixture of family recollections, persistence, luck and random acts of kindness. My path never moved in a straight line, but wandered across five branches of the family, two continents, and records in three languages. I’m glad I never gave up!

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