Climbing Family Trees: When In Doubt, Keep Driving by Norm Romney

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

When In Doubt, Keep Driving by Norm Romney

"When in doubt, keep driving!"
Norm Romney
While living in England for a short time, our family had the blessing of seeing much of the country of my ancestors. Names of locations that we had read on family group charts began to take true form as we drove on the streets and through the counties. In May of 1990 we created a little family history tour for our family, exploring Southern England in search of the Romney family name and my stepmotherā€™s Freeman family. We started in a town called Romney in Kent County and drove through the beautiful areas of Marsh, Dover and Brighton.

My stepmother anxiously waited for the time to drive to Gun Wallow in search of a particular cemetery where she hoped to find family names. She had been researching manuscripts of her family name in a town called Church Cove of Cornwall County, and she yearned to see the actual location and tombstones. Manuscripts lacked vital records for a particular family she had searched for over 10 years. She had names only, but no birth, marriage or death dates.

We drove to Gun Wallow, but could not find the name of a town or church called Church cove on any map. It seemed the town had vanished centuries ago. At the end of the road out of Gun wallow it looked like the opportunity was over when the road ended. My stepmother Cora looked disappointed, so I continued to drive, not knowing how to tell her the search was over. My wife then looked incredulous as I drove past the formal road. As is typical in England, the roads are lined with beautiful green hedges making it impossible to see the sides beyond the vista of the road ahead of you. Surprising even myself, I kept driving. After driving a bit farther, finally the hedges opened up and suddenly, there was a panoramic view of a beautiful cove below the cliffs... with a church. Could this be "Church Cove?"

At the apex where the cove meets the cliff, stood a simple and very old stone-built church with a cemetery around it. One wall of the church was the actual wall of the cliff. Cora jumped out of the car, quickly energized by a romantic hope that this could be her missing Church Cove with the adjoining cemetery. Inside the gate, her eyes raced to see the name on the first headstone. It was her Freeman name! Then the second, and through to the fifth headstones, she saw that all were etched with the exact five names she had been looking for on her family group chart! She stood looking at her lost family and just cried. My wife looked at me in amazement. I looked up at heaven and smiled. We had been led, despite missing roads or maps, to find the needed details of a missing family. When in doubt, keep driving. The missing family knew where they were!

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