Tuesday, April 18, 2017
That Secret Family Tree
It started out as a place to accumulate—and then sort through—all the miscellaneous facts I had been gathering as I pondered the family whose discarded photo album ended up in my possession. The jumble of notes over hunches, guesses, conjectures and outright mistakes needed some sort of mechanism with which to make sense of it all. So I started a new family tree.
Not in the usual manner, of course. All the trees I've posted at Ancestry—and elsewhere over the years, for that matter—have been publicly accessible. I wouldn't have it any other way. How else would I tempt distant cousins to get in touch? If I made my trees a secret, no one would have the incentive to connect.
This tree was different, though. For one thing, it wasn't my family tree; it was someone else's—and a stranger's, on top of that. What if someone became incensed over my gall in posting details on a family that didn't even belong to me? Worse, what if I got something wrong? No sense putting errors out there, in the ether, for passers-by to snatch away and add to their own mismatched tree.
So when I put up my jumble of notes on the Hawkes—and then, eventually, the Reid—families, I made the whole thing not only a private tree on Ancestry, but an unsearchable tree. A secret only I could know.
Now that I've met Harry and Alice Reid's granddaughter, Heather, I've learned more about the family related to those creators of that photo album sent as a Christmas greeting, back in 1936. In particular, when Heather reminded me to take a look at the Reid side of the family, I discovered a family, much likes the Hawkes family, with many siblings, all striking out in life, headed in far distant directions.
As it turns out, there were several candidates from Harry Reid's generation who could have been the recipients of the couple's photography gift, some of whom actually may have lived in California, the Irish album's final destination. While I've already reached out to contact a descendant of one of those family members, it would be helpful to review all the possibilities here, one by one, over the remainder of this week. Each candidate has his or her pros and cons, thus the choice may not be an easy one. Mulling over the possibilities by writing out these thoughts may help zero in on the likely candidate.
In the meantime, that secret tree may not remain such a secret. I'm finding that, with each family member I contact, I may as well invite that person to view the tree and advise me on its accuracy. After all, I've now heard from two family members who mentioned wanting to share an old, barely legible handwritten family tree passed down through the years. In exchange, I may as well offer to share the details I've gleaned from this fascinating journey learning about the history of two families from County Cork, Ireland.
Above: Undated photograph of Alice Hawkes Reid at Bride Park with her parents, John Pim Penrose Hawkes and Sarah Suzanna Ruby Hawkes, and one of the Bride Park Westies. Photograph from the private collection of a member of the Hawkes and Reid families; used by permission.