Thursday, March 16, 2017

Putting Six (Irish) Degrees
of Separation to Work

I've been thinking of the Irish a lot, lately. Yes, yes, of course it's Saint Patrick's Day tomorrow. People worldwide claiming a ride on the coattails of the Irish Diaspora will use that opportunity to shout, "Kiss me, I'm Irish"—tomorrow.

Today, though, I'm hoping to ride the coattails of some connected people in the genealogical social media world. The goal is to see if a friend of a friend can help me get a long-lost item back home to the descendants of its rightful owners.

Those owners, by the way, just happened to be Irish. And this little object which I've come into possession of managed to travel from someplace in County Cork all the way to an antique store in northern California.

The journey this package made began with a Christmas delivery in 1936. If you have been a regular here at A Family Tapestry, you will remember my introducing the little treasure in a post last December. From that point, it is still a mystery how the item moved from its intended destination to the location in which I found it, just a few years ago.

In the meantime, during the months of January and February, I was able to delve into the notes left on each page of the family photo album to figure out, first, where the family lived—a place in the country called Bride Park House—and, eventually, who some of the family members (and friends) were. With that knowledge, I was able to trace part of the Hawkes family tree, and ultimately figure out who the mystery couple was—Harry and Alice Reid—who had sent the album as a gift.

Of course, it would be wonderful if I could locate the descendants of Henry Reid and Alice Hawkes Reid. And I know there is someone out there directly related to that family, simply because I located a person who posted the family's pedigree on

Alas, there's been no answer to my attempts at direct contact. Though thanks to reader Intense Guy, I've been able to connect with a researcher concentrating on a distant branch of the Hawkes family tree—who has, incidentally, been very encouraging—I otherwise haven't had one nibble to my inquiries.

And you know how impatient I can be.

So while everyone is turning their mind to the Irish this week, I thought perhaps a friend of a friend of a friend could help me connect with some good folks in County Cork, Ireland—someone who might know how to get in touch with the descendants of Henry Reid and his wife Alice, or any one of the family of John Pim Penrose Hawkes and his wife, Sarah Ruby.

On the face of it, this seems like a monumentally impossible task. After all, the distance from origin to final landing is almost five thousand miles. There is no telling—at least, so far—how this family photograph album made its way from start to unintended finish.

There is, however, that little theory—most commonly called "six degrees of separation"—in which the distance between any two given strangers may be as short as a connection of six or fewer steps. That's where the friend of a friend of a friend idea comes in.

With all the interconnectivity we now experience thanks to devices like social media, those six steps may be rather easily taken. While you may not know anyone in County Cork, you may know someone else who does have a connection in Ireland. If so, won't you consider becoming that Some Kind Soul who forwards this post with a request to pass it along to someone else who might be even closer to our target?

Whether you help pass along this request to someone you know in Cork, or someone you know who is associated with the Reid or Hawkes family—their cousins in Canada, the United States or wherever they now are—if you could spread the word that I have a family photo album that I'd like to see sent back home, I'd be quite grateful.

And if you could see the process completed in six steps, consider it your validation of our little science experiment. If you beat the odds and complete the process in five steps or less, all the more support for the idea that our world is growing ever smaller.

If nothing else, you'd know that you helped return a family treasure back to the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the couple who lovingly compiled those photos, back in 1936. I'm sure they'd appreciate having that treasure returned back home, no matter how many steps it takes.



  1. Even when I find the answer quickly, I can't keep from working backwards to see how the story unfolded. You would have found the full line one way or another anyway.

    1. True, Wendy--and it's been quite enjoyable to see all the historic twists and turns that research journey yielded me. But my greatest hope is to be able to hand that family photo album over to a direct descendant of the Hawkes and Reid family. They're the ones who would appreciate it in a way that I never could.

  2. Hi there. My name is Beth Reid. Henry Reid of Grange House, Ovens, Cork, was my great great grandfather. His son, John, lived in Bandon. He had two sons, one of which was John, my grandfather. I know that one of Henry’s sons, Robert, was killed in the battle of the Somme, and that Henry became a widower in 1901. Is this the same Reids you are looking to find ancestors of? I have been to Bandon and Ovens to see the houses they lived in. I live in Dublin now myself but grew up in South East London.

    1. Hi, Beth! Thank you so much for stopping by, especially considering you are related to this very family!

      The photo album I discussed in this and several other posts was, as it turned out, compiled by the wife of Robert Reid's next-oldest brother Henry. As you have visited the house in question, you will likely recognize it from the photographs posted in this blog series. In addition, some of the group photographs I have posted in this series may include some of your relatives, as well. I hope you find some that are helpful in your own family research!

      I am so happy to report--in case you didn't yet reach the conclusion of the series--that I did find a direct descendant of that particular Henry Reid, and have returned the photo album to her a few years ago.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...