Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sometimes, There's a
Reason for Connecting

There are some times when you just need to get together with family. Sometimes, those are joyous events, like the Thanksgiving holiday we just passed, or the Christmas celebration we're looking forward to.

Other times...

I should have known that, when a distant family member wants to reconnect, it might be a gesture that comes with a reason. But, for some reason, I just don't think to prepare myself for such possibilities.

I mentioned yesterday about the missed opportunity to reconnect with a distant relative—our family facetiously calls those in-laws of in-laws "outlaws"—with whom I had lost contact. That day, thankfully, came with the chance to make up for that lost moment, if only by a long—and tearful—phone call. After my sister-in-law had died, six years ago, I lost contact with the other side of her family when they moved out of state. Her widowed husband, after several years, decided to return to California. Unfortunately, his health was ailing, and, well...eventually, that health problem caught up with him early this week.

It was his grandson who had tried to contact me the other day, and only yesterday in that phone call did I find out why. He so wants to reconnect with family, especially during this time of loss. Not knowing my address—it had been years since I had last seen him—he drove around my neighborhood until he thought he located the right house. How brave of him to leave a note on the door of a house which might—or might not—have been the right place. The last time he was here, I think he was just a kid.

Sometimes, the older generations don't see the need to talk about themselves, or about their life—which in many cases was full of hardship—or where they came from, or what kinds of experiences or even thoughts they had when they were growing up. Like many others, that was how this grandpa was to his family.

And now, he is gone. And has taken his stories with him.


Perhaps it was therapeutic for me, after our phone conversation came to a close, to poke around Ancestry and see if I could build this grandson a more complete sketch of his family. I spent a good part of the rest of the day doing that, when I would normally have spent a Saturday working on my own trees. So, admittedly, my own biweekly count—especially for the tree that I need to polish up before my SLIG class in January—is not as great as it could be.

In the meantime, though, I tapped into a stream of data, including multiple photographs, for this young man's grandfather's family. I had remembered enough of the names from years of phone conversations with my sister-in-law to realize I was on the right track. I'm so excited to be able to share this, when he drops by later today, with a grandson who maybe never realized this part of his grandfather's life story.

And yet, now that I've sized up my own progress for the past two weeks, I didn't do so badly, after all. I managed to add 175 names to my mother's southern lines, bringing the total on her tree to 16,051. Thanks to stumbling across an unexpected obituary on my mother-in-law's side of the family—a very distant relative in that case—I was able to add three generations of names to one branch of that line, giving me an unexpected forty three name boost to total 15,804 in that tree. Of course, the other two trees I count—my father's and my father-in-law's trees—remained the same, as my research goal until January is to focus on my mother's line.

But what drew my attention for the weekend was to work on this young man's own tree. Hopefully, by the time you read this, I'll have had the opportunity to share with my sister-in-law's grandson-by-marriage a bit of the story of his own family's experiences, at least for the last three generations. Maybe, in turn, he will be the one to help his cousins share a nearly-lost heritage with their own children.

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