What is it with Orland Park and my husband's fourth cousins? I've heard of the "FAN Club"—those Friends, Associates, and Neighbors we need to keep our eyes on whenever our ancestors slipped from view—but that was for those time periods we are researching which were far earlier than our current era. How did my father-in-law's Irish ancestors who immigrated to Chicago all manage to have descendants who decided to move to Orland Park?
Orland Park, a village at the far reaches of Chicago's suburbs, was originally settled by log-cabin-building pioneers in the 1830s, but that is not what constituted this FAN Club activity I'm talking about. I've been documenting all the descendants of Johanna Flanagan Lee, my research project for this month, and I've traced where many of them ended up, several generations removed from when that original couple—Johanna and her husband, John Lee—settled in Chicago.
With only a few exceptions—mainly those who either moved to California or entered an academically demanding profession—descendants of the Lee family moved to the Chicago suburbs. That's not surprising, considering the quality of life amenities which can be gained in the suburbs. But why did so many Lee descendants end up specifically in Orland Park? Those are distant cousins who probably aren't even aware of their relationship to each other.
Since Orland Park is a village of less than sixty thousand people, I wouldn't have heard of the place, myself, except for one detail. Keep in mind that my father-in-law, a Chicago native, had several brothers who remained in the area and raised their own families there. Having gone to visit those uncles in Chicago, over the years I've picked up a familiarity with some of the suburban areas there. And eventually, one of the uncles did indeed move to Orland Park, which is probably the only reason why I ever had heard of the place.
With Johanna's descendants, though, the story is quite different. There is no way I'd ever have known Johanna. She was born about 1849 and from her youth, lived in Chicago until her death in 1909. It is only when we get into Johanna's great-grandchildren's generation that we enter the realm of possibly having met them. And that's where I get that eerie feeling that, visiting family in Orland Park, I may have crossed the path of my husband's many fourth cousins in that same town and never realized it.
Granted, the impetus behind this discovery can be attributed to DNA testing. If my husband hadn't tested, I wouldn't have been on such a search to discover all the descendants of those Irish ancestors. Thus, in building out my father-in-law's tree as far as those fourth cousins, I'd never have found those Ancestry hints showing me that, yes, yet another distant cousin has settled in Orland Park.
There is probably some sort of cognitive bias which makes my brain perk up and take note when a familiar town name shows up for a distant cousin's residence. On the other hand, it does seem odd that the same place name shows up with such frequency. The choice of a place to live couldn't be chalked up to something in our genes, could it?