Tuesday, September 26, 2006

... and I'm the sap

Here's the designated story of my life over the past two weeks. I've been telling it to plenty of people, so it's time to present it here.

Someone at work wondered why someone who just died didn't have any references on Google. I tried to explain that some, especially older people, just don't pop up easily. As a foreinstance, I plugged in my father and mother.

After a little work, my father came up with four relevant references. Two were to a scholarship, one was a letter he wrote while in business back in 1988. The fourth, though, made me stop. It was on a geneology forum. Someone was looking for him, and knew where he/we lived in 1965 and who his parents were. The message was dated 2001.

Whew. I wrote the person, saying that I was five years late but that the subject of her search was my father. She wrote back with a story about how someone in England had decided to search his mother's family tree. He worked up the ladder for a few generations, then veered off and came back down ... to me, in a sense. My new cousin had written a series of articles about the family, which were sent off to me.

It's pretty amazing to read a family history like that. There are no rich relatives who are going to leave me millions in the future. But there's the tale of the person who had a family and left them without any warning or reason, never to return. No one knows what happened. There's the orphan who was hired as a "barn boy," and became known as "Barnaby." There are a couple of Civil War veterans. It turns out a main branch of the family came over as servants to William Penn. The husband and wife worked for seven years in order to pay for the trip over, and then headed to Quaker country when they were done. An ancestor was the first person to married in a meeting hall that still stands today.

Thus impressed, I did a search for my mother. I found a reference to a cookbook given my her family to a relative in 1941. After a flurry of e-mails, I discovered that the author of the blog was my second cousin. Her mother, cousin of my mother, is still alive.

With that sort of head start, it was easy to track down other pieces of information. I've found an ancestor that goes back to 1491 or so. I found out there is a little Irish in my blood, as they escaped to England and then America in search of religious freedom.

I don't think I'm ready to write my version of "Roots" yet. But I always wondered where the family tree went. It was lucky to find out someone had pretty much done it for me.

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