I don’t recall how I stumbled upon the information that led me to Anna, but her married surname rang a bell. I’d seen it on a passenger list, connected to a man who was coming to America to see his sister.
The passenger (Johan Gustaf ~ line 8 below), and the sister he was joining (Elise ~ line 6), are siblings of my great-great grandmother Maria Fredrika. I’d been on a quest for years searching for clues that would tell me what became of Maria’s siblings.
As you can imagine, looking for emigrants with the name Peterson in a highly-populated city like Chicago was like looking for a needle in a haystack. The girls, as I’d come to think of them, were especially difficult to find; I didn’t know if or when they had married and changed their names.
Anna K. is the first wife of my first cousin thrice-removed. Despite the slim thread that connects us, Anna’s records provided valuable clues that ultimately led me to Maria’s missing siblings.
Helen M., the widow of my late half 1st-great uncle, was an interesting woman who told many wonderful anecdotes. From Helen I learned things I’d never known about my grandfather’s early life in Chicago.
A half-great (Family Tree Maker’s term) uncle shared old photographs of my late great-grandmother and told me so many stories about her I felt I’d known her all my life. So much so that I cried for her when I read her divorce papers.
Over dinner one evening Patricia T., my third-cousin once-removed, played interviews she’d recorded with shared relatives in our family tree. Pat also introduced me to an overseas author who’d written a book about our extended family.
Speaking of authors, I once sent an inquiry letter to a third cousin thrice-removed. He told me his brother’s late wife had written a book. A week later she and I drank lemonade in her back yard, poring over names, dates and places, and sharing stories as if we’d known each other for years.
A second cousin twice-removed entrusted me with precious original photos and documents so I could scan them at home hundreds of miles away. The day she did this was the day we met.
After hearing I would be in his hometown for a long weekend, another second cousin twice-removed invited me to his home for lunch where he regaled me with stories of our shared ancestors for hours.
A perfect stranger once reached out after seeing my name in a guest book and sent me photographs of my great-great grandparents and their children, and one of my 3rd great grandmother with two of her daughters.
Friends of friends of friends on Facebook have introduced me to people with stories and photos and history of people and places and things that add depth and meaning to my family history research.
There are so many reminders that family history really is about family and all the people that entails, however far removed.
Every person I’ve spoken with gifted me part of their history, our history, told from their point of view. These wonderful people ~ my family ~ are enlightening, entertaining, educational and empathic about our shared genealogy.
My gratitude to all of them knows no bounds.
3 thoughts on “How Far is Too Far Removed?”
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Laura, your articles are always so interesting! Through Ancestry and Find a Grave I have met some wonderful distant cousins of mine. You are right – once we connect it’s as if we have known each other for years.
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Thank you Jim, I appreciate the compliment! Agreed about Find A Grave; I’ve met some amazing folks through that as well. Could it be that our shared DNA draws us to the site?