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Connecting with Cousins

Posted by Juliana Smith on July 23, 2014 in Juliana's Corner

Val and Dave with the photo of Catherine Huggins, March 2012.

For years, I battled with the decision over whether to make my tree public or private. What if there was something wrong in it? I do a lot of my research offline and a lot of my pre-computer research resides in binders. I’ve used that and more recent research over the years to construct timelines in Word documents that I use for analysis, and while some have been hung on the tree, there just never seems to be enough time to get everything out there. So why make my tree public in an incomplete and possibly imperfect state?

Simple. Cousin bait. I wanted to see if there were other people out there working on my family. So I took the plunge and for years my mom and I waited. And waited. And waited.

How was it possible that no one was related to us? There had to be another family historian somewhere. It’s in our genes!

Finally, one day we noticed that someone was attaching records from our trees to one of Mom’s paternal lines. Could it be?

It was a lovely lady named Val, and after reaching out to her, it didn’t take long before we figured out that our most recent common ancestors were William H. Dennis and Catherine Huggins. Val’s great-grandmother and my mother’s great-grandfather were brother and sister. Whoohoo!

So we started exchanging notes, and then one day we noticed that we were getting hints to a photograph of Catherine Huggins in our tree. Catherine was an Irish famine immigrant and her story is a pretty compelling one. Her parents came over without her and two of her siblings in 1844. I found an arrival for the three children in 1849. That meant the children, aged 7, 9, and 11, had ridden out the famine in Ireland while their parents were here in the states. I can’t imagine having to leave babies across the ocean and then knowing that this horrible tragedy was unfolding around them. The children all survived the trip, but nearly 9% of the people on that ship perished.

I had always marveled at the strength of that family and now, thanks to Val, I have a photograph of Catherine that I can look at whenever I feel like I need to draw a little strength. Her story makes our troubles seem kind of trivial.

Best part of it all, though, was a couple years ago when we were traveling to Val’s home state for a nearby speaking engagement. We were able to meet Val and her husband Dave and had a lovely dinner with them. It was my birthday and she made me a delicious cake and we shared stories that had been passed down through our families. It was a wonderful evening and one that we hope to repeat someday soon.

We’ve also had other cousin connections, including a gentleman from Massachusetts who shared a photograph of my mother’s aunt. That aunt had helped Mom launch her research back in the 1970s, and although they communicated by mail, they were never able to speak to each other or meet in person. Our first glimpse of that aunt came through that photograph.

So if you’ve been sitting on the fence, trying to decide whether to make your tree public, don’t wait for “perfect.” Get working on it and put it out there. There are cousins out there waiting for you.

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Past Articles

What You Might Have Missed: July 22 Edition

Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on July 22, 2014 in Ask Ancestry Anne

Blogs “Dear Census Taker: Read the Instructions” by Amy Johnson Crow “It’s Greek to Me: What We Can Learn From the Rosetta Stone” by Amy Johnson Crow “What We Are Reading: July 18 Edition” by Amy Johnson Crow “Welcome to the Mountain State: West Virginia State Research Guide” by Anne Gillespie Mitchell “5 Things… Read more

Dillinger’s Jailor, Sheriff Lillian Holley

Posted by Juliana Smith on July 22, 2014 in Juliana's Corner

Eighty years ago today, John Dillinger was gunned down after seeing a show at Chicago’s Biograph Theater, betrayed by the “woman in red” who tipped off the FBI. Dillinger was big news and newspapers across the country carried stories of his death and illustrious criminal career. In the midst of the Depression, some viewed him… Read more

Short Film ‘Nan’ Explores the Beautiful Lifelong Friendship Between Grandma and Grandson

Posted by Brian Gallagher on July 22, 2014 in In The Community, Stories, United Kingdom

We all have roles to play in our lives. We all start as children. Some of us go on to become parents, and later hope to become grandparents. How often do grandchildren stop to ponder the meaning of their bond with their grandmother or grandfather? Writer and director Luke Taylor recognized the unique relationship between… Read more

Dear Census Taker: Read the Instructions

Posted by Amy Johnson Crow on July 21, 2014 in Research

Dear Census Taker: I would have addressed this as “Dear Enumerator,” but was concerned that you had not yet read the instructions that have been given to you and, thus, might be unfamiliar with that term. Those instructions are why I am writing to you today. Following these instructions will generate much joy for the… Read more

It’s Greek to Me: What We Can Learn From the Rosetta Stone

Posted by Amy Johnson Crow on July 19, 2014 in Research

Ptolemy V had a problem. He was pharaoh, but was fighting opposition in parts of Egypt. Compounding the issue was the fact that he was only 13. On the first anniversary of his coronation, the priests issued a decree in support of young Ptolemy. To make sure everyone understood, they inscribed it in three languages:… Read more

What We Are Reading: July 18 Edition

Posted by Amy Johnson Crow on July 18, 2014 in In The Community

I enjoy reading about other people’s research. Even if they don’t mention one of my ancestors, I often come away with ideas for new sources to look for, a new way of using a source I hadn’t thought of before, or motivation to keep up the search. What we’ve been reading this week has a little… Read more

Welcome to the Mountain State: West Virginia State Research Guide

Posted by Anne Gillespie Mitchell on July 18, 2014 in Research

The western counties of Virginia separated from that state when it seceded in 1861. Those counties combined as West Virginia and became the 35th state on June 20, 1863. Here are 5 things you might not know about West Virginia: In 1756, the first public spa opened in Berkeley Springs. Almost 3/4 of the state… Read more

5 Things About the Port of Boston

Posted by Juliana Smith on July 17, 2014 in Juliana's Corner, Research

Boston’s history as a port is long. Here are 5 things you might not know about the port of Boston. 1. Not that Popular Early On Despite deep colonial roots, for most years Boston was not the port of choice for immigrants. Even the more distant port of New Orleans drew more immigration from Europe… Read more

Throwback Thursday Topic: The Moon Landing

Posted by Amy Johnson Crow on July 17, 2014 in In The Community

This Sunday, July 20, marks the 45th anniversary of the moon landing. What once was unimaginable was suddenly happening and we could watch it from the comfort of our living rooms. For this week’s Throwback Thursday, several of us got together and shared our memories of that historic event. Juliana Szucs Smith: Last week I… Read more

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