Posted by Ancestry Team on November 16, 2009 in Site Features

Most of you have probably seen the video clips on our site highlighting the success stories of a few of our members. There is a video about Cathryn Darling, who thought her father had abandoned her as a child only to find out through research on that he was killed in a tragic fishing accident. There is also Jim Lane, whose father had never seen a picture of his own mother. Jim was able to show him her picture for the first time thanks to some connections he made on

And there is the story of Cary Christopher, who thought his great-grandfather was a German soldier during WWI but found out he was actually an American naval hero.

Well, recently we had a follow-up to Cary’s story that made it even more interesting. After we put the clip of Cary telling his story on, we were contacted by one of Cary’s old friends and shipmates from Cary’s own time serving in the Navy.

Owen, Cary’s former shipmate, was also a member of and his wife saw Cary’s video while doing some research on

According to Owen, he was reading the paper in one room when he heard his wife yell from the other, “It’s him. Honey, it’s him!”

“Who?” Owen yelled back.


“Chris who?”

“You know—him!”

When Owen finally figured out who she was talking about, he was ecstatic. He contacted us to see if we could put him in touch with Cary.

We took down Owen’s information and passed it on to Cary, in case he wanted to contact Owen. He did, and the two had a fun time connecting after so many years apart. They spent several hours on the phone catching up.

I love these kinds of connections because they just go to show you how doing your family history has a domino effect–one connection leads to another, which leads to another, and so on. Who knew when Cary made the discovery on about his great-grandfather that it would help him reconnect with a former friend and crew member from his own life?

You can read the rest of the story about Cary and Owen’s reunion in the Learning Center. Plus, you can get some tips on how to make your own connections with family–past and present.

Note: This article was originally published in the November Ancestry Monthly Update.


  1. Karen

    I like Member Connect and seeing the activity on my tree. I have a public tree and share everything I have to help others find their families. What I DON’T like about Member Connect is the lack of settings. I don’t mind freely sharing information with other Ancestry members who do the same with me. I do not wish to share all my hard work and records with Private Member Trees, who share nothing with me or others. Where is there or could you make a setting on the Member Connect portion of my trees that at least allows me NOT to share my info and work with Private Member Trees?

  2. This is a great article – I just found my cousin living in Sweden, and we haven’t corresponded for over 40 years. Thank you Ancestry, your links and trees that gave us an opportunity we may not have had. Ellen

  3. Jana Lloyd

    Karen, I hope that as people with private family trees continue to have positive experiences with members like you who are willing to share their information they will slowly see the value of making their trees public. However, we will always respect the rights of those who want to keep their information private.

    I appreciate your feedback, but since I don’t have any control over Member Connect, I suggest you submit your suggestion to our Member Connect team. You can email them at They always welcome feedback and are constantly improving the product based on our users’ comments.

    Best of luck with your family history research and thank you for taking the time to write in!

  4. Jana Lloyd

    Ellen, that is fantastic. Thank you for sharing! I get to hear wonderful stories almost every day about people making connections with living relatives through and it is one of the best parts of my job.

    Best of luck and thanks again for taking the time to share your story.

  5. Michael Chilquist

    This note made me feel great. I just received the death certificate of my father. I always felt he abandoned me, and now since I know he is dead, I feel how alone he must have been. I am still looking for my mother Diane and sister Susan.

  6. Liz

    My mom in Pennsylvania and her cousin, who now lives in Texas, just reconnected through and are seeing each other this weekend for the first time over in 60 years! Its wonderful to bring families and friends together again… is an amazing website.

  7. Peggy Thrailkill

    Mike Chilquist,
    I am your Aunt Peggy Thrailkill. Yesterday, Uncle Bill & I had lunch with your sister Susan. Contact me at, Uncle Bill & I will put you in touch with your sister and cousins and Great Aunts.

    Peggy Thrailkill

  8. Don Knupp

    In response to Karen #1, Jana Lloyd #3, and others:

    Here are some thoughts from a private tree owner (myself).

    I originally started with my tree being public hoping that people would see it and start sharing similar information.

    What happened was that people started copying my information over to their own trees which was fine. Since I was also trying to find clues to my own family history I contacted these people. Not only did I NOT receive replies but these people made their trees private.

    Since some people seem to want to play their “one-way” games I decided to make my tree private. I am more than happy to share with anyone who is willing to return the favor. I am not happy to share with people who take but do not give.

    For anyone who gets a hint that that points to my private tree I invite you to contact me through Member Connect service. I am happy to share if you also have something to share.

    I, myself, have contacted private tree owners. Some are willing to share some are not. Those that have been willing to share I have obtained valuable information from and hopefully they got useful information from my tree.

    SOME of us who make our trees private are not bad people or “one-way” but have been “burned” by others who are “one-way”. For those of you who get hints that point to private trees my suggestion is to try to contact the owner and see if they will share with you. If they are willing to share you may get some useful information. If they are not willing to share all you can do is move on. This comes from personal experience.

    If anyone would like engage in further discussion on this through this blog or through Member Connect I would be willing to share further.

  9. James

    I have a private tree because there is some info that I don’t want to share with the world.
    If I get a member connection and I view their tree, I often find they have the wrong information and send them a message giving them the correct info for their particular ancestor. Sometimes I get a return message thanking me for helping them out, but mostly I don’t get a reply at all and when I view their tree again I find they have added the info I gave them anyway.
    So Karen it goes both ways.

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