It’s that time of year, once again, when thoughts of family and friends, and going home are more prevalent than ever. Having a home for the holidays provides great comfort, a sense of roots and belonging, no matter what home looks like – a leafy rural hideaway, a bustling city with gleaming skyscrapers – or even just the feelingof home: that mix of banter and routine among family and friends with shared history. A champion of the fundamental importance of family and belonging, Ancestry celebrates those that keep home alive: the stalwarts that make sure there is always something familiar to return to.
This holiday season, Ancestry is uncovering the story of one of America’s tiniest towns: Gross, Nebraska, population two. Back in its heyday, Gross was brimming with activity. The town was supposed to be a major Midwest railroad hub, and was home to as many as 600 residents. But the railroad never came, and slowly but surely, everyone moved on to new cities and different lives. Everyone, that is, except for Mary and Mike Finnegan.
For the last 33 years, the Finnegans have been the town’s sole residents, and have single-handedly kept the spirit of Gross alive. They operate a small restaurant, the Nebrask Inn, where they welcome travelers of all kinds—providing comfort, hospitality, and the best burger around. Through their warmth and steadfast traditions (coffee still costs a nickel, and anyone who dares to curse has to glue a dollar to the wall!), Mary and Mike have ensured that Gross is home, even if it’s only physically home to two.
While they are not short on visitors and passers-by, Mary and Mike remember the days when the town was more full of life. Just in time for Thanksgiving, Ancestry searched its extensive historical records and gathered those with connection to Gross – bringing them “home” to reconnect with and discover a piece of their family history, (some, for the very first time!). For one special day, Ancestry enabled the past and present to come together, reuniting the Finnegans not only with their family, but also with descendants from the founding Gross family.
A small taste of the old times went a long way in Gross, Nebraska – and anyone who longs for home will find something familiar in the Finnegans’ story.