For family historians, discovering who our ancestors were and where they came from is what drives us to spend hours upon hours pouring over records, indexes, photographs and newspaper clippings. Equally important and rewarding, however, is the opportunity for discovering previously unknown (or long-lost) living relatives with which we can share being a part of the same family. Yesterday I had just such a breakthrough.
Back in August I detailed my James McGregor brick wall which prevents me from peering further back down the McGregor family line. I decided to attack the problem using a linear approach - digging for more on James' two other children (Robert Lee, James' other child, was my wife's great-great-grandfather, so I have his descendants pretty well researched). I knew the birth date and place of James' son James, but little else. For his third child Opal, however, I had a lot more to go on. One item of interest was her obituary. A month ago I blogged about the value of obituaries, and so I'd hoped to strike gold (or at least some silver) by looking for Opal's survivors.
Opal had two sons listed, Wendell and Jerry. I hit the 'net and found Wendell rather quickly. Unfortunately, it was his obituary from Wisconsin. I'll be sending away for a copy of it soon, but in the meantime I returned to my searching and focused on Jerry. I found a match in both name and location, but the only additional info I managed to learn was his mailing address. Cheryl typed up an introductory letter containing her contact information and snail-mailed it to California - fingers crossed. Last night an email popped in from Jerry, and he confirmed that he was indeed Cheryl's first cousin (twice removed)! As an added bonus, he had been doing his own genealogical research and mentioned having boxes of photos, records, and newspaper clippings that he'd be more than happy to send our way.
Besides the prospect of knocking a few bricks out of the James McGregor wall, Cheryl has reached out and connected with a member of her family that she never knew existed. Jerry mentioned that he thought his branch of the family had lost touch with his uncle Robert's branch (Cheryl's g-g-grandfather) forever, so he seems equally thrilled at this discovery. This is what makes those long hours so worth the effort.