Saturday, April 28, 2007

You Never Know...

My motto in genealogical research is “You never know.” You never know what is around the next corner, the next web page, the next record you look at. You never know who you will meet or what great find is next. Which is what I told the people at the genealogy workshop I presented today at the Simla Library. I am a librarian for the Elbert County Library District and work in the Elbert branch. During genealogy month I’ve given workshops at the 3 other branches.

After the workshop Erin, the Simla Branch manager, said she was excited to start researching her family history and that I had given her many ways to get started. Then she told me that her grandfather’s mother had left the family in the middle of the night when her grandfather was around 5-years-old. She wanted to find out where she went and what happened to her. Erin had called her mother the night before the workshop and asked her what her great-grandmother’s name was. Erin told me the name--Ora Christison or Christenson.

I stared at Erin and asked, “Could it be Orrie?” as I grabbed the notebook I had with me. I had brought my notebook on Ernest Christison to show as an example on how to organize research materials. Thumbing through it, I found the family chart on Ernest that Betty Regnier had sent me. Betty is Ernest’s granddaughter. I glanced at the chart and found Orrie, then turned it over and read the notes on the back. Orrie had been married to Thomas Lyons and they had twin boys--Thomas and James. The twin, Thomas, was Erin’s grandfather.

Erin and I just stood there in shock. We were distant cousins. The woman who had abandoned her grandfather as a child had a background and a family history. My family.

I got on the phone and called Betty Regnier. Betty’s mother and Orrie were sisters. Erin and Betty talked. Unfortunately, Betty didn’t know much more about Orrie than Erin knew. Betty said Orrie had left her family, and the only person she kept in contact with at all was her older sister, Grace.

Erin and I looked through the notebook and found a picture of Orrie and two of her brothers when they were children. Erin saw a family resemblance in the picture. She couldn’t wait to show the pictures to her mother, grandmother, aunts and sisters.

Ernest Christison is Erin’s great-great-grandfather. Ernest’s brother, Lewis, is my great-grandfather. My grandfather and Erin’s great-grandmother were first cousins. Incredible. Our common ancestors are Wilburn and Elizabeth.

I’ll say it again, you never know…


Marlene Depler said...

Wow! This is so amazing! Thanks for sharing this story.

Pamela Cosel said...

What a fabulous story--and connection! Thanks for alerting us via WWW about your family history.

Gayle Gresham said...

From Jane Kirkpatrick:
Hi Gayle, I didn't know how to leave a comment on your blog but I loved your story. You never know is so right on! We all have stories like that to make the hair on our arms stand up with the amazingness of it all. Thanks for sharing and finding your distant cousin...Jane

Joyce Lohse said...

Hello Gayle --

Your story is incredible! Congratulations on your success with genealogy and historical research. May you find many more great stories and interesting people. Have fun with your writing, research, and with WWW.

-- Joyce