Christmas of 2014 I bought DNA kits for my husband and myself. While it was very interesting to see what our ethnic backgrounds were, finding cousins was my main goal. I was ecstatic to discover a half first cousin one-time removed whose name is Alice. However finding her was not as simple as calling her up to say “Hi.”
I started by sending her a message through Ancestry. She responded with a brief description of her family history. Some of it seemed to match but some didn’t. I chalked it up to poor research on her part and sent her a message that I couldn’t quite figure out how we were connected. Shame on me! About a year later I looked at it again and found that she had posted a family tree. I know knew how we were related. Her grandfather was my father’s half brother. The confusion came in because he, William Smailes, was using my father’s last name, not his own. I immediately re-contacted my cousin and explained that I now knew how we are connected and waited impatiently for her response.
She sent me a summary of her life and her family story. Her mother, my first half-cousin, had died in a car accident when Alice was only 1 year old. Her father died in a car accident when she was only 4 years old. The children were then sent to live with other families. She knew little to nothing about her maternal family and had taken the DNA test in hopes of finding them. Well, she did.
We will be meeting on June 14th in Colorado where she lives. I am so excited to be able to give her her family. I played with her mother as a child so can share those memories and also the family history. In preparing for the trip, I printed two Family Trees, several Family Group sheets, numerous scanned documents including the original marriage certificate of her great grandparents, and two family reports. The family reports that I selected are a descendant report of her great grandmother down to the latest generation and an ancestor report for her grandfather including her g-g-g-g-grandparents. These reports contain a number of stories and family legends that will help to bring these people alive for her. I then rummaged through my scrapbooks and scanned a number of photos to make an album for her.
This has been a labor of love and what I call an act of genealogy kindness. I challenge each of you who share this obsession that we call genealogy to find someone whom you can help to find their family. For me, I am gaining more than I am giving. If you need help getting started, drop over to the Hall House (the library for the Fenton History Center) and we will give you a hand. Call (716) 664-6256 for directions and hours of operation.
To read Janet Walberg’s previous genealogy columns or to delve deeper into her writings and insights for searching out and recording your own family’s genealogy, please go to jamestowngazette.com and visit Janet’s own web page.