Imagine sending a chance message to someone who posted a pic of your deceased ancestor’s grave on a genealogy site, and finding 240+ distant cousins a day later. Not only that, but those cousins are all in a Facebook group dedicated to the descendants of the ancestor that emigrated from Germany to the British Colonies in 1736? Yep. That happened to me. And it was awesome.
I had been learning the ropes on how to search on Ancestry, and saw several photos of Mary Storm and her husband Greenup Storm’s grave (see Treasures of the Past) posted by one particular user named Christopher. I sent a chance message asking if he was related somehow to that redoubtable old lady from my picture. I received a return message that he was, indeed, related to Mary Storm, and we exchanged a few messages with information that was very useful to me on Mary’s family. Turns out we are not only 7th cousins, but he lives 30 minutes away. When he asked if I was on Facebook, because he wanted to add me to a family group. I was intrigued, so we connected.
I had no idea I just found 240+ cousins. Distant cousins, but family none the less. I was immediately and warmly welcomed by several of the members, have spoken to others, and we’re now connected. It’s been fun trying to figure out how we are all related, and we all have family research in common. I posted several digital copies of the photos I have in the group, and have enjoyed seeing the photos others post. Remember the photo of great-aunt Alberta that I resembled somewhat? One of my distant cousins in the Facebook group really IS a dead ringer for her. And I mean she looks EXACTLY like Alberta. Turns out she is descended from her, and is a closer cousin than most. I am looking forward to finding out more about my mystery aunt.
I’ve learned my ancestors were farmers, craftsmen, and generally the salt of the earth. They were emigrés, Revolutionary Patriots, and Midwestern pioneers. Good, solid stock. Some rivaled JS Bach for the number of children they had – which explains why there are so many cousins in that Facebook group – and my respect for their no doubt long-suffering wives increased enormously. I’ve found copies of land grants, war pensions, ship records, and wills that have woven stories that make these people very real.
When I started this journey, it was so my mother and aunt could learn more about their family. I had the time, and my skills as a former journalist made this research easy to do. I had no idea I would continue it with my own fascination of learning the stories of those that came before me. I have traced some ancestors in Germany, England and Wales back to 1603. For reference, that’s during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and I think that’s totally worth the $90 I spent on the 6 month subscription on Ancestry.
I’m not done yet. I am waiting for DNA test results to come back, and hope there will be more family matches that I can explore. I’m hooked, and am not ashamed to admit it. If you’re looking for something fun and rewarding to do in retirement, I can highly recommend looking into your own roots. Who knows – maybe there is a Facebook group out there with your own family just waiting for you!