Sunday, January 31, 2016

Amazing Discoveries

Tomorrow is my birthday, so I've been thinking back over my life, the good times and the not so good, the dreams and the disappointments. As I've posted before, I was raised by my Grandparents. My parents were much too young when they married and they separated before I was born. I understand that my father came to visit me in the hospital when I was born, but I never met him or any of his family members.
As a child I had my Grandfather and my Uncles who spoiled me and I didn't miss not having a father around. But as I got older, I did feel a little resentment that none of his family ever showed any interest in knowing me or how I was.  I felt there was a part of me missing. Life goes on and I didn't waste a lot of time thinking about it.
Then a few years ago Rob gave me some genealogy software. I decided to play around with it a little and was pleased that I could trace my maternal ancestors back  a very long way. When I printed out my family tree, however, it was pretty lopsided. My maternal side went back to the founding of the country and the paternal side was  empty. All I knew about my father was his name,  the names of two of his siblings, and the fact that he'd been in the navy.
One day while surfing the net, I stumbled onto a military database and found my father's birth and death dates. OK!!! I took a chance that he had stayed in Syracuse where his family had lived, and emailed the Syracuse Public Library. I asked if they could look up an obituary. I expected either a negative response or a request for payment for a lookup, but instead, the very next day I received two obituaries from the two local papers. Thank you, librarian.

The obituaries included the names of my father's parents. I found my grandfather's obituary online and from there it took off. I made the totally unexpected discovery the paternal side of my family was quite famous in the founding of the country. In fact, my 14th Great Grandfather was one of the founders of Hartford, Connecticut.
My Father may not have ever sent me a birthday card or acknowledged me in any other way, but he gave me a fine heritage.

After filling in my tree, I learned that I qualified for membership in several heritage societies. I looked over the list and settled on two. First was The National Society Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America. I had to prove thru accepted documentation that I was directly descended from a founder, someone who had been here prior to 1687, and a patriot, someone who had participated in the Revolution. Once I had the documentation together, I submitted it for review and it passed. I was admitted to the Society.

With that success at hand, I decided to go for admittance to the Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford. Again I went thru the steps of documentation which was much faster and easier the second time, applied and was accepted.
 I was really surprised how this affected me. I suddenly, for the first time in my life, felt whole. I did have a known heritage and it was a good one. I can't really explain how deeply changed I felt,  but I wish I'd started this research years ago.

 There were a few extra, really neat discoveries along the way.  First I learned that my Father had remarried and had other children. I had a half  brother and sister that I had never known about. In trying to learn more I posted to a family chat list and was totally blown away when I was contacted by a niece that I didn't know about. We even arranged to meet and still stay in touch.
Then a short time later I was put in touch with my Father's only living sibling. My 96 year old Aunt and I chat on the phone and correspond by mail. She also sent me a copy of a book she wrote about her life. I learned more about my Father and Grandparents from her.

Now surely that would be enough to satisfy my needs, right? No way! For a couple years I left my research where it was, but two weeks ago I was feeling restless. I moved my records to new software and decided to poke around a little more. It paid off big time. Though I had some prominent people in the tree already, I went looking for more. I already knew about the Adams cousins, John and Samuel, but I wasn't ready to stop there.

I kept looking and sure enough I hit the jackpot. I found a Mayflower connection. I am descended from John Alden and Priscilla Mullins Alden, who arrived as a teenager on the Mayflower. You've heard of her, she's the "speak for yourself, John", Priscilla in the Myles Standish story.
 Now I've gone about as far as I can go without access to documents in England, but I'm trying to figure out how to get to them without actually making a trip overseas.  So here's something I never expected to say, Thanks Dad, for the birthday present.


Marjie said...

Happy Birthday, Sue! I recently discovered that I am descended from Edward Doty, an indentured servant on the Mayflower, so I understand your thrill in getting all the way back there! I'm so glad you've found family at last. And Happy Birthday again.

Matilda the Boxer said...

Wow, how exciting! Momma's family came from Germany in the 1800s. We have Grandpa's side worked out pretty well, but we don't know as much about Grandma's.

Bella Roxy & Macdui said...

Happy Birthday! Following family trees is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You've been so successful.

Foley Monster, Pocket and River Song said...

That is so cool. My husband's family arrived in Massachusetts in the late 1600's and settled west of Boston. His cousin is a member of the Daughter's of the American Revolution. History is pretty cool. Me, on the other hand, I don't even know who my grandfather was (but my grandmother wasn't sure either. Oh grandma!)

Molly the Airedale said...

Happy Birthday, Miss Sue! How exciting and you have come so far!