When I started my family tree, I was rewarded many times. Cousins who had never heard of me before receiving my letter, email, or phone call shared stories, data, and photographs. Every time I saw a bulging envelope in the mailbox I was delighted.
I was never satisfied researching a single line or my pedigree. I tracked every darn cousin–including the 45+ Pacheco cousins of my Grandfather. Each time I found someone living, I collected information on both sides of their tree. It provided me with a glimpse into how the different families from Kauai, Oakland, and Monterey County intertwined.
What I didn’t realize was this was going to provide me with a way to give back to those cousins who so generously gave me their time and memories. I was able to put them back in contact with their own family.
My Grandma Shellabarger was alive when I started the tree. She was in her early 80s. In the course of research, I found Adelia (Hughes) Cosma, who married a Pacheco cousin and Eva (Ventura) Nunes who was the sister of my Great Aunt Minnie (Ventura) Nunes. Both of them had been close to my Grandma in the 1930s and 1940s, then lost contact after my Grandparents divorced. I also found her nephew Ted who the family had lost contact with sometime in the 1970s.
My Grandma who was not happy about the tree at all was thrilled to hear that her friends, Dee and Eva, and her nephew, Ted, were still around. I got permission to give each other phone and mailing information. Ted phoned my Grandmother regularly. Dee visited her on occasion. She and Eva wrote letters. I believe that it made my Grandma happy to reunite with these folks from her past. The 40-50 years in between didn’t seem to matter.
Over the years, I been able to reconnect a few cousins with lost family. Recently, I was able to do this for my cousin, Betty. One of her grandmother’s cousins in Hawaii, Teresa, contacted me after seeing one of my blog posts that mentioned her line. Before Thanksgiving, I was able to send off some photos to Betty that Teresa had sent me and tell her about her new cousin. She didn’t have any contact with Hawaii anymore. Betty hadn’t been feeling well lately, so I thought this might cheer her up.
I gave Teresa her number and they were able to have a nice phone conversation a couple of weeks ago. Today, I received a very nice letter from Betty. She was so delighted! She wanted to thank for putting her cousin in contact with her. And, she was very eager to see what genealogy tidbits might be fleshed out.
When I started my tree, I didn’t realize I would have the opportunity to put people who hadn’t seen each other in decades back in contact. I didn’t know that I’d be meeting new cousins and then putting them in contact with other cousins and rebuilding connections that were lost through migration, friction, drifting away, and time. As a genealogist, you sometimes feel you are the one always taking. I have often wonder why people who are strangers would give so freely of themselves to me just to satisfy my little historical obsession.
But, it’s a pleasant reward. An extra added bonus. It makes me happy to be able to do this for people who’ve done so much for me.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com