Sunday, February 01, 2009

Happy Dance Moments :: Making Connections

When I selected the topic of "The Happy Dance. The Joy of Genealogy." for this edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, I did so thinking it would be an easy topic for me to write about. But here it is, just a few hours before the deadline, and I'm still not sure what I'm going to write! The problem is that it really doesn't take much for me to do the "happy dance" and in 25+ years of research, I'm pleased to say, there have been quite a few of those joyous moments. Sure, there have been some disappointments too, but it's the moments of unadulterated joy that make it all worthwhile.

In the early years of research, after manually cranking through rolls of microfilm for hours on end, finding an ancestor in the census records was just cause for a mini-celebration. Most of the time the celebrations were quiet ones with my brain shouting out with joy, but not a peep escaping from my mouth. After all I was in a library. Occasionally though, I just couldn't help myself and the little squeal of delight would also bring smiles to the faces of other researchers who were also cranking the microfilm readers.

Okay, I see a "theme" developing in the random thoughts I just wrote down, so I've decided that the happy-dance moments I'm going to share will be some of those that involved making connections (kinexxions) with distant relatives and the results of those incredible experiences. These are just a few such moments.

In the spring of 1984, I began my quest to find the descendants of my 2nd great-grandparents Jacob and Louisa (Fisher) Phend by writing lots and lots of letters to anyone with the surname Phend. As replies came back, they led to more letter writing with those contacts leading to even more contacts and information. And photographs. And documents. Virtually every reply brought on a mini-celebration. But a major celebration in the journey to publish a book came about on August 18, 1985 when the first reunion since 1942 was held that included descendants from nearly all of the children of Jacob and Louisa.

I can't even begin to describe the feelings of joy that overwhelmed me that day. My grandfather, who was 92 years old at the time, met his first cousins Jacob Phend and Elizabeth Phend Young for the first time! Jacob was 65 years old at the time and Elizabeth was 63. It would be a few more years before I finished the book, which was published in July 1991, and there would be many more of those special moments during that time. The joy of finally getting the book published was tempered somewhat with disappointment in the final product that came from the printers (someday I might write about that!), but even with its printing problems, the book was a huge success, and it was all due to the wonderful responses received from previously unknown relatives.

One of my "most favorite" genea-happy-dance moments came in June 2000 when I was contacted by Beth who turned out to be my 5th cousin once removed. Our common ancestors are my 5th great-grandparents Lewis Sisley (1765-1826) and his wife Margaret Ellis (1773-1870). A distant relationship to be sure, but her mother, Marge, had the original pages from the Sisley Family Bible! But, to top that off, they lived on the southwest side of Indianapolis, just a three-hour drive away. Of course, my mother and I made the trip south and spent a very pleasant and exciting day with Marge and her family. You can read more about that visit, as well as view the bible pages, in this post that was published in September 2008 and submitted to the Show and Tell version of the Carnival of Genealogy.

A relatively recent happy dance moment came in May 2006 when I was contacted by Kathy Foster. She had found my website with pages on my 3rd great-grandparents, John and Susannah (Hoffman) Berlin. Kathy was a descendant of Susannah's sister Mary (Hoffman) Walker. At that time the only information I had on Susannah was that she had been born in Columbiana County, Ohio and could be the daughter of John and Catherine (Coy) Hoffman. That info had come from another researcher in 1999 but with no documentation. Other things took up my time and I never got around to doing anything with that info. Kathy had the estate settlement papers for John Hoffman that named all eleven of his children, including Susan Berlin! In addition, she had done extensive research on the family and was able to take me back another generation on both the Hoffman and Coy sides. So not only did I now have the names of Susan's parents, I had the proof to go along with it, and the names of both sets of her grandparents!

A second happy dance was done in August that year (2006) that also involved Kathy. I received an email from her that said she had just gotten an old photo album from one of her relatives which included pictures of Eli and Lovina (Berlin) Yarian, my 2nd great-grandparents! You see, Kathy's ancestor, Mary Hoffman was the second wife of Thomas Walker. Their son, James Madison Walker, was Kathy's ancestor. By his first marriage, Thomas Walker had several children, among whom was William Walker who had married Eli Yarian's sister, Susanna! Kathy and I aren't related at all through that connection, but the families obviously maintained a relationship even though her family was living in Stark County, Ohio and mine in Elkhart County, Indiana. In addition to the pictures of Eli and Lovina she sent pictures of Susanna Yarian and her husband William Walker. I had previously obtained several pictures of Lovina from the Nappanee Library but did not have any photos of Eli, so this was truly one of those amazing happy dance moments.

Eli Yarian, my 2nd great-grandfather.
Photo received from Kathy Foster in August 2006.


Becky Jamison said...

This is just awesome. It's obvious that you keep very good records so you're even able to track back to all these wonderful moments of discovery, connection (kinexxion), and the resulting happy dance! You have really been blessed--as a result of your hard work of course. Reading through your stories reminds me of conversations I have and my husband "rolls his eyes" as I'm going thru the relationship details! Love it!

Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

Becky, what a story! Thank you for sharing. I have been doing a better job in recent years citing my sources, but not WHEN I found the information. I believe I will start documenting that as well-to give myself a better timeline. I have so very many relatives from Indiana who knows maybe in a couple of years I'll find a kinexxion to you!
Thanks for sharing. I love the picture too!