If you have worked on your own genealogy for any length of time, you know that tracking the females in the family create more challenges than tracking down the males. Marriage is the chief culprit here — every time a female marries, you have to start anew picking up the trail. So, trying to find my father's half sisters seemed daunting.
As I tried to formulate a strategy, I decided since the sexton had given me the dates of death of grandpa's second wife and my half-uncle, I would once again request obituaries to see if I could pick up further clues. And my uncle's obituary gave me the clues I needed to find one of the aunts.
Here, in the interest of protecting the privacy of both of my half-aunts, I am going to be purposely vague. I can tell you that the clue was sufficient enough for me, with some specialized help, to make a few calls to track down a phone number for the older of the two aunts.
Again, each new nugget of information was passed along to my dad, and together we would decide the next step. As it turned out, this aunt had lived in different parts of the U.S. but at that very moment was living in Toledo and not far from where we now knew grandpa was buried.
What to do? Dad and I discussed at length whether or not we should initiate contact. After all, we didn't know if dad's half sister knew that she had older half siblings. We didn't want her to think we wanted anything from her but the communication of one half sibling to another, no strings attached.
It was decided that I would make contact with her, explain the situation, and give her information about my dad, along with his phone number and address. She could decide if she wanted to pursue communication with him.
On a Sunday night in November of 1995, I made the call. It took me several attempts at dialing before I finally had the courage to complete the phone call. I had a few weeks to get my head wrapped around the idea of having a half-aunt. Considering the fact that my call came without any warning to her, my newfound aunt handled the phone call extremely well. I told her who I was, and that I was calling on behalf of my father, who was interested in connecting with her.
I gave her bits and pieces of dad's life, partly because I wanted to give her the sense of what a wonderful person my dad is, and partly to alleviate any concern by her that her newfound relatives had ulterior motives for the sudden communication. Then I let her know that this was the only contact we would be initiating with her, and that if she wanted to get in touch with dad, it was completely at her discretion. I gave her dad's name, phone number and address and let her know that he would be taking an extended vacation after the first of the year, and wouldn't be back until late Spring.
I don't remember how long a period of time went by, it could have been weeks. But one evening dad came over to my house excited because he and his half sister had connected. The following year, when my parents came back to Ohio, the three of us went to meet his sister.
When she opened the door, I knew instantly it was my half aunt. She reminded me of one of my dad's sisters. As a child, I adored this particular aunt, and seeing the resemblance made me feel instantly at ease with dad's “new” sister.
We talked at length, shared stories and pictures. Her memories of her father were warm and nice, and she gave us a mental picture of grandpa that we had not been blessed with previously. The visit was wonderful. At the end, my new aunt pointed us to the cemetery and gave the three of us a general idea of where to look for grandpa's grave.
We fanned out looking for the tombstone, and quite a bit of time passed before I reached down and brushed away the grass clippings form the top of one of the marker's. There, amid stray bits of grass, was my grandfather's name. It had taken our branch of the family 50 years, but that day we finally paid our respects to grandpa.
My dad and his half sister still are in contact. They are the only two of Grandpa's twin families that are in touch.
As for my grandfather, I think that there are evil individuals and I think there are saints. My grandfather, like most of us, lived in the gray area between. He lived his life the best that he could, given the hand he was dealt. Sometimes he made mistakes and sometimes he got it just right. He chose two good, strong women to mother and raise his children, and the world is a little bit better because he did.
Finding Grandpa's final resting place and meeting an unknown aunt were my “greatest genealogical finds ever” and it happened BG (before genealogy).
Until Next Time — Happy Ancestral Digging!
Note this post first published online, January 4, 2008, at Desktop Genealogist Blog at The News-Messenger Online http://www.thenews-messenger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=BLOGS02
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