Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Serendipity of Genealogy

I was struck once again a few weeks ago by how fascinating it is that when we start on the journey of family history, we so often end up finding out about connections we have with friends that we knew nothing about. When down in Utah visiting some very dear family friends, I mentioned that I remembered her saying a few years back that she was descended from a Skidmore ancestor. I had been curious about it for quite some time, since I too am descended from a Skidmore ancestor, but had never pursued it. Hers was a Loyalist who went to Canada, mine ended up in Virginia. One time a few years ago, when their son and his family were up visiting us, their grandson asked my son, "Are we cousins?" It was a sweet question, as our families are so close, but we all just sort of laughed and forgot about it. During this recent visit we finally sat down, she with her PAF database, and me with my RootsMagic one, to see if we could find a connection. Sure enough, to our delight, we discovered that she and I are 9th cousins, once removed. Our common ancestor is John Skidmore, b. 1643 in Massachusetts. That makes me 10th cousins with her children and my children are 11th cousins with her grandchildren. Now, my husband often laughs and says that this is akin to not being related at all, but I don't care. I can honestly claim them as mine!

I had another similar experience when a family moved into our LDS ward a number of years ago and the wife and I became very good friends almost instantly. Of course, our mutual obsession with genealogy didn't hurt! We had known one another for probably over a year when one night we took my family history Sunday School class to the local LDS Family History Center. I asked if she was okay to help the people who had come because I wanted to go and look at some Wythe Co., Virginia marriage records on microfilm. She looked startled and said, "You have Wythe Co. ancestors? I have Wythe Co. ancestors too!" Well, come to find out, there was some distant intermarriage of cousins, but it turned out that her ancestors and mine lived in the same small village and went to the same church. Crazy! But it gets better...

Probably five years after we'd met I was working on my husband's southern Polish lines. I knew that her husband had Polish lines on his mother's side, including the name Banas. One night, as I was squinting over some very old parish registers from Borowa and the surrounding villages near Mielec, I came upon the name Banas several times. When I called her and asked her to send me her husband's pedigree chart, it was to find out that his ancestors and my husband's ancestors lived in neighboring villages about 5 km away from each other. I find that extraordinary...

Henry Z. Jones has written several books on this topic and how often coincidence and "chance" seem to play a role in our finding our ancestors. I'm not sure I'd call it chance... I honestly believe that these individuals want to be found. I also believe that we are often brought together with people who are related to us or can help us further our research in often miraculous ways. I have seen it in my own life and I am oh so thankful for it!

No comments:

Post a Comment