Friday, April 27, 2007

It's a Small World

It really is a small world regardless, but when you start to trace your family tree, it gets even smaller. One of the first things (and the coolest) things that happened to me when I put up the website was I started getting e-mails from long-lost cousins. Most of the time they start out . . . "I think we might be related...."
More often than not we are. But, that's to be expected somewhat. What I love is when I was younger and I was working in the hardware store, a man came up to me and said he wanted a hundred two-by-fours. Then he paid me by check. I looked down at his name and knew instantly that we were related. My third great grandfather was his ancestor's brother. He just sort of looked me strangely when I announced, "Oh my god! My great, great, great grandpa was your ancestor's brother!" He, rather disappointingly, had no clue who is ancestor even was, much less that he was French. Since his branch of the family had Americanized the name. (I then proceeded to fill him in.)
In large cities, recognizing a relative by name is not as easy as in a small town, unless the name is really unusual. For instance, if you have the surname Smith or Jones on your tree and you come across a Smith, he could be from anywhere. But some names, like VanBibber (one of my family surnames) you just can't deny. I've never met anybody that has the last name VanBibber or is descended from a VanBibber that cannot trace their family right back to the founding family in Germantown, Pennsylvania. I LOVE THESE KINDS OF NAMES! They are a genealogists dream!
A couple of months ago, I was sitting in the bleachers getting ready to watch my daughter's highschool marching band perform. The announcer always gives the names of the drum majors and wouldn't you know it? Her drum major turns out to be a long-lost cousin.
A small town is the greatest though. My dad was from Perryville and I can just walk through the cemeteries and go, "He was related, he was related, she was related . . ." All based on their last names.
I met my husband's great aunt on-line. That was a hoot. I had just gotten engaged and was exploring his family tree, going to the websites and putting out the feelers. I put out posts on the different surname pages of genweb and about a week later I get this e-mail from this woman who lives several states away going, "Who the heck ARE you?" She'd recognized the fact that I was posting on all the same surname pages that she was researching, but she had never heard of ME!
I honestly believe that at any given time I could walk into the local mall in this area, and if everybody in the mall could trace their ancestry back five generations, I'd find ten people related to me. So then, when I'm in a foul mood and thinking not nice thoughts about the driver in front of me, or slow poke in the grocery store, I should stop and think that within five or ten generations of each other, we're probably related. I should think nicer thoughts.
Well, folks, by the time you read this, I'll be in Paducah in Quilt Heaven! I'll report all about it next Friday. Happy reading!
Rett MacPherson

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