Monday, December 28, 2009

RESEARCHING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX

Percy English
1897-1959
Some time ago while researching my husband's side of the family I had pretty much exhausted all the avenues to find more family members. Most of his ancestors did not have surviving children. He did have some half siblings though significantly older than him, from his father Percy. I was in contact with one of their sons in particular who told me of the many family items he had and was going to share with us.

And then a year went by and nothing came. Finally I heard from him again and he told me of his health issues following a bad car crash. He would be sending the information though, he promised. Another year or so passes and when I hear from him again he assures me he wants to send me some things but there has been some flooding in the basement you know and he hopes things were not damaged.
I have offered to pay for the cost of sending these items but have yet to hear back from him again. This makes me sad. My husband never knew his father who died when my husband was only 4. These things would mean so much to him. I consider this avenue to be a lost cause.

On the other side of the coin I found one of my husband's half siblings who are actually around the same age as his mother. I spoke with this man who in New York who really didn't know who I was talking about not knowing anything about my husband, his younger half brother. He did mention that their sister lived in Texas now so that is where I was going to try next.

Armed with her name, age, married name from her second marriage and state I went looking. I did find her divorce records from her first husband but that led me nowhere. I didn't know if she had any children. Next my search was for her current husband. Texas is a big state by the way.

I made a lot of cold calls to people with the same last name, luckily not a very common one and "met" a lot of really nice Texas folk. Some were going to phone around to the others they knew of so I didn't have to call long distance from Canada. No connections were made but I really did feel the kindness of strangers here.

And then I found what I needed. My husband's half sister had written a memorial poem to her deceased husband that was presented at the hospital where he had been an organ donor. There was a list of this man's children, her step children. I hit the phone listings again and now knowing what city they were in, narrowed down my search rather quickly. A couple of phone calls later I was speaking to one of these step children and she took down all my information and contacted the woman I was looking for. Within an hour I had a phone call from my husband's half sister. Thirty years older than him and knowing nothing of him, just his brother. It took a lot of explaining but finally she understood the details and was elated.

This dear woman has sent us photos of their grandparents, uncles and aunts and an actual recording of their father's voice. She has told us all kinds of family stories. We email back and forth and hopefully will meet in person one day soon.

You have to keep digging and looking in unusual places. If you can't find the person in question make sure you look for other connections such as step children or previous neighbors who may still be friends with the person you are looking for.

5 comments:

My Grama's Soul said...

Lori, I'm so glad your extensive search panned out so well. I can only imagine how difficult it must be trying to track down lost ancestors.

My SIL, Sandy, tells me it is challenging, but i probably would find it exhausting.

Best wishes in the New Year,

Jo

Renate said...

As I was reading, I was getting sadder and sadder, because you hit some key points that I could definitely relate to, and I totally understood the frustration of it all. But then, near the end, my sadness turned to joy! I'm so happy that you've made this connection and you've been able to provide your husband and family with this wonderful gift!

Happy New Year!
Renate

Sandy said...

Lori,

This is such a great post! You are a very patient women, when it come to this genealogy stuff, I can tell....I have never had a hard time talking to strangers, so cold calls were kind of fun. But on my Dad's side, I finally got to a family, they are all there is besides me and my brother and they really didn't care. That was so hurtful! For a few days I walked around pissed! But have had many other connections that worked! I am so glad you got this for your husband....having connections is soooo important no matter how small. Thanks for this post Lori!

Celestial Charms said...

Lori, I'm so happy this story had a wonderful ending. I find it so frustrating when someone has a promised wealth of information, documents, or photos and yet somehow it never arrives. I sometimes want to just take a plane, and knock on their door unannounced to say, "I'm here to help you gather those things we spoke about." ;) I know that is unrealistic, and sometimes life gets in the way of the promises of others, but it is so frustrating. Well, hopefully we all have the happy endings you were granted. Have a great weekend.
Maureen

Michelle said...

Wow, so amazing that someone could have a half-sibling they know nothing about! But I guess it happens. :) Great story of persistance!