thegenealogygirl


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My Unexpected DNA Discovery – Conclusion and Tips

DNA Discovery

Finding Bob’s* birth mother and father was such a privilege.  I learned a lot, and felt like I was on a rollercoaster.  Because we were successful, I thought I would reemphasize the biggest lessons and tips that I gathered along the way.

 

DNA tester's warning

First – Please go into the DNA world with your eyes wide open.  There will be surprises.  Possibly, surprises that are upsetting.  Like, it turns out your favorite Grandpa isn’t your Grandpa after all – at least not biologically.  Or, you have a half-sibling you never knew about.  Or, one whole brach of your tree is completely wrong, genetically speaking.

For me, the surprises were not unwelcome.  That is not always the case.  So please, if you choose to DNA test, or ask someone else to DNA test, be open to surprises.  (People have been having babies outside of marriage for like, ever.  It bears repeating: There will be surprises.)

 

DNA Discovery, lesson one

Luckily for us, Bob had already tested with FamilyTree DNA and 23 and Me – three total tests.  Additionally, my uncle had Y-DNA tested with FTDNA and autosomal tested with Ancestry.  Having multiple tests in multiple places was really the key to finding Bob’s parents so quickly.

Most people can’t afford to test with every company.  As the person working with Bob’s matches, I can tell you that each one of those 5 tests played a crucial role in the process.  If even one of them hadn’t existed, we wouldn’t have gotten our answer.  Well, at least not so quickly and easily.

So what do you do if you are an adoptee and can’t afford multiple tests?  Learn about autosomal transfers so you get the most bang for your buck.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson two

I know this one is easier said than done in many cases.  For adoptees, they have a whole bunch of matches that they can’t differentiate.  They have nothing to work with.  There are plenty of cool science-y things you can do.  If that speaks to your soul, and you have the time – by all means, learn the cool science-y DNA tricks that barely register in my pianist/dreamer/reader/artistic brain.  If that is not you, pull up a chair and let me give you a few of my sneaky detective tricks.

Study your closest matches – up to third cousin.  Look to see if they have a tree.  If you are looking at matches in Ancestry, please note that just because there is not a tree attached to someone’s DNA results, does not mean they don’t have a tree.  Here is an example from my matches:

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.13.43 PM copy

This is a match I have been working with over the last few weeks to help solve some long standing mysteries.  She has not linked a tree to her DNA results.  But if you look at the very bottom left, I have the option to “Select a tree to preview” with a drop-down arrow.  After clicking the arrow I see the tree she does have.  If she had more than one tree, they would all be listed here.

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.13.52 PM

Her tree is quite small, because she had a dead-end she was trying to solve.  I have been able to help her, and she has been able to help me.  Win-win!

Okay, let’s get back to the point here.  Compare the trees of your matches and look for the closest common ancestors.  Everyone will fall into two camps – maternal and paternal matches.  If you can group them based on common ancestors you will be in better shape.  Try to connect your matches.  There are connections – find them.  Pay attention to names, but be careful, they could be maiden or married surnames.  Pay attention to dates and places.  You are looking for patterns.

Use the tools in the DNA service you are using to look at matches you share with your matches.  This tool can help you separate your matches into two groups.

Look for a match who is really into genealogy, they love to help!  Even if they are a little bit more distantly related, a 3rd cousin say, they probably know a lot about their tree and can help you narrow things down.

In my case, it was easy.  I already knew which of Bob’s matches belong to my side of his tree.  I was just looking for common ancestors of the remaining matches.  All of these matches were from his birth mother’s side.  Each of them added a clue or two that helped me identify Bob’s 2nd great grandparents as the common ancestors of his closest matches.  From there I had to switch to descendancy research.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson three

What is descendancy research?  I’m glad you asked.  I happen to have an info graphic handy that answers that very question.

gg defined- descendancy research

I know that is super tiny and not the least bit reader friendly.  Just click on the image and it will take you to the original post.

Completing descendancy research on the common ancestors of your matches, will help you build a tree filled with your family members.  You may not know how you are related, but you do know that you are related.  Building that tree will lead you to living family members who may be able to help.

Remember – you can switch any trees in Ancestry and FT DNA to descendancy view.  This will help.  Don’t overlook those living people who are marked private.  They still show gender.  I actually looked at Lucy in someone’s descendancy view, I just couldn’t see any data other than her gender.  She and her siblings gave me a pattern to look for – a family with a certain number of sons and daughters.  That key obituary for her brother, backed up the pattern I had already discovered.

By the way, there is a delightful bit of serendipity I left out of my previous posts.  Lucy’s brother who died?  He has the exact same first name as Bob, spelled the same way.  I know there is only one way to spell Bob, but there are several ways to spell Bob’s actual name.  Bob’s given name was chosen by his adoptive mother, who did not know that Lucy’s brother had that name.  I hope that was a tender and helpful thing for Lucy in her journey.  ❤

 

DNA Discovery, lesson four

Once you have built the descendancy tree of your common ancestors, start adding living family members by searching for obituaries.  Recent obituaries can often be found by simply googling someone.  Learn how to do targeted google searches to help with this.  My favorite tricks are putting quotation marks around a name, like this, “Ronald Skeen Peterson”.  If I search google with that phrase, I’ve just said to google, please bring me things about a person with this EXACT name.  Be careful though, not everything uses a full name.  So I should also try, “Ronald S Peterson”, “Ronald Peterson”, and “R S Peterson”.

Ronald Peterson is a super common name, so I can make my search even more targeted by adding additional facts.  Use operators like OR, AND, NOT, etc.  So if I wanted to find an obituary for my Grandpa I could try something like this: “Ronald Skeen Peterson” AND “1997” AND (death OR funeral OR obituary).  I’ve just told google to only bring me results that include the exact name Ronald Skeen Peterson, and the year 1997, and one of these three words: death, funeral, or obituary.

These google tricks can help you find LOTS of goodies.  Of course, remember to use variants.  In fact, if I want to get reeeeeaaaaally fancy I would do this: “Ronald (Skeen OR S OR ?) Peterson” AND “1997” AND (death OR funeral OR obituary).

If you can’t find obituaries using google, consider trying GenealogyBank or another newspaper website.  Many libraries or Family History Centers have subscriptions to such websites that you can utilize in their facility for free.

Once you find an obituary, update your tree with all of the people mentioned.  Even if you only know their first name.  Get everyone linked together and make good notes so you remember which obit added which people.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson five

Now if you are thinking to yourself you just did that when you found some obits, you are correct.  But what I mean here is you need to learn how to find contact information for living people.  This is where we get into creepy stalker territory.  This is where my particular skill set goes into the danger zone – that area where some people may use the skills for good, like me, or for not so good.  So I will be a bit on the vague side here.  If you know me and need personal pointers, and I know you will be using your powers for good, shoot me an email.  If not, well – shape up creepy stalker!  😉

I will just point you to my three main websites for finding living people: Facebook, the White Pages, and Family Tree Now.

If you don’t have luck finding people on Facebook, spend a little more time learning how to search it effectively.  Use a name but also add a city or state.  And so on…

The White Pages are good for people who still have a landline.  However, they are constantly tweaking their website hoping to make money off of you, so there is less info here now than there used to be.

Family Tree Now is a hackers dream come true.  I urge you to go there and get you and all of you family members off of their website by “opting out”.  However, you can track down those living people you found in the obits on this website because hardly anyone has opted out yet.  This website is free, but scary!  It definitely could be used for evil.

I know I said I was only going to mention three websites, but I should also mention that High School yearbooks helped me identify Lucy.  You can find many at Classmates.com.  But, you can often find them in local libraries online.  I found them in both places and found Lucy in them.

 

DNA Discovery, lesson six

I know it doesn’t always feel this way, but people are good.  There are always helpers in every family.  If your first, second, third interactions are discouraging – keep trying!  Don’t you quit.  You will find someone one day who will be happy to help.

Look for the helpers, there are always helpers.

 

Here are a few last tips:

Contact your matches.  Remember that people like reciprocal relationships.  They love messages that say things like, “Hey cousin, I see that we are a DNA match, I have some family photos I would be happy to share.”  Now.  An adoptee can’t say things like that.  So come up with something that invites that same type of reciprocity.  Be creative!  Maybe you are willing to help fund other family members DNA testing or something like that.

If your matches don’t respond, try again.  Be nice.  VERY nice, low-key, low-pressure.  Keep your messages short and open.  Try to deal with only one question or issue at a time.  Think like you would if you were texting someone who you know is really busy.  Once you get a feel for the other person’s interest level and time, adjust your message length and content accordingly.

Learn about DNA.  I barely know anything about DNA research, all the crazy cool, ultra-smart and nerdy charting and phasing and segmenting and so on, but it would have been the next step if my genealogy skills weren’t so robust.  Find ways to learn, watch Legacy Family Tree webinars, find Facebook groups for adoptees and DNA research, read one of Blaine Bettinger’s books, attend classes at your local Family History Center/Archive/Library, attend a genealogy conference and go to DNA classes etc.

 

A few closing thoughts:

I began my journey with a very clear goal – find matches that would help me learn more about my great grandfather John Costello.  I did not set out expecting to find a first cousin who was adopted at birth.  That wasn’t anywhere on my radar at all.  And yet, that is what I found.

The journey we took together was overwhelming, emotional, exhilarating, surprising, and of course had a few hiccups.

I will forever be grateful and humbled that I was able to help Bob find his birth parents.  That is a distinct honor and privilege that will hold a special place in my heart all of my days.  I hope to do it again one day.  Although… hopefully not for the same uncle.  😉

I imagine that John Costello is smiling down on all of us, a bit like a puppet master who somehow managed to keep his pre-marriage life a secret so that I would go looking at our DNA and find his long lost great grandson.

Well played Grandpa John, well played.

 

 

Isn’t genealogy cool?!  Isn’t DNA cool?!  But the combo – WOW, that is a powerhouse combo!

 

 

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.  A lot of you have been reading along.  In fact, a lot more than normally click on over to my little corner of the genealogy blogosphere.  Thank you for sharing your own stories both here and through email, text, and FB messages.  I am inspired by how many of you have a personal connection to Bob because of your own experiences or the experiences of your loved ones.  You are awesome!

 

 

*Names, dates, and places in this series of posts have been changed or omitted for privacy purposes.  Previous posts in this series found here – Part OnePart TwoPart Three, Part Four, and Part Five.


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Treasures: Aunt Vera’s Scrapbook; A Perplexing Gem Riddled with Fact and Fiction

valmore 4

In late April I wrote about Aunt Rosey and her girls and the crazy trip down the rabbit hole their story took me on.  Their story is complicated.  Very, very complicated.  One of the items I included in that post was this scan – including this very helpful wedding announcement – from Aunt Vera’s scrapbook.

Quick refresher:  Alice Hyde is my 2nd great grandmother.  Vera Duval is Alice’s daughter.  Rosey is Alice’s sister, and Vera’s aunt.  Plus – Rosey has a daughter named Elvera too.  (Just for fun I’ll also add that Alice and Rosey’s step-mother/aunt was also named Alice.)

So back to the scrapbook.  When I first shared this invitation, I wrote this:

At this point I reviewed a few old family notes and letters.  Now be careful not to get lost here.  I found a letter written by Vera, daughter of Alice Hyde Duval who is the sister of Rosey Hyde.  Yes that’s right, both sisters named a daughter Elvera.  This letter written by Vera to my Grandma, mentions an old scrapbook that Vera kept.  She asked my Grandma if she wanted to have it.

I had a lightbulb moment and remembered that my mom’s cousin Heather had emailed me a few scans of an old scrapbook she had.  I dug through my emails and found those scans.  Among them was this page.

When Heather sent this to me all those years ago, I had NO EARTHLY IDEA who Mr. and Mrs. Peter Williamson were.  I did some basic searching but came up empty.  I figured they were important to someone in my family so I went ahead and added them to FamilySearch and uploaded the announcement.  But now?  The minute that image opened, I knew exactly who they were – this was a marriage invitation for the daughter of Rose Elvera Hyde and Peter Williamson.

Rosey was a Grandma!

After writing this post, I contacted my mom’s 1st cousin Heather, and asked if she would be willing to scan the rest of the scrapbook so I could look for other clues.  She did me one better and mailed it to me so I could scan it.

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This is the cover of Vera’s scrapbook.  It’s a 3-ring binder filled with letters, cards, announcements, invitations, certificates, and tons of newspaper clippings.  TONS of newspaper clippings.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through scanning right now.  There are so many helpful items.  But the real fun comes when there are seemingly helpful items that I get to decided if they are fact or fiction.  Case in point:

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This scrapbook page has several parts to it:

  • Folded certificate (that we will ignore for the purposes of this post).
  • Torn newspaper clipping attached to the back of the folded certificate.
  • Newspaper photo with three print items taped to it and handwritten notes in pencil.
  • The name Duval in what appears to be my Grandma’s handwriting.  (Vera’s niece.)

Let’s start with the torn newspaper clipping.  It reads:

“-The candy had a bitter- ———- (ch)ocolate cover with flakes of (cocan)ut, and a marshmallow center.  No one asked me, but I finally took a piece.  I was chewing when a beautiful woman walked through the archway.

“I’m Dolores Hope,” she said.  “Are you waiting for Bob?”  My tongue pushed the candy frantically over into one cheek.  “Yes,” I said.  “My name is Bishop, Mrs. Hope.  This is Mrs. Bishop.”  We chatted a ——— Mrs. Hope, with a gold-leaf…”

Well, here is the fun part.  Vera had a sister named Dolores.  Dolores was married to a man with the last name of Hope.  This seems to be a piece of fiction included in the newspaper that struck Vera’s fancy because of the coincidental name use.  But, the album is full of these, so it starts to mess with my head a bit and I feel like I need to spend more time sorting fact and fiction.

Now on to the photo.

Above the photo is handwritten in pencil, “I opened the paper & there you were same Gay Grin & all”.  At the bottom of the photo is written in the same hand, “& you —– to ice skate”.

The caption of the photo is “Propriety On Ice”.

Taped to the photo are two different print items that read, “Elvera Duval”.

The photo itself looks very much like Vera, the scrapbook’s creator.  But just like the fictional stories make me question, the seemingly factual ones make me doubt a bit too.

The last item on the photo is the sideways bit of newsprint that reads:

“-efore Ike and Mamie arrived in —- Springs, Dolores Hope asked if she and the children could —- note and ask to call.”

I have no idea what that bit of news has to do with the photo.  Maybe they occurred close together?  Maybe Dolores sent the photo of Vera and she was the one who taped the bit about (possibly) herself to the side?

Oy!  Aunt Vera, you have created a lengthy and masterful puzzle in this wondrous scrapbook of yours.

 

I still have more scanning to do, but the scanning is the super easy part.  The study of each item is going to be complicated for sure.

 

What do you think?  Which items on this page are fact and which are fiction?

 

 

Many thanks to Heather for the kind use of this family treasure.  Once it’s fully scanned, it’s headed back to her care.

 


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Does baby Dorothy belong in my tree?

gg - george eliot quote

Francis Cyprien Duval & Alice Hyde are my 2nd great grandparents.  They are pictured above with four of their five children who survived birth and infancy.  Their oldest son, Francis Henry (back left), is my great grandfather.

I have known about 5 of their children for years.  Slowly I have been finding little tid-bits that indicate there were additional children.

These are the five children who are well known to me:

  • Annie Marie Elvera Duval, 1899-1979
  • Francis Henry Duval, 1901-1996
  • Leon Howard Duval, 1907-1941
  • Dolores Lenore Duval, 1909-2005
  • Alexander Valmore Duval, 1916-1997

Notice the gaps?  Six years between Frank and Leon, and seven years between Dolores and Valmore.  Those are pretty big gaps for a Roman Catholic like Francis Cyprien Duval.

For a few years now I have known of two other children.  The first is a baby boy who was not named.  He was born and died on 15 February 1915 in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The second child is referenced in the 1910 census for the family while they are living in Fairbanks, Alaska.  Alice is listed as the mother of 5, with 4 living.  That means that there is a child who was born and died prior to 10 February 1910.

So my revised list of children looks like this:

  • Annie Marie Elvera Duval, 1899-1979
  • Francis Henry Duval, 1901-1996
  • Unknown Duval, born and died prior to February 10, 1910
  • Leon Howard Duval, 1907-1941
  • Dolores Lenore Duval, 1909-2005
  • Baby Boy Duval, 1915-1915
  • Alexander Valmore Duval, 1916-1997

It seems likely that the child I learned of from the 1910 census belongs between Frank and Leon in that 6 year gap, but that is just speculation.

It now appears there may be an additional child.

 

A baby girl named Dorothy.

The Western Call, a BC newspaper, has a death and funeral announcement found in their 14 October 1910 issue that reads:

DUVAL

The death took place Wednesday morning of Dorothy, the infant daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Duval, corner of Twenty-sixth avenue and Martha street.  The funeral was held Thursday morning at 9.30 o’clock from the residence, Rev. G. A. Wilson Officiating.

Could this Mr. and Mrs. Frank Duval be my Frank & Alice Duval?

Most likely.

 

I know from an interview of their son Frank in the late 1970s/early 1980s that Frank and Alice left Alaska sometime after Alice’s father Henry died in 1907.  They were still in Fairbanks when the 1910 census was taken in February of that year.  I know that after they left Fairbanks they lived in Vancouver for a short time before moving to Lynn Valley, BC where they all lived until sometime after Francis Cyprien Duval’s death in 1919.

So once again, I revise my list of children for Frank and Alice:

  • Annie Marie Elvera Duval, 1899-1979
  • Francis Henry Duval, 1901-1996
  • Unknown Duval, born and died prior to February 10, 1910
  • Leon Howard Duval, 1907-1941
  • Dolores Lenore Duval, 1909-2005
  • Dorothy Duval, died 12 (or 11th) October 1910
  • Baby Boy Duval, 1915-1915
  • Alexander Valmore Duval, 1916-1997

Does baby Dorothy belong in my tree?

 

I think so.  I need more records to be sure.

But now I am wondering… how many other children are missing?

 

 

Note:  THANK YOU to Teresa from writing my past for suggesting I check out this BC newspaper site where I found the obit for baby Dorothy.  Of course that led me to additional searching including this site for BC City Directories.  I love the genealogy blogging community.  Our collective knowledge and sharing make genealogy SO MUCH better.  Thank you Teresa!

 

 


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Unraveling the John Boles Mystery – Part One

Children of John & Christina Boles, 1891 Immigration record from London to Natal, South Africa.

Children of John & Christina Boles, 1890 Immigration record from London to Natal, South Africa.

John Boles is my 3rd great granduncle.  He and his wife Christina had ten children.  In 1890, the family disappeared from Scotland.  The ENTIRE family, just gone.  Three of the children had died at this point.  So I was looking for a family of nine.  A family of nine usually leaves a big footprint.  Not this one.

A kind stranger came across my 52 ancestors post about John.  She did a little digging and found this immigration record and emailed it to me.  A perfect match for John & Christina’s living children.

  • Isabella Boles, 1876
  • Christina Boles, 1878
  • William Montgomery Boles, 1880
  • Helen Boles, 1882
  • Elizabeth Boles, 1884
  • James Boles, 1887
  • Agnes Smellie Boles, 1889

But where are John & Christina?  The children are traveling with an Elizabeth Huntley, a 22 year old single woman, and a Chas M Boles, a 36 year old married miner.  I have never seen the names Elizabeth Huntley or Chas M Boles before.  Who are they and why were they accompanying seven children to South Africa?

 


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I Know Where Mary is Standing!

 

A few weeks ago I wrote about John Boles, my 3rd great granduncle who just up and disappeared.

And then the coolest thing happened!

I got an email from a stranger named Helen.  She came across my blog post and got curious.  She decided to do a little digging and she found my family.

In South Africa.

I had not even considered South Africa before.  She sent me a few documents she had found and I happily reviewed them and updated my tree with her excellent and accurate information.  She also mentioned that she lives in Carluke, Scotland and would be happy to help in the future if I needed anything.

I instantly thought of this photo of my great grandmother.

Mary Brown Young, Scotland.

Mary Brown Young, Scotland.

I told Helen about the photo and asked if she might be able to recognize where Mary is standing.  She replied that Carluke is a very small place and it’s quite possible she would be able to recognize it and to please send it to her along with Mary’s birth date.

So I did.  I included Mary’s birth date and the address at which she was born – Chapel Street.  I clicked send and wondered if I might finally know where Mary was standing.

A few hours later I received Helen’s delightful reply:

“I recognised it the moment I saw it, and when I saw the address Chapel Street I knew exactly where it was.”

She included photos from google maps.  I compared and sure enough, Mary is standing in front of 76 Chapel Street, Carluke.

I finally know where Mary is standing!

She is standing in front of her home.  The home in which she was born.  And that home is still standing.

One day, I hope to stand in front of this home too.

Once again I am overwhelmingly grateful for the 52 Ancestors challenge.  My one post led to a kind stranger solving two of my genealogy mysteries.  Thank you Amy and thank you to my new friend Helen.  I am so grateful.


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Answer to “Who Is On That Swing?”

Estelle Duval on swing

Estelle Maffit, Montana

I originally posted this photo with the comment that I wasn’t sure if this was in fact my great grandmother Estelle.  At the prompting of a reader I reposted the photo with some additional images to compare.  In that post I listed facts and photos but did not share my thoughts.

You, my wonderful readers, all believe this image is in fact Estelle.  Thank you for the input.

Now, my thoughts.  When the photo loaded in the original post, I was surprised.  It was the largest I had seen this photo so far and I was struck with how different Estelle looked from all of the other photos I have.  Something about it reminded me of her older sister Hi.

Then, as I gathered other photos and looked at their faces carefully I drew the same conclusion that you all did.  I believe this sweet photo is of Estelle.  I think the things about her face that caused my initial surprise are the way her brows are scrunched and the roundness of her cheeks.  The brows are likely scrunched because of sun.  Her rounder face is probably attributable to her younger age, position of her head and the lighting.  And of course, Estelle and Hi are sisters so they are bound to favor each other in different positions and settings.

Thank you for weighing in.  And thank you Deborah for prompting me to share.  It was a good exercise.  I drew my own conclusion, kept it to myself and then got oodles of confirmation from each of you.  Thank you all!

This small photo that I have loved well, will continue to be a treasure I can attribute to my great grandmother Estelle.


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Cousins All Around Me

Me & a bunch of my first cousins.

Me, my two sisters & a bunch of my first cousins.

Growing up, I loved spending time with my first cousins on both sides of my family.  My definition of ‘cousins’ was formed by these interactions.  For me, cousins are good.

As I have gotten older my world has expanded.  I understand cousin relationships beyond first cousins.  I’ve gotten to know some of my other cousins.  I also cherish those relationships.  I love making a connection with someone who shares an ancestor.  I love to see that we share traits, habits, mannerisms, opinions, values, and simple things that must be genetic or learned from our common ancestor and passed down.  Case in point, check out the hand positions in the above photo.  No one told us how to stand, only to turn to the side and squeeze together so we would all fit.

I love meeting new-to-me cousins through my blog and online trees.  The relationships that develop are awesome.  We share information, stories and photos.  For me, cousins are good.

What has really surprised me over the years are the few times when I have learned that someone dear to me is also my cousin.  This sweet moment has happened three times.

1 – When we purchased our first home, we had amazing next door neighbors.  Their two kids were about the same age as our two kids.  The husband and wife were almost exactly our same ages.  We became fast friends.  After a few months of living there, we found out that our two husbands were 3rd cousins.  Their grandmothers were first cousins, close first cousins.  That meant our children, who were each others best friends, were 4th cousins.  Such a fun discovery!

2 – Several months ago I was working in Family Tree on FamilySearch.  I noticed that some photos had been added to my 3rd great grandfather Lyman Stoddard Skeen.  I looked at the user name and thought it would be an interesting coincidence if that person was who I thought it was.  I clicked on the name and saw their email address.  Sure enough, it was a woman who lives in my neighborhood.  A woman who taught my son piano lessons for a few years.  A woman I find completely delightful, a friend.  And as it turns out, my 3rd cousin once removed.  You know what sweetens that deal?  Her son and his family live a few houses down from me.  Fourth cousins right there!

3 – Just last week almost the same thing happened.  I noticed that some changes were made on my 2nd great grandfather Heber Albert Huband by someone with a familiar name.  A woman who I work with at my local FamilySearch Center.  A woman I have gotten to know as we have collaborated, attended each others classes, and assisted patrons.  She has become a friend, and now I know she is also my 4th cousin once removed.

I LOVE discovering that my friends are also my family!  For me, cousins are good.  Really, good.  I love feeling as if I have cousins all around me.