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Kimberly Powell

The Magic of Genealogy

By May 9, 2008

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A neat article by travel writer Jan Burak Schwert appeared in the Seattle Times earlier this week recounting her husband's unusual meeting with his third cousin Franz - a man who looked so much like him, he could have been his brother. The article had already caught my attention when she described her husband as "grinning from ear to ear" upon finding several Schwert graves after 30 minutes of searching a cemetery in the tiny ancestral German village of Binningen in the pouring rain. How many of you can't help but smile when you read that? Just about any genealogist knows exactly how he must have felt at that moment...but I digress. The story gets even better when Jan and her husband Ron stop in a small pub (gaustaus) before leaving Binningen, only to have the locals immediately recognize the resemblance that Ron shared with Schwert's living in the area. A more complete version of the story, entitled Finding Franz, shares a little more of the magic behind that special genealogy encounter, and her conversion from a "genealogy widow" to a believer...

My guess is that most of us self-professed genealogy "junkies" get a thrill from just about every discovery, whether an online census record or a tombstone laying among the weeds on the old family farm. I'm to the point where I'm equally thrilled to find the ancestors of others, or to find a neat old cemetery that I didn't know about before (I don't need to know anyone buried there to be thrilled by it...just ask my husband!). But for most of us there is still a genealogy encounter that stands out - perhaps one of your early genealogy discoveries, an unusual "find," or a very special person you've met along the way. If such an encounter comes to mind when you read this, then please share it with the rest of us - we'd love to hear it! Just click on "comments" below to share your "magic of genealogy" moment. Or, if you have a family history blog, then please feel free to blog your story there and then send me the link or add it to the comments below. I'll highlight them in a future blog post.

May 12, 2008 at 5:33 am
(1) Randolph Clark says:

I never knew much about my father as he died when I was 4. In 1999 I posted all that I knew about his sister on a statewide Oregon message board. I knew her name and city–nothing more. I forgot to check back until months later but when I did there was a response.
I now have a favorite cousin in Oregon whom we have visited and she recently flew east and visited us.
It’s just that paternal grandfather that continues to hide.


May 13, 2008 at 5:46 pm
(2) Cathy Walters says:

Loved the story-if only it could happen for me,my family is’nt into genealogy after 30years that has’nt changed.Who knows while I travel through pc,what I might find.wishing goodluck and happy adventures to all.

May 13, 2008 at 8:37 pm
(3) Jennifer K Miller says:

The best memory I have is of when I first started researching my genealogy, and finding some relative (can’t even remember which one!) in a census and saying to my mom, “Wow! He really did exist!” That made all the people my mom and dad had talked about for years become “alive” for me, and not just someone in a story.

May 14, 2008 at 3:36 am
(4) Jennifer Knight says:

My Mother, like me was an only child any cousins she had I never knew. It came as a shock therefore a couple of yeas after Mum had died, researching my family history, to meet a lady who was her 2nd cousin and who looked so much like her could have been her younger sister.

May 14, 2008 at 3:44 am
(5) Frances Miers Muller says:

Years ago, when I first started using a computer (I was already into family history), I was reading one of the surname massage boards and I found a message labeled “Texas Tarpleys.” This lady said her grandfather was Clay Tarpley and she was looking for other related family. I still remember my feeling. I sat back and thought, “WOW! Clay Tarpley was my grandfather’s brother. I could not answer the message fast enough and I think I checked almost every hour for an answer. She answered the next day and was as excited as I was. We chatted regularly for several years. She now lives in Grand Junction and we visit every year when we drive back and forth to the Denver area to visit our daughter. There is another granddaughter of another brother of our two grandfathers. It just shows how families split up when the senior members die or become disconnected by the miles. Finding cousins has become my favorite part of family history.

April 23, 2009 at 1:17 am
(6) Sara Binkley Tarpley says:

I have a story similar to Frances Miers Muller’s, and she was the person whose message I spotted in my early years on the Internet. My father-in-law had mentioned that his grandfather had died on the way to New Mexico, where some relatives had moved. Fran’s message mentioned New Mexico. In time, I learned that her great-great grandfather was the brother of my husband’s great-great-great grandfather.

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