Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - Another Brennan family tragedy

As I was wrapping up my post about Frances Alvira Brennan yesterday, I went looking for a little more information on Frances' parents and siblings. I found that her father, David D. Brennan, was a World War I veteran, having served as a medical officer in France from 1918-1919. I also found that he and his wife Clara Bergstad had several more children besides Ellen, Betty, and Frances. There were also Thelma, Violet Mae, Daniel, and Ida. Crazy that out of seven total children, only one was a boy.


Violet Mae Brennan memorial, Findagrave.com

David died in 1968, and was buried in Belfield Lutheran Cemetery in Belfield, North Dakota. I searched Findagrave.com to see if any other Brennans were buried there, and found David's wife Clara and daughter Violet. Violet's record stuck out because she was only 20 at the time of her death in 1954. I thought there had to be a story there, so I went looking. I soon found her death record, but from an unusual place - Washington state. How did she die in Washington when the rest of her family was in North Dakota?

I figured the best way to find out the rest of the story (if it could be found) would be in digitized newspapers, so I hit up Newspaper Archive (which I have a free subscription to thanks to my local library). I soon found what I was looking for: a death announcement from November 9, 1954.

 
 
The article said Violet (who was apparently living in Washington state at the time) fell out of a vehicle being driven by a Glenn Lamb, and that Lamb was subsequently charged with negligent homicide. That phrase really jumped out - negligent homicide. Glenn wasn't charged with outright murder, but it wasn't manslaughter either. The car was moving at 30-40 miles an hour when she "fell out". I thought there had to have been more going on, so I kept searching. Soon I found another article from a Spokane newspaper dated November 8, the day Violet died. It gave a little more information.
 
Spokane Daily Chronicle article about Violet's death
The additional information in this article was this - that Glenn Lamb and Violet Brennan had (according to an eyewitness) been having an argument and Violet had fallen out of the car during the argument. I don't know anyone who was sitting on the front porch of a cafĂ© (like the eyewitness was) and watching cars go by (which he must have been) could have known there was an argument between two people in a car going 30-40 miles an hour, unless there was something very obvious about that argument. And for Violet to "fall out" of the car during an argument suggests that, unless something really unusual was going on, she fell out because of something the driver did - maybe a punch, slap, push, or wild swerve? At any rate, it seems that things got out of control, and as a result, Violet lost her life. 
 
It was really heartbreaking to discover a second tragedy to hit David and Clara's family (third if you count the house fire and Frances' death as separate). I wonder how they coped with the losses. I'm also curious to find out what happened to Glenn Lamb, and see whether he was convicted on the charges of negligent homicide. Maybe on my next trip out to Spokane I'll head up to the Pend Oreille county courthouse and see if I can find out. I'd kind of like to know what happened to the rest of the Brennan kids, just to see if any of them had a happy ending. I sure hope they did.


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Church record bonanza - Lutheran church records in US Midwest

Earlier this month I received a text message alert from Twitter, notifying me of a new tweet from FamilySearch. The tweet mentioned several record sets that had been posted or updated by Ancestry.com, one of which was the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Records, 1875-1940. I was really intrigued by this, because my Norwegian ancestors were staunchly Lutheran, and lived in Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and North Dakota after immigrating to the US. I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to find more information about them, and maybe even fill in a few gaps.

Little did I know how right I was. Just searching for the surname Bergstad generated 219 hits! Many of these turned out to be for people not connected to me (not that I know of, at least). But I did find 70 records of my family - baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and a few burials. Most of the records were in Norwegian, right up until around the early 1900s-1910s, though the books used Norwegian titles and column headings up into the 1920s and beyond. I knew there were areas in the US where German immigrants clung onto their identity and language for many years after coming to the US (my Waechter and Beilstein ancestors were prime examples of this), but I had no idea that Norwegians had clung just as tenaciously to theirs. It was fascinating to see generation after generation of my family documented in these books, with the entries continuing in Norwegian decades after they came to this country.

Of all the records I found, three records really stood out:

Baptism records of the four oldest Bergstad children
 

First is the baptism record of four of my grandfather Tom Bergstad's siblings. Virgil and Clayton were children of John Knute Bergstad and his first wife, Mamie Wells, while Katherine and Lorraine were children of his second wife, Katherine Hammer. These were all of the children living at the time, and they were all baptized on the same day in 1928. Maybe they had lapsed in church attendance, or maybe something about Lorraine's birth (sixth months before the baptisms) spurred them to get everyone baptized. Whatever the case, I was really interested to see that they had all four of their children baptized on the same day.

Baptism record of Roland John Thomas Bergstad

Next up is the baptism record of my grandfather, Tom Bergstad. I wasn't expecting to find a record for someone so closely related to me, so this was a pleasant surprise. For some reason I'd always thought that he was named Roland John Bergstad, and that Thomas was a nickname or added into his name later. This pretty well proves that Thomas was part of his name from the beginning. It's interesting that, after four older siblings were all baptized together, that Tom's baptism didn't happen until he was over a year old. His older sister Helen, born in 1929, was baptized at seven months, so it just seems odd that they'd wait until Tom was twice that age almost. But then, I'm not Lutheran and I don't know their customs that well, so maybe this wasn't unusual.



The record that impacted me the most, though, was this one. This is the baptism record of Frances Alvira Brennan, a first cousin twice removed (our common ancestors were Knute Bergstad and Betsy Olson, my second-great-grandparents). Before finding her baptism record, I had no previous records of her existence. I tried searching Google, Ancestry, FamilySearch, MyHeritage, Newspaper Archive, and Findagrave.com, and can find no other records of her anywhere. So far as I can find online, this is the only record of her out there, which makes it all the more important. What gets me about this record isn't that it's a baptism; it's the little note at the far right. Next to the names of the witnesses (Mr. and Mrs. Knute Bergstad, Frances' maternal grandparents) is a note that says "Burned in fire that destroyed home in Bad Lands, died next day." It doesn't give a death date, and I don't know where the home in "Bad Lands" was. But that's a horrible way to die at any age. Her baptism occurred a little after her 3rd birthday, so I know she lived to be that old at least. I don't see her in the 1930 census, so I'm inclined to say her death occurred between Nov 1928 (the baptism) and April 1930 (the census). If that's true, she would have died at 4 1/2 at the oldest. What a tragedy for that family.

In short, I am once again blown away by the wealth of information contained in church records. I now have exact birth dates for several dozen more relatives, and a greater sense of the role religion played in the Bergstad side of my family. The records also led me to the short story of one little cousin, and even if I'd found nothing else, I'd be glad she can now be remembered.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tombstone Tuesday - Our Darling

Last week, I got another one of those record matches emails from MyHeritage. I am really impressed with the quality of the matches MyHeritage makes - out of several dozen matches they've emailed me so far, I've only had one record not be an actual match. As I was going down the list, I came upon a match for Marian Craddock, a daughter of Otis Craddock, my great-great-grandfather Ernest Craddock's youngest brother. I don't know where the entry in my family tree for Marian came from, as I didn't have any notes or sources on her, and no events outside of birth and death. She was literally a name with two dates, and that was it. Not really even paying attention to the dates in my file, I clicked through to see what record MyHeritage was recommending for Marian.

What I saw immediately caught my attention. It was a photograph of a tombstone on BillionGraves.com, with a stone lamb on the top, and the word BABY in capital letters underneath it. The name on the headstone was Marian Juan Craddock, with dates of June 6, 1930 to February 14, 1931. Underneath the dates were the words "Our Darling". Otis and his wife Alice (Colvin) Craddock had lost a baby girl at the age of 8 months. As my youngest child just turn a year old back in March, I couldn't help but imagine what it would have felt like to lose him at that age, and how hurtful and hard such an experience would have been. I suddenly wanted to know what had happened to Marian, what took her away from her parents at such a young age.

A quick search on MyHeritage gave me the answer.
Marian's death announcement, Billings Gazette, Feb 18,1931
Marian came down with pneumonia on February 12, 1931. Two days later, the illness claimed her life. Two days. That's all it took. A surely awful two days, filled with many more awful and sad days afterwards.

http://billiongraves.com/pages/record/Marian-Juan-Craddock/3852266?record_id=3852266#given_names=Marian&family_names=Craddock

The headstone itself has some appropriate symbols on it. According to the United States Genealogy and History Network website, the lamb means innocence, and usually marks the graves of children, as it does here. The stars symbolize the light of the Spirit overcoming death. I'm not sure what the branches are, but if they are palm branches, they symbolize victory. All giving evidence to the fact that this little girl would be sorely missed by her parents and family.

The newspaper article says two songs were song at her funeral, "When I Shall Fall Asleep", and "Some Sweet Day". I'm not sure if I've found the right songs as I'm not familiar with either of them, but the lyrics I found in a google search seem fitting:

When I Shall Fall Asleep
Words: Moses Shirley, 1904
Music: Charles Gabriel.
Some day the sun of life will set, and I shall fall asleep,
And, leaving all that I hold dear, will find the silence deep:
That mystery which, still unsolved, God and His angels know,
And those who walk the crystal streams where heav'nly breezes blow,
Where grief nor sorrow ever come, nor trouble's billows sweep;
Some day the Reaper will appear, and I shall fall asleep.
Some day the cares of life will cease, and I shall fall asleep,
And, passing from you, I shall see afar the golden street,
And sainted forms of those who dwell upon the other shore,
Behold the loves ones who from us awhile have gone before;
Where soft and cooling pathways lie, where none shall ever weep
Some day the hour for me will come, and I shall fall asleep.
Some day my work will all be done, and I shall fall asleep,
But O what joy to know that I shall wake to never weep!
For where I go we know that God has promised perfect rest
And peace for every aching heart, and every troubled breast;
And love more lasting than our own He'll give to me to keep,
When all my burdens are laid down, and I have gone to sleep.

Some Sweet Day, By and By
Fanny Crosby, 1885.
Howard Doane.
We shall reach the summer land, Some sweet day, by and by;
We shall press the golden strand, Some sweet day, by and by;
Oh, the loved ones watching there, By the tree of life so fair,
Till we come their joy to share, Some sweet day, by and by.
Refrain
By and by, some sweet day,
We shall meet our loved ones gone,
Some sweet day, by and by.

At the crystal river's brink, Some sweet day, by and by;
We shall find each broken link, Some sweet day, by and by;
Then the star that, fading here, Left our hearts and homes so drear,
We shall see more bright and clear, Some sweet day, by and by.
Refrain
Oh, these parting scenes will end, Some sweet day, by and by;
We shall gather friend with friend, Some sweet day, by and by;
There before our Father's throne, When the mists and clouds have flown,
We shall know as we are known, Some sweet day, by and by.
Refrain

I'm sad to know that Otis and Alice had to endure the loss of their little girl, that they never got to see her grow up. But I'm glad to know that I now know a little about her, and that she can be remembered by her family long after her brief time on her earth ended.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Railroad records finally located

Me and my sister on a train 30 years ago
Trains have a unique place in my family history. My older two kids were obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine for years when they were little, and spent a lot of time building tracks and running the trains on them. I remember taking train rides as a kid, and while I can't remember where we were going or why, I do remember how fun they were. While living in Montana, my folks would take train rides out to Washington to visit my uncle Randy, and to go to Seahawks games. Going a bit further back, one of my 3rd-great-grandfathers, Philip Hammer, died after being struck by a train in California in 1899. Another 3rd-great-grandfather, Adoniram Shute, reportedly died of a heart attack while on a train in Montana in 1909. But on a happier note, several generations of my paternal ancestry worked on trains, or in jobs relating to trains. My grandpa, Fred Gibson, worked for years in the railroad industry. His father and uncles both worked for the railroad, and his maternal grandfather Samuel Joseph did as well.


Fred Gibson in a train, 1970s
 
Knowing that several relatives of mine worked for the railroad, when I got started in genealogy I became interested in knowing more about their time with the railroad, and what the railroad records could tell me about them. Before too long, I found an index to Northern Pacific Railway personnel records. I saw that there were indeed personnel files for my grandpa, his dad, uncles David and Thomas, and what looks like his maternal grandfather, Samuel Joseph. 
 
Index record for Fred J. Gibson, my great-grandfather

Index record for Thomas Lewis Gibson, my grandfather's uncle
 
Unfortunately, at the time I could not figure out how to find the records these indexes were pointing to. One thing led to another, and I never really got back to finding out how to find these records. I made token searches now and again, but never found them.
 
Until this week.
 
I got a text message saying Ancestry had released images and indexes for a record group called "U.S., Northern Pacific Railway Company Personnel Files, 1890-1963". My mind immediately went back to those railroad record indexes from so long ago, and I went to searching. Three minutes later, I hit the jackpot!
 

 
 
Well, part of the jackpot. It turns out they had records for two of the five people I had index numbers for, Frederick John Gibson (my great-grandfather) and Thomas Lewis Gibson (his brother). David H. Gibson, Frederick and Thomas' younger brother, somehow got skipped (they have the records before and after his number, but not his), and the collection on Ancestry stops before Sam Joseph and my grandpa's records. Hopefully future updates will add these records.
 
But I was so happy to finally know what these records look like. I do wish my great-grandfather's file was longer, as it's only eight pages, two of which are scans of the manila folder containing the actual records. But Thomas' file is 117 pages! I've only had time to go through a little of it so far, but what I have seen is fascinating. Over and over again, auditor reports of the various stations mentioned that Thomas was considered competent for a more responsible position. On the other hand, the file also contains a letter stating Thomas was suspended for five days due to leaving his telegraph station to get a drink of water - the last line of the letter states "Your excuse that there was no water in the house and you wanted a drink at that particular time is no excuse whatever."
 
I love living and researching in this digital age, when we have so much information available, and more coming online all the time. I can't wait to see what else I find in these files!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Lost (and Recovered) History of George W. Craddock

When I started doing genealogy 15 years ago (can't believe it's been that long!), one of the lines I had very little concrete information on was my Craddock line. My maternal great-grandmother, Edna (Craddock) (Harris) Moore was my living connection to the Craddocks. I don't remember hearing her talk about her family while she was alive (which is something I regret), but I have since learned a great deal about her, her siblings, and her parents. Beyond her father, though, I didn't really have a lot of info on the Craddock lineage. I had some census records for Edna's grandfather James Irvin Craddock, some family group sheets, a couple letters Edna's sister Elsie (who did try to research the Craddock family history) about some of her discoveries, and a family tree going back to the early 1700s but with very little documentation as to where these names and dates came from. All in all, I had a lot of work to do to flesh out this branch of my family tree.

One part of the tree that always bugged me was the link between my 3rd-great-grandfather James Irvin Craddock and his parents George W. Craddock and Rutha B. Fielder.

George Craddock family - 1860 census

Moses Hardison family - 1870 census

The only document I'd been able to find showing evidence of George being the father of James was the 1860 census, which doesn't list relationships like the 1880 and later censuses do. In the 1870 census, James and his sister Martha are listed with Moses C. Hardison and his wife Sara (who my great-aunt Elsie had said in her research was George's sister, Sara Craddock). I searched for years to find out what happened to George and Rutha, and why James and Martha were living with the Hardisons in 1870 with no trace of their parents, but never found anything. The lack of information almost led me to question whether George and Rutha were really their parents.

This week, MyHeritage sent me another email with Record Matches, this time for records matching my great-great-grandfather Ernest L. Craddock. There weren't too many, just some censuses for Ernest and marriage records for his children. I linked everyone to the records they matched, and then thought I'd do a little more digging to try and cement the links in my tree with some documentation. I went back over the other census records I had showing Ernest in James' family, and then saw the Civil War service records for a George W. Craddock I'd downloaded a long time ago from Fold3.com. I hadn't seen anything in them that definitively pointed to him being the same as my George, so I'd tucked them in a folder as a possibility, and moved on. I thought I'd try finding more info on that George, and see if it really was my ancestor. I didn't know what I was looking for exactly, just that I wanted to find something to help tell me whether my ancestor served in the Civil War, and why he and Rutha disappeared after 1860.

I soon found a veteran's census form 1890, where a lady in Missouri named Nancy Stites said she was the former widow of George Craddock, a Civil War soldier, and gave his company information. The info matched the George Craddock in the Civil War documents I'd saved earlier, and I was almost tempted to dismiss him as obviously being a different George Craddock than my ancestor. But then I thought, if she's his widow, maybe she filed for a pension. Having previously had great success with Civil War pension files, I went and Google searched for George Craddock's pension. After a few minutes' searching I found something very interesting - a Civil War pension was filed for George Craddock, but not by a widow; it was filed by someone named James Craddock!

Now I was really excited. I went to Fold3 and pulled up the pension record as fast I could. After going through a few pages, I found that the pension was filed by Elijah T. Butler on behalf of the minor children of George W. Craddock - James I. Craddock and Martha Jane Craddock! The Civil War George had been MY George all along! The pension file turned out to be 34 pages long, with some pages being blank and others being multiple copies of the same record. But it gave me exactly what I'd been missing all these years - details on what happened to George and Rutha.

I knew George and Rutha were married in 1854 in Dent County, Missouri, and their two children were both born there. However, according to declarations in the pension file, shortly after the 1860 census was taken, Rutha (Fielder) Craddock died on 15 December 1860. That explained why I could never find anything on her after that census - it appears that 1860 census was the last record she appeared in during her lifetime. Further documents in the pension file revealed that 8 months after Rutha passed away, George married again - to Nancy Ann Peck. That explained the Nancy in the 1890 census - she must have remarried after George died (and thus was listed as the former widow of George Craddock). George and Nancy had one child together, which died at the age of 4 weeks. So now, just a few months after losing his first wife, George then lost one of his children. I can't imagine going through one of those, let alone both in quick succession.

The tragedy continued, unfortunately. George enlisted on 16 August 1862, and was mustered in on 18 October 1862. He was now a soldier in Company D, 32nd Regiment of the Missouri Volunteer Infantry. I have to wonder whether George had previous military experience, because he enlisted as a corporal, and was shortly thereafter appointed a 3rd sergeant. I have yet to pull up details on the regiment's history, so I don't know what action he may have seen, but I do know that he became ill in January 1863, and was transferred to a hospital boat. I hope it was nothing like the hospital boats they had during the Revolutionary War that I've read a little of. He wasn't on the boat long, as he was then transferred to the Saint Louis city general Hospital, where he died of typhoid fever on 15 February 1863. He'd been in the army for roughly five months, and now he was dead, not from bullets, but disease. I have to find the reference again, but I read somewhere that his unit only lost a dozen or so men in combat, but over 400 to disease. What an awful thing to have happen, and how frightening it must have been to any soldiers who got sick during the war.

The documents in the pension file don't say why, but Elijah T. Butler was made legal guardian for James and Martha after George died. I believe it was the same Elijah Butler that married Lucinda Craddock, George's younger sister. I have to wonder why Nancy didn't take the children, and left them to be raised by aunts and uncles instead. Maybe they reminded her of George, or maybe she wanted a fresh start after losing a baby and then a husband. Either way, Nancy married Miles Alexander Stites 10 August 1863, six months after George died. They seemed to have a good life, and had at least five kids together. It seems unlikely that she would have stayed in contact with the Craddocks, though she apparently never forgot George. Even 27 years after losing him, and only having been married less than two years, she gave accurate information on George's military service to the census taker.

James and Martha then grew up without their parents, losing their mom at ages 4 and 2, and then their father at 7 and 5. I don't know what happened to Martha after 1870, but James married Hazeltine Orlena Martin in 1875 and raised 7 children. His oldest son he named Moses, possibly after the uncle who raised him. His next son, though, he named George.

In closing, in addition to the apologies offered last time to those I missed in my Memorial Day tribute, I'd also like to apologize to George. He is my only known direct ancestor who gave his life in wartime while serving his country. His service record states that he was 5'6", red complexion, brown hair, hazel eyes, and was always loyal to his country. Thank you for your service George. Your sacrifice helped save this nation, and your service will from now on be honored on Memorial Day as it should be.

Treasure Chest Thursday - DNA update and an apology

This has been a remarkable week in terms of family history discoveries. My uncle Bill's DNA results are almost complete (I can compare him to matches I've already connected with, and see his ancestry composition, but not his full list of matches yet). While I haven't delved too deeply into his data yet, I did see that his mtDNA haplogroup is listed as H3 (which is good, because that's what his mother's is), and his Y-DNA haplogroup is I1. This is great, because according to 23andMe, this haplogroup "reaches its highest levels in Denmark and the southern parts of Sweden and Norway." My Bergstad ancestors hailed from southern Norway, so this exactly matches what I've found in my genealogy research. Awesome!

23andMe's map of I1 frequency
 

In addition to my uncle's results coming in, my mother-in-law Peggy McFarland has agreed to take the test my wife so kindly bought for me recently. As she is 1/4 Osage, that will give me a lot of Native American DNA to work with. My wife's earliest known Native American ancestor is Wy-e-gla-in-kah, or Redcorn. That will pretty well cover my wife's side in terms of DNA testing, at least in terms of getting people tested. I'll eventually need to order Y-DNA results for her father and mtDNA results on both her parents, but that will have to wait until I can afford them. At least the atDNA tests are more affordable, so I can get their DNA samples to FTDNA for storage and later testing.

Once her test is in, that just leaves two more people I want to test - a male Wagner descendant (to get the Wagner Y-DNA, and a little atDNA too) and a maternal cousin of my maternal grandmother (to try and filter cousins on my grandmother's maternal side into maternal and paternal matches). After that, I'll just have some mtDNA tests to upgrade (both my dad and paternal grandfather's) and I should have a very robust DNA database to play with for years!

Next up, an apology. A few days ago, I wrote a post about the servicemen in my family, and how lucky I was to not have lost any direct ancestors in war. I neglected to mention a few men in my family who did make the ultimate sacrifice in wartime. First, Tom Nelson, the first husband of my paternal grandmother Blossom and the father of my aunt Eileen, who joined the Army Air Force during World War II. He was the bombardier of a flight crew that flew bombing missions over Germany. He survived being shot down in July 1943, when his plane went down in the North Sea (they did lose one crew member in that crash, but everyone else survived with minor injuries). He was not so fortunate three months later when his plane went down in a combat mission on October 8, 1943. He and the other nine crew members all perished. His only child, my aunt Eileen, was born five months later. He really gave up everything in defense of his country, including the chance to meet and raise his daughter.

Tom Nelson (right) and Air Force buddy


Another relative who gave his life in a time of war was Stephen Norton Johnson, the first husband of my 3rd-great-grandmother Mariah Janette Beardsley, who I've written about before. He enlisted just six months after the outbreak of the Civil War and was assigned to the company band. He got sick while practicing and marching in inclement weather, and died just two months after joining up. Like Tom Nelson, Norton (as he went by) left behind a pregnant wife when he went to war, but unlike Tom, he also left four older children, ages 12, 10, 9, and 3. His last child, a son named Norton after him, was born five months after he died. Five years later Mariah married my ancestor, Zachariah Scribner, with whom she had four more children, including Charlotte Scribner, my 2nd-great-grandmother.

I didn't meant to downplay or ignore the sacrifices these men made in the defense of this country, its freedoms, and its people. I was so focused on my direct line and living relatives that they simply slipped my mind. I am grateful for the sacrifice of those who gave their lives, as well as those who were willing to do the same, so that I can live the nice, cushy, easy life that I do today.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Treasured Scraps

Last Saturday, my local Family History Center (or is it now a Family Discovery Center?) had an open house. It's been completely revamped, remodeled, and retooled into something amazing, and to kick off the grand opening, we set up a whole bunch of displays around the church, with each display taking a different theme. Mine was Personal Connections and Sharing (or something like that). I got to display a number of my family history books, treasures, and discoveries, and talk to people as they came through about what I've done to involve my family (the non-genealogists) in what I do and what I find, and how I can share it with them.

As I stood there at my table, I started looking at the items displayed - postcards, photographs, DNA test results, a ribbon from a Civil War unit reunion, and others. I started thinking about the people these items represented and reminded me of. I realized that, compared to all the items my ancestors owned, possessed, or directly or indirectly created in their lifetimes, most of what I have amounts to a only few scraps. It's like comparing their life to a shirt that gets put through a food processor, and the shreds get scattered to the winds, and here I am spending my life chasing down each thread I can find and trying to stitch that shirt back together. In many cases, I don't know what the pattern is, where the threads are, or what the shirt is going to look like when I'm done. And given how many ancestors I have, plus their children and other connections, I feel like I'm trying to recreate a whole department store's worth of shirts. Daunting doesn't begin to describe it. So why do I do it?

I do it because I owe my existence to these people. Had they not been born, lived, and died, I wouldn't be here. I do it because the more I try to understand them, the more I find I understand myself and my current family - why my people and I are the way we are. I do it because it gives me a connection to something so much larger than myself. I spent much of my childhood years being bullied at school, even at church sometimes, and felt very alone. But finding these ancestors of mine, my family, helps me overcome that feeling, by realizing that there are people out there, past and present, that are my family, and I'm not alone, even if we don't speak much, or even know each other exists.

Family really is the most important thing we have. Each thread I find, each scrap I collect, reminds me of that. So I will never stop looking for those treasured scraps and threads, and hope that one day someone (or someones!) in my family will continue the search and the collecting.