Wanted to share an amazing experience with all of you at Genealogywise.com. For decades, I have sought information on my great, great grandmother "Bridget Galway", who immigrated to the US, from Ireland. The only information with which to search was the fact that she married a French immigrant, Andre. As her grandchildren aged, I asked questions and mentally stored tidbits of information they revealed. None of them had ever met Bridget who died fairly young. My grandmother only spoke of her father's attachment to his mother.
I tested the waters of Ancestry.com last year during a free 14 day trial. Beginning with my great grandfather, I was able to find the census records for 1910, 1920 and 1930. On each of these records, I found Andrew but he was listed as a widower. With each search, more names were added to his record. But where was the 1900 census? They were here, they had children but I could not locate it. In a last ditch effort, I removed Bridget from the search and sifted through the new results. With the children's names still intact in the search, I stumbled upon a quasi match for the name "Lerick". Clicking on the census image, I scrolled down through the names until I reached the Lerick family. Father and children names all matched ... and, finally, after decades of searching, was the name of my great great grandmother: "Delia". (Investigating the etymology of Delia, I learned that it is the diminutive of "Bridget"). I wanted a photo to fill in the blank but any image that might have once existed, had long been discarded as Delia's grandchildren had passed away. I contacted all of the cousins but none had a photo of Delia or Andrew. If anything, none of them even cared. But, in an ironic twist of fate, that long sought dream was about to come true.
Researching Delia's male children was fairly easy but the girls posed a problem. Without spouse names, their information was lost. In sharing some of the research, it jolted my mother's memory. She shared her recollection of the aunts and men they married. Adding these names resulted in lots of new leaves popping up on the family tree. Clara, one of Delia's children, married later in life. Her husband was a widower and they had one child together, a son whom they named after the husband and Clara's father, Andrew. Searching through the Ancestry.com databases, I was able to locate his date of birth in September 1921. As I had done with the others, I checked the Social Security Death records, only to discover that he had passed away in Florida in February 2012! I then googled his obit. It was simply worded and listed no next of kin. Since this was so recent, I wondered if some of his personal records were still available. With nothing to lose, I emailed the Funeral Home that handled his cremation. A few days passed before I received a response. The woman who had met with him to make the final arrangements, explained that Bill told her he had no living relatives. I emailed her back, explained the family link and how the family had spread out over the years. Could she possibly put me in touch with his last contact as i was interested in any personal photographs he might have left behind. She responded saying she had a confidential contact and would pass along my request.
A week passed with no phone calls or emails. It had been 3 months and surely whatever Bill left behind was probably gone. Bill was a catholic but no funeral mass was said for him. I made arrangements in my parish to have a memorial mass said that Sunday. On Saturday, the doorbell rang. The mailman handed me two large boxes addressed to me "from me". Opening the first box, the painted image of a man stared back. Though we had never met, I immediately recognized my long, lost cousin. An envelope contained a message from the sender indicating that Bill believed he had no living relatives. Prior to his death, he gave away all of his belongings with the exception of these personal photographs. The first box held the oldest photos, the ones that belonged to his mother, Clara, Delia's daughter. Neatly buried in the pile were the two oldest photos, one of a woman in a high neck blouse and the other of a man, sporting a hat. It did not take long before I realized that here was the treasure I had been seeking for so 5 decades - my great, great grandparents. Also enclosed in the box was an envelope containing the birth, baptismal, marriage and death certificates for Clara. The baptismal certificate confirmed a long held suspicion that they were married in NYC and where the marriage and baptismal records for others in the family, may be found. Even more amazing is that, according to the unsigned letter, these photographs and documents were scheduled to be shredded the week my request arrived.
I am sharing this with you as an inspiration for other seekers. Check the obituaries and send the inquiries. Perhaps, like me, you will find the treasures you are so desperately seeking.