Most people grow up without ever wondering about their last name. Their entire family has the same one, right? No, not at all. Sure in today's world it's not so unheard of, heck some people even have alternative last names, but in the 1960's not so much. My last name was not the same as my mother's. She used her maiden name. Her mother was remarried and had more children so when we visited, they all had the same last name too. I grew up spending time with my Bledsoe cousins.. there were LOTS of them and they all shared a common name as well. It was just me that was different. I knew I carried my father's last name, but I knew no one else with same one as mine.
Fast forward about 38 years when my genealogy journey began. One of the first things I did was to post in the forums asking for information about the man l knew so little about, my grandfather; Warren Samuel. It took me 16 years to meet my father and then another 18 after that before I really knew him and was able to forge a relationship. He never knew his father so there was very little he could tell me. My grandparents were divorced when he was a toddler. I had a few pictures, l knew he had been in the Navy and that was about it. I took every tiny detail and put it into those forum posts, hoping.
Well, I am a true testament to those that wait shall be rewarded! It was two years later, but one day low and behold out of the blue came an email from a stranger. He had attended a class back in the late 1960's with a teacher who seemed to share at a commonality in name. It was at a small community college in Astoria, Oregon. He even sent me a copy of a page from his yearbook with this man, this teacher shown on it. A community college with a yearbook? What are the chances of that, mine didn't have such a thing. Looking at the picture was like seeing my father standing there. I knew then that the simple "s" mistakenly added to his last name was just that, a mistake and I had found my grandfather.
So now to proof it. By this time the state of Oregon had listed a death record online and low and behold, when you know "where" to search, you may find what you seek, maybe. I did find his death certificate. After calling local funeral homes to find his final resting place, l found where he had been cremated and held until his son came from Florida to pick him up. He informed them he would be spreading his ashes at the Columbia River.
This all took place in 1984. However, I now had at least something to work with. Finding this lead me to his second wife's death in Florida as well. Florida it is, we begin searching for family there. Which I did, no luck. So what do you do when you have a common name, go a different direction of course :O)
I decided I wanted to find my uncle Dennis Samuel. That this would make my life complete to find him. I still did not have the entire family. I did not know much more, but l was going to by hook or by crook.
Off to anywho.com I went, plugged in his name for the entire US. I think there were 38 of them, mostly east coast, so thus began the calling. Yes I did, I called each and everyone of them. I left message, I talked to Dennis after Dennis. Not a one was my Dennis. As with so many genealogy puzzles, sometimes you just have to walk away, for awhile. I did for a few months, then one day I was looking at marriages in California for something else and came across a Dennis and Frances Samuel married in 1974. I remembered there had been a Fran on one of the machines, but couldn't remember where, what state. So the search began again with the west coast.
Nothing, just answering machines. Then a couple days later, my phone rang. I had left a message and this man wanted to ask me questions. How I knew who his parents where and why would I be telling him l might be his niece when his sister had never had children. Could it be? Could I have found him? Yes I had, it was Dennis Samuel, the right Dennis Samuel. He was the son of Warren & Camilla DeMeester Samuel. He was my uncle! The problem was he had no idea his father had ever been married before his mother or that his father had a son, he had walked away from and never looked back to.
You can imagine he was a bit shocked, I'm not even sure he really believed me. We made arrangements to meet. I took photos of his father in his Naval uniform with my grandmother, holding my father in his arms. No way to deny that, that's for sure. I was so excited, I had a million questions and just couldn't wait to form a relationship with my long lost Samuel Family!
Yeah, not so quick Missy... Seems, running from responsibility runs in the Samuel male gene. My father to me. His father to him and even my father's brother Dennis Samuel had his own family abandonment issues. I should have known when his second child with wife number onewas born in Dec of 1973 and he wass getting married on Valentines day just two months later?!?
Due to a few answers, I was able to pin down and find my entire Samuel family clear back to Aber, Cardingshire, Wales. I even had an opportunity to speak to my grandfather Warren's younger brother George Samuel. He and his family also live on the west coast. Oh did I forget to mention these folks, these Samuel family members were all found to be living within 20 minutes of me? Yes that is right, and they had lived here for more than 20+ years, right in my own backyard.
George and his wife Kathy were so very nice and remembered my grandmother Helen and baby Ronnie. So uncle Dennis now had to face the fact that he indeed had a brother and that his father had never shared his secrets. He and my father were able to share a few phone calls and emails before my father passed in Feb. of 2010. I regret that my father never was able to meet him in person. I do not regret finding my Samuel namesakes, but as for family, not so much. They, none of them even want to know me. I have tired to approach them by email, by social network, always letting them know the only reason is to know them, nothing more... nothing, no responses whatsoever!
My cousins grew up in Northern Washington state. Attended college there. Laura still lives there and Scott is a chef and teaches at the Culinary Institute in Napa. George's children live in the gold country and not one of them are interested.
So, sometimes even though finding family alive seems like a wonderful thing, it can be just as painful as hitting a brickwall.