Question of the Week: What's your most memorable genealogical find?

+31 votes

This could be something as monumental as finding your biological parents to finding a family bible or a picture of a long lost aunt.

You all always surprise me with the diversity of answers, and I look forward to hearing these!

asked Dec 1 in The Tree House by Julie Ricketts G2G6 Pilot (211,730 points)
I am sure a lot of you have had to wade through stories and rumors in the family about your ancestors.  Well, my grandmother Flossie Spade had written a note that her grandmother Emma Page had married a Lord Chamberlain in England and Flossie's mother had been put in a convent before she came to the states.   I investigated for a long time and could not find any Lord Chamberlains with a wife named Emma Page.  Never found reference to any convents for Eva Marriner.  Well with the help of some new found Marriner cousins, we found out that Emma married a man named Charles Chamberlain and her daughter Eva went to the states with her aunt and uncle(who it was later learned, was her biological father).  It was all pretty messy.  So if you have stories or rumors, be prepared to find out they may be very far from the truth.
When we were on vacation in Poland, 17 years ago, a cousin whom I had learned about from letters my aunt had saved, handed me the marriage record of my grandparents.  It gave the name of my real grandmother, not my grandfather's second wife.  Since my father was the youngest of nine, he knew little about his parents' families.  However, some of the things he related to me were not totally inaccurate as I have been finding out.
Right around Thanksgiving I discovered by following an ancestral line that I am a direct descendant of  John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.  It was definitely a case of serendipity.  I was not specifically looking for this connection.

Stanton Bloom
Hello, Lisa! Oh, that's really cool! A new cousin! Well,it's nice to meet you!! Oh really?! Oh wow!  That is so cool! Haha well I'm going to have to check and see now how close she's related to me!  That is so cool though, Lisa, thanks for bringing that to my attention. And it was lovely to meet you, by the way!!
Nice to meet you too! Let me know how you go when you check out what relation Mary is to you. :)
My most important find was when researching my husband's lineage in Lake Charles, LA census the old fashioned way on tape, I roll past a Glass name and though, gee, I need to check this out, and wrote in down, then I roll down the census and passed a Brooks name when I realized the wife's last name was Roland.

I had just got a copy of my great grandfather's death certificate in which my grandfather had named his mother as Susan Amanda Roland, no father's name but a mother.  

I checked the names of the children and there listed first was my grandfather's father, Joseph, then one by one, each of his four brothers.  This was my grandfather's family in LAKE Charles, a place I probably would have been years searching!!!!  

Then I remembered the Glass family and rolled back slowly with bated breath until I got to the household of the Glass family.  There was my grandfather's mother listed!!

My heart pounded for there was no one who knew much about the life of Joseph Leonard and Mary Margaret Josephine Glass Allsbrooks alive.  Sadly, I've yet to put a name for sure on Susan Amandy Roland Allsbrooks as in the census he is listed by the name Brooks and two other first names and in the 1880 census he is not there.  One other researcher told me bluntly that his name was not William Wesley, which my grandfather said he was named for his grandfather, James Wesley.  The strange thing is he could have been name for his other grandfather, James Wesley Glass.

In the end though, I found a lead.
Memorable genealogical find would be the extensive, well documented story of ancestors in MN: St. Cloud, St. Paul and Mountain Iron. The story of Ambrose Freeman of St. Cloud, MN,  along with son-law Thomas J. Gray of St. Cloud is a phenomenal find with so many historic records. Many flowery, passionate articles by T.J. Gray....
You know, I don't think my most memorable find hasn't happened yet.
Well, Lisa, I checked and apparently Mary is my 1st cousin 14 times removed! That's surprising that it ended up being a far-removed 1st cousin - I would have thought it would have been farther back than that! Like 20th cousins or something lol
Hi Sharon, hey that's great! It's amazing to think we had such strong women in our family like Mary! It is funny how the cousins work out, confused me abit too. We probably share other ancestors too, I descend from all 3 King Roberts of Scotland (Robert the Bruce, Robert II and Robert III). Maybe we could compare trees? Are you on Ancestry as well? If you are look me up! (Cameron_Lisa)

85 Answers

+27 votes
Best answer
My best memorable found when I found out my great grandmother was Chinese born in shanghai and married my great grandfather that was born in Paisley Scotland.

Later when I look into my grandmothers album there was a photo of my great grandmother.

It actually took 16 year of genealogy work.
answered Dec 1 by Susan Laursen G2G6 Pilot (554,440 points)
selected Dec 5 by Kerri Eutsler
Thank you Kerri for best answer
+26 votes
On a lark one night I put a question on a Rootsweb board asking for information on my great-great grandmother and great-great grandfather.

The next day a cousin I did not know existed contacted me and gave me a tree that went back several hundred years.  She continues to be my genealogical Fairy Godmother.  She opened up a world to me I had no idea existed and it got me hooked to find out more.  She and I still collaborate regularly on this branch of my family.  

She said her family had been looking for our collateral line for years and had thought it had died out until she saw my post and could not wait to contact me.  So finding her (or rather her finding me) from my post is my most memorable find!
answered Dec 1 by Laura Bozzay G2G6 Pilot (234,430 points)
Long live Cousin Bait!!
That's a wonderful story.
" genealogical Fairy Godmother."  I love that term of endearment!  We all need one of those, don't we?
Steve she said I am going to send you a few things...  so big boxes of family primary material arrived on more doorstep that went back over 400 years....  talk about magic!   From my viewpoint she is quite a magical person and I so thankful she found me and I found her!
+23 votes
I found the ancestral home of my wife's family in the tiny town of Lic Croatia. The house, now a ruin housed countless generations of her family from the late 1700's into the 1900's.
answered Dec 1 by Bart Triesch G2G6 Mach 7 (73,220 points)
+16 votes
Just before she passed my grandmother took me to the town where she grew up and the actual house that she lived in was owned by her sisters son so we got to tour the house. The nephew of my grandmother was also interested in genealogy so we exchanged the information that we each had at that time to help in our research.
answered Dec 1 by Dale Byers G2G6 Pilot (859,840 points)
Oh, those houses.  This summer I had the chance to go into my grandmother's house in Sierra Madre, California.  I spent a few weeks of just about every summer of my youth in that house so I knew the house very, very well.  It turns out the guy who bought the house had known my grandma and decided to try to retain as much of the character and feel of the house and the yard as he could.  He is an artist of some sort and he did a REALLY good job of it.  It was like stepping back into my childhood.
+17 votes
My most memorable find was receiving a group of 130 year old letters of correspondence from a previously unknown cousin in Northumberland. They revealed many missing links to my paternal tree. The most stunning reveal was a likely affair involving my 4th grt grandmother & Sir Thomas Lister (probable progenitor of my Lockwood line in the US).


If anyone out there shares his Y DNA, I'd love to compare it with mine.
answered Dec 1 by Doug Lockwood G2G Astronaut (1,804,740 points)
edited Dec 1 by Doug Lockwood
Wow! What an amazing find!
+17 votes
A family story was passed down through several generations about a UK soldier who fought against the colonies during the American Revolutionary War. His last name was said to have been MacGill. After the war ended, his unit was removed to Canada for several years. A British officer insulted MacGill's lady and MacGill slugged the officer who fell to the ground, hitting his head on a rock, which led to his death. As the story goes, MacGill fled to the states and dropped the Mac from his last name.

I told this story to a sales manager who was in Orillia, Ontario, while interviewing to represent his firm. He knew a woman in the area whose maiden name was Gill and after starting to tell her the story, she finished it for him. Within a week or two, she mailed me information about my ancestor, his son, Jacob, who is also my ancestor and additional information taken from a family Bible.

It turns out that a Gill cousin researched the military record and found that my ancestor enlisted as Gill and the Mac prefix part of the story is inaccurate. He was always Gill, Daniel Gill, who served in the 54th Regiment of Foot. He later became a school master in upstate New York.
answered Dec 1 by Frank Gill G2G Astronaut (1,456,840 points)
That's pretty cool.

I kind of found a connection here like that. Someone was researching the same guy and he filled me in on all kinds of info.
+25 votes

My "most memorable genealogical find" was that I had a sister I never knew about!!  By researching my family and checking census reports and other information I learned this fact and had it verified more than once as it was a definite surprise no one in my immediate family knew about.

Sometimes that may happen, a parent who was married before and never mentioned it, because they distant themselves from the other family, or an adoption took place or... well many could fill in the blank. But it can be an awesome find... especially to gain a relative and learn more about your heritage.

answered Dec 1 by Dorothy Barry G2G6 Pilot (702,370 points)
+13 votes
The find that surprised me the most concerns my mother's uncle Stephen, whom I once wrote about in a post. One day around 1945 he just walked out and never came back home. The mystery had never been solved.  When I came up with a Findagrave Memorial that looked like a match, it was sort of exciting, but there was no proof. I was a beginner, nevertheless cautious about false hopes. Finally I got in touch with the memorial manager, called the funeral home and asked the kind person who answered the phone to look in the records. It was a huge surprise when we discovered all the basic information matched. Stephen was finally found, but his story was a sad one.
answered Dec 1 by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 1 (12,080 points)
+11 votes

-One of my great-grandmothers was still alive when I was born. Nobody had told me.

-I have a lot of second and third cousins in Canada.

-Several of my (great-)great-aunts/uncles and their children died in the North Sea flood of 1953.

Many more discoveries to come hopefully!

answered Dec 1 by Lennart van Haaften G2G6 (9,920 points)
I remember those floods - I was 8 at the time and I remember the pictures in the newspapers and the rising death tally being reported.   It must have been a dreadful time for your family.
+12 votes
Finding contact with my grandmother for the first time (2016), and talking to her about her childhood and ancestors, she couldn't remember much, but grandma did remember, her mother was Val who married Charlie Christison. Val's mother was a Newland, that was enough information is break a brick wall, as I found Grandma's first cousin here on WikiTree, We exchanged memories and photos.


Thanks WikiTree for being free
answered Dec 1 by Campbell Braddock G2G6 Mach 3 (33,860 points)
+17 votes
Breaking the final brick wall on my grandfather's lines the week before he died.

I had records of where each of his ancestors came from before coming to America except for his grandfather from Norway.  I had his birthdate and birth place, but could find no record of him!  Until Lynda Crackett came along and used her Norwegian Jedi knowledge to point the way.  Now, I not only have the grandfather's parents, but several generations...and I am still going.

I couldn't have asked for a better parting gift to give to my grandfather before he passed.  And I will never forget it.
answered Dec 3 by Emma MacBeath G2G6 Pilot (349,170 points)
+8 votes
My most memorable find was regarding my paternal grandfather, [[Friebel-8|Frank Friebel]]. He had told his children that his father was [[Friebel-14|Christian Gottfried Heinrich Friebel]] and that his mother had died when he was very young. His father remarried and one thing led to another and my grandfather came from Germany in 1884 and settled in Texas.  My father never mentioned or knew the name of his father's mother. I knew from my grandfather's obituary that his name at birth was Godlieb Franz Friebel and I knew his DOB.
Wanting to find her name, I ordered microfilm from Salt Lake City for the village where my grandfather was from and for the time frame of his birth. I found his baptism record and it was full of surprises.  
1) His name at birth was Gottfried Franz Friebel and not Godlieb Franz.

2) He was illegitimate and his father wasn't who we'd been told it was. His mother was [[Friebel-19|Albertine Friebel]], the sister of the man we thought was his father!

My father and his generation have passed away by the time I found this. We've put together that his mother probably did die when he was very young and he was raised to think that his uncle was his father. We don't know if he ever knew the truth.  It was kind of neat to slowly see all of the different family trees change with my newly found information. He may have found out from his supposed half-brother (son of C.G.H. Friebel) who came to Texas years later. His "half-brother" did know as he put that his cousin Frank had paid for his passage.
answered Dec 3 by Donna Storz G2G6 Mach 1 (19,040 points)
+7 votes
Religion-approved wife swapping during the Revolutionary War:
answered Dec 3 by Jillaine Smith G2G6 Pilot (556,630 points)
That is some PRIMO family drama, omigod. Better than anything on Days Of Our Lives.
Oh yeah.  I’ve written it up but haven’t yet found a venue for publishing.
Once you get it published make it a movie. You'll make millions! MILLIONS!
Your We Relate summary is pretty cool in its own right.  You ought to make it a Free Space page on WikiTree just as a backup.

I’ve started a copy here on wikitree:

I’ve got some work to do completing the conversion. 

It's fresh in my mind that things can disappear from the Internet.  I went back to the profile of the ancestor I mentioned in my response to this thread and found that the link to one of my sources was broken.  I found it again, but I'm wondering if I should mirror the information on WikiTree just in case it disappears again.
+8 votes
Mine would have to be finding two cousins

1) DNA led me to a cousin I had never heard of, that actually lived with my maternal grandmother for a while when she was a teenager. We've talked several times now, and she's given me some great stories of her time with my grandmother.

2) I had found records that showed a great grandfather had changed the first name he was using (after his first divorce). Then dna led me to a cousin from that line (also on grandma's side). This cousin is a descendant from his third wife. It turns out that neither the cousin, nor his mother, knew about great-grandpa's actual first name.
answered Dec 3 by M Silva G2G6 Mach 7 (72,230 points)
+7 votes
Mine would be finding out that my Indiana family really didn't come from Indiana in the first place. This was the genesis of my genealogical interest, and is still the most memorable moment for me.
answered Dec 3 by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (166,990 points)
Sometimes it's astounding what our living relatives never told us
+6 votes
Finding the mother and father of my 4th gggggrandfather, Clark J. Faulk, with the help of Eddie King!  :)

Still thank you for that Eddie!
answered Dec 4 by Betty Tindle G2G6 Mach 5 (56,740 points)
+5 votes
My great-great-great grandparents (William Riley White and Amanda Oakley) migrated from Western NY to Minnesota in the 1870's.  I knew that one of their sons died at the age of 18-19 in Minnesota.  I "needed" to know what happened to him.  I couldn't find anything about it after searching Ancestry, and the internet.  He was listed with his family in the 1880 census and his headstone showed that he died in 1880.

 One afternoon, I was googling Verndale, Minnesota where the family lived and I found a website  There was a history link on the site with a Newspapers section so I click on it and see they have nine images from the local newspaper from 1880!  I open the first one and there is my answer, the obituary for Edwin White.  He was struck and killed by a train.  I was so excited to finally learn what happened.  I also learned how "buried" great information can be on the internet.  It was really just luck that I clicked on the newspaper and found my answer.
answered Dec 4 by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Mach 1 (12,620 points)
+4 votes
My most memorable documentary find was finding the baptism record for my great grandfather, Grégoire Szyło.  His origins had long been considered mysterious, so finding his baptism record was key to extending that part of my lineage back further.  I was pleased to find two copies of the record available (one kept by the church, one kept by the government).  Each had the date of birth and baptism, the names of his parents and grandparents (including maiden names for the women), the names of his godparents, the name of the attending midwife, the address where the family was located, and his father's occupation.

My most memorable DNA find was receiving an a full sequence mtDNA match (genetic distance of zero) with an Iraqi woman.  It is known that my haplogroup is distributed widely across Europe and western Asia, so getting a match of some sort wasn't that surprising.  However, I also have exact matches confirming my direct maternal lineage going back about a dozen generations in New France, so finding such a close match with someone from Iraq was indeed quite surprising.
answered Dec 4 by Greg Lavoie G2G6 Mach 4 (46,080 points)
+13 votes
I was standing in line at a local Genealogy Fair when I accidentally knocked a book to the floor from a pile of books that had been left on a table. As I picked the book up I glanced down at the page the book at opened at when it landed - and there, in a footnote was a note re the emigration of my Great Grandfather Robert Willis to South Africa. (It was a book about emigration to South Africa) Knowing that he had resigned from the Irish Constabulary "to emigrate to Australia" it never occurred to me that he had gone to South Africa; no wonder I never found him in Australia. Now, perhaps all those tall tales he told his grandchildren about elephants and fierce natives in the African bush might be true-ish.

He didn't stay in South Africa, but followed Sir. George Grey to New Zealand and worked in Grey's office as a clerk/messenger.
answered Dec 5 by Valerie Willis G2G6 Mach 3 (34,890 points)
Amazing story. Sometimes things are more than just coincidence.
+5 votes

Probably the most interesting thing I've found so far were a series of incidents reported in the Baltimore American and the Baltimore Sun involving my great-grandfather and his first wife in 1904-5. According to the articles, she was quite a violent drunk and often beat the tar out of him. On year on Christmas, she came home pretty drunk and inquired about a missing can of corn. When he informed her that he ate it, she bit his arm which sent him to the hospital with blood poisoning.

Now, from the pictures I've seen and according to my grandmother, my great-grandfather was not a small man, so I can only imagine how violent she must have been. I believe they were divorced no too long after the Christmas incident.

I guess my great-grandfather never talked much about his life before he met my great-grandmother, so my grandmother had never heard these stories before. She got a kick out of these and a couple of other stories I was able to find about about him.

answered Dec 5 by Jamie Hall G2G Crew (350 points)

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