52 Ancestors Week 5: So Far Away

+18 votes

Time for the next 52 Ancestors challenge!

52 Photos and 52 Ancestors sharing bacgesPlease share with us a profile of an ancestor or relative who matches this week's theme:

So Far Away

From Amy Johnson Crow:

What ancestor migrated a long distance in his or her lifetime? Maybe you found an ancestor far from where you expected? How about a discovery in a distant library or archive?

Share below!

Participants who share every week can earn badges. If this is your first time participating and you don't have the participation badge, or if you pass a milestone (13 in 13, 26 in 26, 52 in 52) let us know here. Click here for more about the challenge.

in The Tree House by Eowyn Langholf G2G Astronaut (1.5m points)
edited by Eowyn Langholf


Benjamin Baker, born Jan 1806  at sea near South Africa on a convict ship on the way out to Australia to Ann Gibbons (convict from Liverpool) father is unknown at this stage.  I have included him as he started life a long way from his mother's home country and a long way from his eventual home country of Australia.  Benjamin is my 3x great grandfather. He was one of the first generation of children to grow up in the new colony of NSW.

55 Answers

+31 votes
Best answer

While searching for clues in my family tree I came across a tree written a man named Harvey Abbott.  His aunt had the same information as my great-grandmother.  I read and it seemed that they were the same.  I sent an email to him and he asked me a few pointed questions, "Do you know if they were Christian Scientists?"  Yup, that's them.

We began sharing notes and it turned into a 12 year collaboration.  The first cousin of my grandfather turned out to be my closest genealogy collaborator.  In looking at my inbox from him, there are well over 3,600 emails from his third email account (I haven't added up the first two emails).  After he retired he traveled the country taking photos and collecting documents of our shared family.  He was good at collecting the info, just not so good at recording it.  For that, he relied on me and just emailed it all to me.

He has done some really ground-breaking research.  He and other researchers have pushed back brick walls with good sound detective work, document collection, and DNA analysis.  I am always in awe of how he can dig a document out of a courthouse that couldn't be found anywhere else.

He had posted (part of) his tree to WikiTree and I came to look at it and it was what brought me to become a WikiTree member.

He is a member of the Sons of the Revolution (NSSAR) and his qualifying ancestor is one of our shared ancestors.  It was through his application that I was able to "piggyback" and apply and save a lot of time and work.

I have always worried that if something happened to Harvey (he's getting up there in his age) that I would never know about it.  He had forwarded me his son's family's Christmas photos and I noticed that the son and his wife's email addresses were in the forwarded text.  I asked Harvey if I could reach out to them, "just in case."  He gave his blessing before New Years.  And then I forgot about it...

I've been looking for the death record of my great-grandmother (his aunt) for some years.  Just a few nights ago I finally found it.  I emailed it to him and this set off a flurry of emails between us.  For two days we were back and forth and I also with my mother comparing notes and family stories.

It was on Thursday night that he finished out one of his emails with this sentence:

My health is really deteriorating so if there is anything you want to know you better ask. My heart is not functioning Weill at all. 

I emailed him back the next morning and gave him instructions to add me to all of his profiles, add an afterlife statement to his profile, and to box up all of his genealogy docs so that I could scan them.

Then I went and sent an email to his son and daughter-in-law.

Almost immediately, his son replied to me and we were sending emails back and forth.  Simultaneously, I was still emailing with Harvey.  His son asked to give me a call and he did and we spent nearly an hour and a half on the phone chatting.  I'd never talked to him before and we really hit it off.  We're of similar age, same number of children, similar work adventures, same political views, etc.

We signed off and I went about my day.

A few hours later, I received another call.  It was Harvey's family calling me back to tell me that Harvey had just died.  After he and I exchanged breakfast emails, he went out for a walk - about the same time I was talking with his son, it appears that he had a heart attack and never made it home.

I was so sad.  When he said his health was deteriorating, I thought he meant months or a few years, not 12 hours.  I was (and still am) so sad about it.  I am thankful for the time we have had and all of the research we have conducted but I am regretful that I didn't spend more time on the part of the tree that we share together.  After he died I opened his tree and began digging and immediately found some new ancestors and I wished I could share the news with him.  

But now he is so far away.

Harvey Martin Joseph Abbott (1942 - 2020)

Before the team closed his account as a WikiTree member, I awarded him a Family Star:

Awarded by SJ Baty who wrote: I cannot think of a recipient who is more deserving. Over the last 12 years I have a treasure trove of about 3,000 emails full of genealogical information from Harvey about our shared family including photos, birth and death certificates, marriage licenses, land records, grave photos... the list is never ending. It will take me at least a decade to upload all of the data you have shared with me. I will forever be indebted; our family will be forever indebted to you.

by SJ Baty G2G6 Pilot (783k points)
selected by Lyn Sara Gulbransen
What a beautiful story and tribute to your cousin Harvey.  I am so sorry for your loss cousin.  Deepest condolences for his family.
SJ, it is certainly sad that you have lost Harvey. I think that he may even resemble you, especially in the facial shape and eyes. Glad you got to have the hour and a half talk.
The talk was with his son, who I just met and talked to for the first time at the very moment that his father was dying.

I guess that is the thing of it and my wife is convinced that it was divine intervention.  Had I not found my great-grandmother's death certificate, perhaps Harvey and I wouldn't have been emailing so much those two days.  Perhaps I wouldn't have received his message that he wasn't feeling well.  And without that message, I wouldn't have emailed his son's family who then called me back after Harvey died.  

Perhaps I wouldn't know even now.

I just can't get over the timing of everything.
I agree with your wife about the divine intervention.
This story makes me so sad. I only became interested in my family history when I retired, and it was too late to ask questions of my mother and great grandmother. It is wonderful that you were able to avail yourself of the wisdom of an older relative when he was still alive.

A remarkable story.  Thanks for sharing.

Since he died I've thrown myself into his maternal tree as it was not yet on WT.  Not completely finsihed with the bio but nearing completion on his maternal grandfather:

Walter (Nowak) Novak (1868 - 1939)

+18 votes

My 3x great grandmother Amanda Oakley White was born in western New York in 1832.  Shortly after her marriage to my 3x great grandfather Riley White, he enlisted in the Union army and fought in the Civil War.  She stayed on the farm with his parents in New York while he went off to war.  So far away..

by Caryl Ruckert G2G6 Pilot (182k points)
Great profile!
Cousin, you never cease to amaze me with your ability to turn out an incredible profile!
+21 votes

Thomas Askren was my 6th great grandfather.  He was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1719.  But he was a bit of a black sheep.  In the Summer of 1744, he was convicted of highway robbery and sentenced to die for his crime.  Lucky for me and  for many other descendants, his sentence was commuted to 14 years transportation during the following Lenten term in 1745 - and he was transported to America in chains to start his life all over again in the new world - so far away from home.

by Scott McClain G2G6 (7.7k points)
So far away indeed - so far that return home was impossible.
Did he do well in his new home?
Yes, after serving out a period of indentured servitude to pay his passage over, he married, managed to acquire several hundred acres of land, had many children, and lived to a ripe old age.  Sometimes you just need a change of scenery, I guess!
+19 votes

My grandfather Stanislav (Stanley) Hakl came to the US in 1907 at age 18. He was supposed to return to Prague and finish his education. He never went back. 

In 2007 I took my mom to Prague. We had a bunch of letters from the 1920s. In addition to tourist stuff, I hired a car and driver to take us to see the addresses in Prague from the letters, most of which were gone due to bombing during the war. We knew that his brother Oldrich worked in a bank in Karlovy Vary so off we went to see if we could find the bank! We asked at the hotel about the location of the former Živnostenská banka and the clerk sent us on a long wonderful walk to the brand new UniCredit Bank. When we returned to the hotel, the owner found us and said “You are looking for the bank! Come! I will show you! My then 81 yo Mom sighed and said she couldn’t walk any more. He said “No, it’s fine!” We went to the front door of the hotel, and he pointed across the square, and there it was, a beautiful Art Nouveau building! 

The sad part of this tale is when my Aunt died in 2014, we found post war letters that she hid and never shared. Information in these letters led me to finding cousins in Prague in 2019 that we could have met! I wish I could read old German and Czech!

by Lyn Sara Gulbransen G2G6 Mach 2 (25.5k points)
edited by Lyn Sara Gulbransen
Any chance you can write to them or email them today?
We were trying to get my mom and her cousin together via Skype, but language got in the way because their english speaker was out of the country. Will try again.
Great story
Thank you!
+19 votes

Ann Elphinston was born in 1803 at Edinburgh, Scotland. She was one of 10 children.
She married in 1829 and had 9 of her own children.
Her brother William Elphinston emigrated to Australia in 1832 and 20 years later Ann's daughter, now Mrs Ann Miller, decided to emigrate to Australia.
It must have been tough having loved ones so far away knowing she would never see them again.

by Ray Hawkes G2G6 Mach 4 (42.5k points)
+17 votes

Umpty Great Grandfather Alexander Carswell  was purportedly born in Ireland and married about 1754 to Isabella Brown. In November 1772, Alexander and Isabella, with their six children, the oldest not quite seventeen and the youngest only four, took passage on the ship Elizabeth, departing Antrim, Ireland, for the colonies. They arrived in Savannah, Georgia, in January 1773.

by Dorothy O'Hare G2G6 Mach 1 (14.9k points)
+22 votes

My second great grandmother, Jane Walker, was born in Galway, Ireland. She and her sister immigrated to New Orleans about 1850. She married Alexander McCullough in Tennessee in 1851. In 1861 she moved with him to Burnside, Pennsylvania to care for his aging parents. She took a trip back to New Orleans in 1869 to see her sister, and she became ill with yellow fever and died on 19 July 1869 at the age of 39. So even in illness, she was so far away from home. This is the Claddagh Ring, made in Galway, that I wear on my right hand to honor her.


by Alexis Nelson G2G6 Pilot (163k points)
edited by Alexis Nelson
Alexis what a wonderful ring I would love owning this

Thank you for sharing
Thank you sweet Susan, I have had hand swelling the last three years, and this is tho only ring I wear now on my right hand. I have a feeling we are about the same age, and these things happen. I am so glad you are getting over the shingles.
Thank you sweet Alexis, that is terrible with your hand swollen, do you know why? I am delighted you can wear this magnificent ring, special because if the story and because it is a old ring, most I find amazing when I look at this ring,it most have been handmade, but don’t you think it is a ring that has been ordered because it is so very unique
+17 votes

Most of my Scottish ancestors immigrated to the United States or Canada. A few brave souls like my second great uncle Archibald Colville ventured to Australia. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Colville-443. Their third son was born on board ship during the long voyage. 

by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Mach 7 (75.8k points)
edited by Joelle Colville-Hanson
+13 votes

My great grandfather John Stephen Husar was born 15 November 1887 in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In early june of 1913 he departed from Bremen, German aboard the ship Brandenburg. He arrived in New York, New York probably through Ellis island. He did not see his wife Terezia miko again until after world war one. 

He left as he did not want to be conscripted into the military. He told he siblings that he was leaving the next day with or without them. They were drunk the next day and did not go with them. The gate out of the country was closed behind him.

by Jennifer Robins G2G6 Mach 3 (32.8k points)
edited by Jennifer Robins
+13 votes

The phrase "So Far Away" resonates the most for my grandmother's grandmother, Margaret Jane SINCLAIR.  https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Sinclair-2924  She was born in County Antrim in the early 1830s.  Her father is said to have died young, leaving her mother alone with a young child in what must have been one of most frightening times anyone can imagine, the great famine of the 1840s in Ireland.  Margaret was sent at about age 11 or 12 to North America, initially with an uncle and aunt, but soon she was left as a servant in Quebec. Her uncle and aunt moved somewhere else, and she lost touch with them.. She could read, but couldn't write, and it would be years before she would get any communication from her mother in Ireland.  Home must have seemed so far away.  

by Carolyn Adams G2G6 Mach 3 (30.6k points)
Thank you Carolyn for reminding me of the potato famine in Ireland from 1845-1849. I had never put this together with my 2nd great grandmother and her sister leaving Ireland. They were the age of Margaret, such a terrible time--yes, it had to have seemed so far away.
+15 votes

Anyone who was willing to move to the other side of the world in the 1800s, was really moving "so far away" from family and friends, that it would be highly unlikely they would ever see each other in person again.

Pretty much all of my ancestors moved from the UK to New Zealand and that was just "So far away!!"

I am highlighting my 3 times great grandmother Elizabeth Robertson nee Walls who moved from the Orkney Isles (in the far north of Scotland) to Dunedin, Otago in the far south of New Zealand in 1848.


by Robynne Lozier G2G6 Pilot (718k points)
+13 votes


I first visited the Carolinas perhaps some 30 years ago on a road trip with my mother. I still recall that a car motioned to us to pull over. We stopped and were entertained by a Carolina family who had seen our Maine license plate and wanted to inquire further. They chatted for a while, in the open manner and with the Southern drawl I thought was charming. They explained that they had waved us over to see if we were kin, as their ancestors had come to the Carolinas from somewhere up near Maine in early Colonial times. 

Although I did not know it then,  perhaps we were kin after all. In the 1600s it was not uncommon for church members to pack up and follow their preacher, and my 8th GGF Thomas Osgood (1651-1728) and his family did just that in 1695. They established the second permanent settlement in South Carolina, just west of what is now Charleston, on the Ashley River.  

Another group of migrants from Massachusetts left  Ipswich in about 1695.  They were shipwrecked off the coast of Cape Fear, near Wilmington, MC.  Governor Archdale, who was a Quaker, sent a ship to pick up the survivors and bring them to Charleston. They settled at a place 15 miles NE of Charleston called Wappetaw. 

One might wonder why persons from families established in Massachusetts since the Great Migration would suddenly pull up stakes and move so far away from all they had known. The names of the migrants may suggest one reason; many of these were from families that had been victimized by the Salem Trials. Perhaps they moved far away because they wanted to erase any reminder of those horrible days. ]

by S Mercer G2G6 Mach 1 (14.2k points)
+13 votes

Sometimes far isn't distance but change. Maggie Bible was born in 1861 in Ohio. https://www.wikitree.com/index.php?title=Bible-799&public=1

She then went to live, as a housekeeper, to a mine owner in Miner's Delight, Wyoming. It was a dying gold town and the miners there were those who followed the gold and didn't really make any money. On the 1880 census there she is as the 18 year old housekeeper and on the very next line is her future 47 year old husband. They marry later in 1880. The marriage didn't last as the husband left her to chase gold again, supposedly dying in an Alaskan cabin fire. Even though it wasn't that far, it appears she never left Wyoming to visit family again. 

by David Grawrock G2G6 Mach 1 (14.7k points)
+12 votes
My mom's dad was born in Bohemia, Austria Hungry.  He immigrated to the US prior to WWI.
by David Hughey G2G6 Pilot (755k points)
+14 votes

Clovis I (466-511) is so very far away, it's hard to believe he is one of my direct ancestors. Yet I found him with the tree widget, by scrolling through 51 generations.

I haven't counted the number of "uncertain" connections, but am certain of being uncertain about this family tie to France's first monarch !

by C Ryder G2G6 Mach 5 (59.2k points)
+17 votes

This particular phrase "Too Far Away" reminds those in my family of a story about my Great-Great Grandfather, Simon Rammel (1818-1901).

He had significant mental issues ... he believed the world was flat ... and the Germany his family had come from had fallen off of the surface.

He was finally committed to a hospital (Community Farm) for the insane ... it is told that he constantly mutter the Phase about his Ancestor's German homeland ... "It is Too Far Away ... I'll never be able to visit there".

Below is an article about Simon.

by Bill Sims G2G6 Mach 5 (58.7k points)
What a great story!
What a great guy! You are lucky to have him!!
+11 votes

Eulalie Bibeau lived so far away from her brothers and sisters in Minnesota: https://allroadhaverhill.blogspot.com/2020/01/52-ancestors-week-5-so-far-away.html

by Chris Ferraiolo G2G6 Pilot (297k points)
+12 votes

I wrote last week how so many of my dad's family in Ireland lived very close to us, including on our literal doorstep.  This week I look back to my G2 grandfather's brother, Thomas Hall.

My G2 grandfather William was the second of nine children in his family.  Of those nine, the eldest two stayed at home as did most of their descendants, one died in Ireland unmarried and with no children, two went to Scotland and four went to Canada, a "new" nation in the 1850s and 1860s.

Thomas, and his sister Chrisitana Hall were married to a sister and brother, Margaret McClinton and John McClinton respectively, before they decided to set off to pastures new in Canada West (as Ontario was called at the time).  In fact they are adjacent records in the marriage register, marrying about three weeks apart in the same church in Ireland in early 1848.

I want to remember Thomas as he was one of the many Irish Diaspora who did not make it to his intended destination, dying at sea before he reached the promised land of Canada.  Thomas and Margaret did have (at least) four children before emigrating so there was some legacy of Thomas Hall's family in Ontario once Margaret and family got established there.

by Linda Hawkes G2G6 Mach 3 (36.2k points)
+10 votes

SO FAR AWAY,  Week 5

Amanda Chapin, my 2nd great grandmother was born in New York to parents Luke Chapin and his wife Betsey (Trask).  Amanda married my 2nd great grandfather, Cyrus C. Aldrich on February 18, 1854, probably in New York.

Years later, and SO FAR AWAY, on June 29, 1897 she died and was buried at Elsinore Valley Cemetery, Lake Elsinore, California.  The post Civil War couple moved to California to pursue their apiary livelihood, Beekeeping.


by Cheryl Skordahl G2G6 Pilot (187k points)
+12 votes

Like most Americans, my family is full of people who came from, or went to, far away. The bravery and determination of people who crossed an ocean or a continent is amazing to me, when nowadays we get nervous if we can't reach someone by phone for half an hour. One person who interests me is my great uncle Joseph Heritage. He left the family farm in Indiana about 1905 for northern Idaho, where he pursued truck farming. I was astonished when I learned this--why did he think it was a good idea to go to such a remote place, with such a short growing season, to raise vegetables? He apparently knew what he was doing, for he remained out West for the rest of his life, and there are newspaper articles about the state fair prizes he and his wife won for their produce.

Another recent "so far away" moment came when John Lennon was the profile of the week. It turned out I was connected to him not through my English ancestors but through Yoko Ono!

by Richard Heritage G2G6 Mach 2 (26.3k points)

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