Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The "Magic of Genealogy" Moment - a "Genea-gasm"

Kimberly Powell on her About:Genealogy blog wrote about this subject, and highlighted a recent article in the 4 May 2008 issue of the Seattle Times newspaper - it was titled "In a German pub, genealogy takes living, breathing form." What a breath-taking and superb "magic of genealogy" story!!! I had tears in my eyes from reading it.

This would be an excellent Carnival of Genealogy topic (are you reading, Jasia?). Here is just one of my "Magic of Genealogy" moments:

In 1990, I had been pursuing my genealogy and family history for two years - down to the FHC every Saturday, off to local and regional libraries, writing query letters, reading genealogy magazines, and dutifully entering my data into PAF. I had found quite a bit from all of my searches. I had even started my Seaver-Richmond Family Journal and sent it to my extended family members - aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers, etc.

My aunt and uncle, Jan and Ed Seaver (my father's only brother) were going to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary by visiting their hometown of Leominster, Massachusetts. They were going to renew their vows in the church they were married in, visit the old Seaver homes, Evergreen Cemetery and celebrate with family and friends at the place that they had their reception in nearby Sterling, the Twin Oaks restaurant. This was arranged by their children Peter Seaver and Joan (Seaver) King, and was a smashing success. There were four generations of relatives there - 22 in all, including my brother Scott and myself.

The "Magic of Genealogy" moment came during the week after the reception. I had been told that the Richmond's who came to America in the 1850's had owned a dairy farm on the west side of Putnam, but the Seaver family had lost contact with their Richmond cousins in the 1940's. On a whim, Scott and I traveled to Putnam, Connecticut to search for our Richmond ancestors in the Grove Street Cemetery there. We checked into the Holiday Inn (next to the cemetery), and went out for a walk. We found two Richmond family stones that just gave us names and dates. After dinner, I cold called the two Richmond names that were listed in the telephone book.

The first call was to Thomas Richmond, and I talked to his widow, Helen, who told me that her husband had died years before, and that I really needed to talk to her son, Russell Richmond, who lived near the family farm, which had recently been sold. She also said that Russell had all of the family history data!

I called Russell, and spoke to his wife, also a Helen, who said that Russell was profoundly deaf, but would be very happy to meet with us and talk about family history. We made a date to meet in the morning, and he came and we went into the cemetery with him. Fortunately, he spoke clearly and could lip read. He knew where all of the family stones were - we had missed some of them! He then escorted us to the family farm on Richmond Road in Putnam. The farm had been sold several years before to a young man who raised turkeys and organic vegetables on the "Good Earth" farm. We took some pictures of the farm buildings and Russell told some stories about the people who had lived there.

Then we went to Russell's log cabin home across the road from the farm, and met his wife, Helen. Russell brought out the collection of family papers and pictures that had been handed down from his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents (James and Hannah (Rich) Richmond, who had emigrated from England in 1855-6). I asked if we could go to some place where I could make some xerox copies of some of the papers and pictures, and we went down to a drug store and I made perhaps 30 copies of pictures and papers.

The actual "Moment" was seeing the James Richman family pictures and hearing Russell tell me who each person was - including my great-grandfather, Thomas Richman.

Needless to say, Scott and I enjoyed our day with Russell and Helen Richmond and their hospitality. I was able to use much of what we gleaned from the papers and pictures and was able to find more information in later years about the families in Hilperton in Wiltshire through LDS microfilms and our 1993 vacation to Hilperton - but that's another of my "Magic of Genealogy" moments.
My "Magic of Genealogy" moments always seem to include a chill in my body, a tremendous feeling of thankfulness, and tears of joy. I call them "genea-gasms." It's embarrassing, but I cherish each one of them. Actually, I can hardly wait for the next one!


Anonymous said...


I hadn't seen the German pub story, but as it reminded me of meeting my German cousins, I loved it -- and your story as well. I also love the new "genea-gasm" phrase...a word that could only possibly be understood by fellow genealogists.


Unknown said...

I too like your (ab)use of English terms ;-)
More excitement than I can cope with in one afternoon reading TWO of these spine-tingling stories!
Good luck having more such experiences,