Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Call of a Lifetime! (The End of a Nightmare)

   First let me say, if you are just starting this journey with me, you will need to go down and read the first blog.  It gives you the start of my Nightmare.  This blog won't mean much to you if you don't start at the bottom, the beginning, and read up to this final installment of my In-Law Nightmare.  Today, we finish the saga.  The nightmare finally ends... or does it?

   This nightmare has been on going, established with only a first name and an address on the 1930 U.S. Census.  Genealogy can become so addictive, it can also become your WORST NIGHTMARE if you let it.

                  Now, on to the conclusion...

   It was a Saturday evening when my in-laws arrived at our house.  It was also my mother-in-law's birthday.  She had had a long flight and she was tired.  I was hoping that she would appreciate my gift to her, finding HER mother and giving her a last name.  Her name was ISMAY  DURRIN.  She was born in Saratoga Springs, New York in 1913.  Remember now, all I had to start search with was 'Ismay', and nothing more.  That's it, just 'Ismay'.  Now I had her full name, her birth date and where she was born and living.  Whoa!  Was this even possible?  Would she be pleased?

   She started asking me questions and seemed interested.  So on Sunday afternoon we sat down at the kitchen table with my laptop.  I showed her the burial card with all the information on it.  She started questioning "WHO is this Mrs. Joseph Kehn?"  I wasn't sure, but thought possibly this could be her lost sister that I never even knew had existed.

   So, back on-line we went.  I started searching for this woman, Mrs. Joseph Kehn when I received an e-mail from my precious new 'cousin', Roy.  To my surprise, he had found a newspaper article announcing the engagement of Miss V. Weaver to Mr. Joseph Kehn.  And would you believe there was even a picture along with her full name.  I opened the article, with the picture, right there at the kitchen table with my in-laws looking on.  You should have seen their faces, the smiles and awes were absolutely radiant.  We now had a picture of my mother-in-law's sister.

   As we were oohing and awing, the phone rang.  I was a little upset that this ringing phone was going to interrupt this moment.  This glorious moment of discovery and ecstasy.  So I reached over picked up the phone and said, "Hello".  The voice on the other end said, "Who am I speaking to?"  Hmmmm... odd I thought, is this a solicitor?  NOW?  Really, come on...  but I said, "This is Kevon, who am I speaking to?"

   And then it happened...  the moment I NEVER thought would ever occur...  The voice on the other end said, "This is VERA".  OH MY GOSH!!!!!!!  My brain went blank... all I could think of was "where's the candid camera?", "is this really happening?".  My mouth finally started working again and I asked her, "Is this
Vera ...  Weaver?"  and she said "YES".

   Yes? Yes!  It was her!  Oh, My Gosh!  It was her, right there on the other end of my phone.  I was speaking to the woman who I never knew existed until my sister-in-law asked me to find her.

   I think at that point I started shaking and just handed the phone over to my mother-in-law to talk with her sister.  They spoke for a while and have traded photos and phone calls since that day in July.  They are still strangers and are reacquainting themselves with one another.

   I had help accomplishing something that was so impossible that we NEVER thought it would happen.  A person makes a contact on the internet, looking for others that are searching for the same families.  Do you take the time to reply?  Maybe you should... Twice now contacts accepted have led to AMAZING results!
Don't give up, don't ignore contacts, don't stop searching, take the time, and open the email.  Miracles DO happen and the next one may be yours.

   The chances of success were stacked against me from day one and one contact through had produced a miracle in the family.  One contact had ended a nightmare...

                      My In-Law Nightmare!!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Betting on the Race Track: (Pt. 3 in our saga)

Saratoga Springs looked like it would pay-off big time.  I found a family with a daughter named Ismay.  I was able to follow that family back a few generations.  But, did I have the right family?  Was this the mother of Roberta, or was I following another wild goose chase?  How could I confirm this family?

I had no answers, no assurances, but there was still that gut-feeling.  You know, when the puzzle pieces just fit and yet you couldn't prove it.  So I waited with baited breath for the 1940 U.S. Census to be released.  I was betting that this family would be THE family I was looking for.  Please, please, please, let this family be the ONE.

My genealogy instructor continued to tell us that we follow a family line back in time and then bring it forward through siblings and their families.  He taught us to treat siblings as equal.  Search their families as I would my own line.   You never knew when you would chance upon a living individual with the answers you needed.  It was a daunting task, but off I went.

I really didn't get as far as I had hoped, but eventually I felt confident enough to place this family from Saratoga Springs into my family tree.  I listed this Ismay as Roberta's mother, and I listed her parents from Saratoga Springs.  I followed this father back another generation, and one more set of parents and children.  That's when my Bet paid off BIG TME!!!

Through I received a message from a guy named Roy.  He told me that he was the great-nephew of the father I had listed as Ismay's father.  Eureka!!!!

Emails were sent and received, and then the decision to talk on the phone.  Were these two families tied together?  Was Roy's great-grandmother the sister of Roberta's grandfather?  Did I finally have someone who might be able to answer some questions for me?  Could we tie these two families together into the one I needed?  Were we really connected?

Two phone conversations with Roy resulted in an email containing the burial card for this Ismay from Saratoga Springs.  On the front of the card I had her maiden name, her birthdate, and the date of her death.  I had NEVER had this information.  I had where she was buried, I even had her married name from her second marriage.  Was this the one?  Had I hit Pay-Dirt?  I continued to the second image.

The back of the burial card.  It listed her as the 'daughter of '... And THERE THEY WERE!!!!  The parents I had found in Saratoga Springs.  Hallelujah!  That verified that I had parents for this woman and they were correct.  Now could I connect her to my mother-in-law, Roberta?  Was this the lost mother?

Just below the 'daughter of ' was listed the 'sister of '.  And those siblings were the same ones I had tried to follow.  The connection going back was solidifying.  Next listed the 'wife of ', and that verified the married name and the second husband's full name.  I could chase her forward from 1931.  I had real names to search.

Now what about coming forward.... I held my breath...  And there it was... 'THE MOTHER OF ', but it only listed two children.... What was going on?  The first child was listed using her married name, Mrs. ...?  Who was that?  That wasn't my Roberta, was I wrong?  Was this the wrong Ismay?  But right behind that name came the PAY-OFF!!!!!  The Bet that I had placed on that Race Track town of Saratoga Springs had finally paid off!

A SON! A son named... Gerald, with the same last name as Roberta.  There it was!  This was the connector I NEVER EVER thought I would find!  There it was staring back at me... Gerald!  The name of the son in the 1930 census...

I FINALLY had a mother for Roberta!  A very REAL mother who had a father and mother of her own, and FINALLY I knew I had the right family.  I had done it, the impossible, I had found the family of a woman whose last name I never knew, a woman only known as 'Ismay'.  A woman that as far as I knew had vaporized in 1931.

My heart started skipping beats, my mother-in-law was coming to visit.   Would she want to know what I had found?  Would she be happy? Excited? Would she even be interested?
                                           Only time would tell...

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Nightmare Continued: (Pt. 2)

So there I was, 1930 Brooklyn, New York:  A father who drove a taxi, a mother with no maiden name, a boy who was 2 and a girl named Roberta... What was I to do?  I knew, that within the next year or two, the two children would be put into an orphanage somewhere in the state of New York....  But what orphanage? Where was it located? And when were they put there?  How could I find this information?  So my nightmare continued....

ZING....... Light Bulb Moment:  Googlemap the address on the 1930 census....  Yes, there was still a building there, although I don't know if it was the same one standing in 1930.  At least I now had a neighborhood I could search, an area to start looking in.  What was in the area?  Were there any orphanages?  Any churches?  Any hospitals?  Yes, of course there were......   BUT ...  Which ones would have been there back in 1930?

Oh, how I wished that there was someone who could answer the questions for me, someone with knowledge of the family.  Someone to point me in the right directions ............. Or, at least, confirm that I was going in the right direction.

So where now?  And I heard my (elderly) mother, who isn't tech-savvy at all, saying in my head, "Google it, Sweetheart".  BINGO!!!!  Thanks, Mom, my genealogy mentor and problem-solver extraordinaire.  Who'da thought she'd even know what "googling" was?  Hmmmmm........

One real possibility did emerge.  A Catholic hospital within a mile of them, that was associated with an orphanage within 3 miles of their home.  And it existed in the 1930s!   Eureka!!!  Maybe this was the 'crack' in the silence.  Maybe this would solve the puzzle for me.

I contacted the orphanage, but being an 'in-Law' meant I could not get the info myself.   Plus my mother-in-law was still living and her interest level at that point was non-existent.  Enter my husband's siblings.  Would anyone write the letter to get info on their mother?  Anyone, anyone at all?  Two years later and I was still waiting.  What now?  Where could I turn....

Then, about a year ago I decided to take a genealogy class that was offered on searching the internet for genealogy.  Sounded like something right up my alley.  My instructor was a wealth of information on breaking through those proverbial brick walls.  You know the ones, the dreaded "DEAD END's" that exist just to tick us off and prevent us from looking REALLY REALLY good to our 'in-laws'.

I decided that with a name like 'Ismay' how hard could it be to do a blind search using only that name and no surname.  I mean, how many 'Ismay's' could there be?   'Ismay' is not really what I would call a common name, ya know?  Ok, so probably not the best of ideas, after all, do you realize how many ways there are to incorrectly transcribe the name 'Ismay'?  LOTS!  TONS!

However, one possibility did emerge.  One 'Ismay' living in Saratoga, New York in 1920.  Saratoga?  Wasn't that where a famous race track was located?  Wasn't I told that Roberta's father had become a horse jockey?  Yes, YES!!!!  This had to be them, it just had to be.
                                                      I was off to the races.......

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The In-Law Nightmare: (Pt. 1)

   My Mother-in-Law's family has always been a genealogical nightmare for me.  Let me explain....  

   I began searching my in-laws in 2004.  My married name is Hardin, and the family stories say we are related to the infamous John Wesley Hardin, of the old west fame, an infamous gunslinger and murderer.  However, I must say on reading his biography, he claims to NEVER have killed anyone that DIDN'T deserve it.  

   Finding information on the Hardin family seemed to roll pretty easily.  By December of 2006 I was able to give my Father-in-Law a Hardin Family Genealogy book covering about 14 or so generations.

   I was then asked about my Mother-in-Law's family.  I was asked if I could find my Mother-in-Law's sister.  Whoa!  Wait just a minute!  After nearly 33 years of marriage I had NEVER even heard of a sister/aunt.  Where did she come from?  And, so began my nightmare!

   My Mother-in-Law was born a Weaver.  Okay, so I began my search of Weavers in Kentucky where she met my Father-in-Law.  I could only go back to 1920.  Now I knew that there HAD to be more family than that.  Only one generation back, NO WAY!  There just HAD to be more!!!  Where were they?????

   Two years later, I was told that the Weaver family had changed their name to Weaver between 1918 and 1922.  Well, no wonder I could only go back one generation.  Now I needed to know WHAT their family name  HAD been...  Woeber, now I finally had a surname that I could follow back in time.   

   Let me just stop here to say, it REALLY, REALLY helps to have the RIGHT name to search!!!!

  I was then able to find the family in the 1930 U.S. Population Census.  They were living in Brooklyn, New York.  There were two children, Gerald and Roberta, my Mother-in-Law.  Her mother's name was Ismay.  No maiden name for Ismay was known.  See, Roberta was raised by her paternal grandparents.  No knowledge of what had happened to her mother, but her father became a racing jockey, racing horses all across the U.S.  

   She never had any contact with her mother, and that side of the family was lost to her.  She knew that she and her siblings had been put into an orphanage about 1931 or 32.  Her paternal grandmother came to the orphanage and took her back to Kentucky, but was not able to take all three children.  That's when the trail went cold, and remained that way until last month.

   How would I EVER find information when she was the only surviving person in that family and she could not answer any questions for me.  She just didn't know, so she couldn't tell me what she didn't know.  

   I was on my own.... Who, What, When, Where and Why?  All I had to go on was the 1930 census.  A father, a mother, a brother and herself.  Living in Brooklyn, New York.  And then....           N O T H I N G  ! ! !