By Barbara Gorham Johnson
We’ve all heard of serendipity in genealogy but how many of us actually experience it? Well I did!
I had the great experience about one year ago when my husband and I were planning a trip to Ireland and Yorkshire. As a veteran genealogist, I knew to research my ancestral parish by looking for a local genealogical society. Nope. OK. Next step is to look for a local historical society. Bingo! Saddleworth (a tiny parish in West Riding of Yorkshire, England) has a very active Historical Society with lots of publications. I also made arrangements to tour the “family” church, St. Chad’s, built in 1215. Turns out I have thousands of cousins in the Parish.
I looked through the Historical Society web site and noticed that the President was a Mike Buckley. Hmm. I have Buckleys in my tree. I quickly sent him an e-mail and politely asked him how I could find out the maiden name of the Elisabeth who had married my John Buckley. A few days later, Mike responded that the bride was Elisabeth Heywood, gave me the date and the fact that they were married by licence (UK spelling) which meant one or both of them were wealthy. How did he know that? His response: our ancestors have lived here since the 1100s. Gasp!
After booking our flights, I re-contacted Mike to ask him if we could meet him. He responded affirmatively, saying he would be delighted to drive us around the parish and show us the ancestral sites! The day finally arrived. Mike picked my hubby and me up at our B&B and proceeded to drive us around for 5 hours! He was an encyclopedia of genealogy, family history, Roman history, and had tales to tell about our ancestors. We scoured the local cemetery finding grave after grave of MY ancestors! As a small thank you, we treated him to dinner.
Trivia: I learned from him and a few other locals that a Saddleworth good-by is a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Mike and I still email and exchange information. What an example of Serendipity!
And all it took was a quick Google search and one e-mail.
After your great presentation at our TCGS meeting on the 9th about the WPA and CCC, I found a distant relative (wife of a great aunt’s son) who worked for the WPA for 2 years starting at her age 19 in 1936 helping to build the Timberline Lodge in Oregon. Her name at that time before she got married was Marjorie Elizabeth Holtham. My Dad grew up with her husband’s older half-brother, even though we never met Marjorie. Here is a link to her FindAGrave memorial where I found the information about her WPA work in the newspaper death notice:
Kind regards, L.S., Richland, WA, member Tri-City Genealogical Society
**** I do not share this story to give myself a pat on the back. I share this story to demonstrate once again the WSGS slogan: YOU WON’T KNOW IF YOU DON’T GO!!!!