For the last few days, actually more than a few, I've been in almost continuous online communication with a cousin in California I had not known about until she contacted me because I'd labeled a couple of pictures wrong on Ancestry.com. She'd seen them, she said, and wanted to make sure I corrected the record.
Her mother was my father's sister.
But I was ignorant of her existence. This was true of a slew of aunts and uncles and cousins in California I had no or very little knowledge of.
Of course the cousin who contacted me through Ancestry.com had no prior knowledge of my existence, either. Though she knew of my father through her mother, she didn't know he'd had any children, and even if she had known, she wouldn't have known their whereabouts -- because nobody ever talked about it.
I wonder how common such things are in American families.
We've spent a lot of time online catching up and comparing notes. That's where I disappeared to. She has much information from her mother that expands what I knew about the family by way more than I expected. I have a good deal of information she knew nothing of, too, so we've been sharing what we both know as quickly and extensively as we can -- before we die, after all! -- and it's been taking up almost all my free time lately.
To me the family saga on our mutual Irish line is filled with drama and pathos, indeed tragedy with regard to some of the characters and circumstances, and she and I both want to ensure it's known and understood by future generations. I was not entirely sure there would be future generations however, because so many of the descendants I found (including my own self) don't have children. I was afraid the line would peter out and go extinct. But thanks to this new-found cousin, I have learned that's not the case. Not even close. There are actually quite a few descendants in her grandchildren's generation, and she wants to make sure the stories are passed on to them.
In addition to the Irish in us, we also share German ancestry -- she through her father as well as through the grandmother she and I share -- and the German side has proved much harder to sort out than the Irish side, though I'm convinced much of the story of the Irish side is melarky.
The German side starts with a couple who emigrated from different parts of what would become Germany who met and married in Iowa. They both emigrated in the 1850s, she from Koblenz, Prussia, he from a little village outside of Heidelberg, Baden. They were both very young, just young teenagers, when they made their way across Europe through France, and then to America. I would love to know more, but I've found very little, and my new-found cousin knew practically nothing about them. Again it is because so little was ever talked about within the family.
We're still discovering, and I suspect this phase will continue for a while longer.
Meanwhile, happy holidays!