52 Ancestors: Favorite Discovery

This marks my inaugural post in this year’s 52 Ancestors prompt series, as devised by Amy Johnson Crow. I’m a bit late in starting, but that’s not going to stop me!

This prompt – Favorite Discovery – struck a chord with me as I have had a few solid discoveries that have had me sitting back in my chair. After all, I’ve been doing this for over 25 years – it’d worry me if I hadn’t!

I have a few contenders for favo[u]rite discovery … these are some of them:

  • Finding my father had a younger brother who had died at two months old
  • Finding the middle name of my great-grandmother was Pearl (no idea why – this actually made me cry at the time)
  • Finding that due to a number of informal adoptions, my paternal ancestral surname changed four times in 150 years
  • Finding that many of my American family lines trace back to the very early colonists, complete with a link to the Salem witch trials
  • Finding that my European roots are deep, both within my own country and across the continent as a whole

However, my Number One Favorite Discovery that hands down beats the others was that of finding my extended family on my father’s side. I have blogged specifically about my grandfather, and his family have been the source of most of what I know of my American heritage (although my mother is also half American, the lines here peter out fairly quickly for various reasons). But what I don’t think I ever expressed here was the joy and openness with which my … I don’t want to use the term “extended” … new-found family extended their arms across the Atlantic to me.

It started with my father’s step-mother (a strange concept) responding to a tentative letter with such affection, along with one of her daughters. They both gave freely of their husband and father – something that has remained in the intervening years when I’ve been in contact with my other aunts, uncle and cousins.

I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my cousins when I attended Roots Tech in Salt Lake City three years ago and we spent some wonderful time together chatting and eating (two of my favourite things) and visiting the NHMU (dinosaurs being my third favourite thing). I could’ve done without the drama of not taking any ID when going for a meal with her and her husband (no, in the UK you don’t get IDed going into a bar that serves food) and her having to resort to “I know the manager – shall I call him? My cousin is English and doesn’t know things”, but apart from that we had a great time (or at least I like to think so …!).

It’s still one of my top genealogy goals to meet up with the rest of the family over in America (primarily Michigan-based) – and none of it would’ve been possible if my step-grandmother hadn’t written a letter to my dad’s mum 60 years ago asking her to consider the adoption offer and therefore me having a geographical location to home in on (somehow that letter has subsequently been lost – which both irks and grieves me).

Having worked for a few years in the probate industry (well, “heir hunting”) and breaking news to people that they have a half-sibling they knew nothing about, but they’ve passed away so you’ll never get the answers you want, it has been great getting to know my father’s family whilst we have the chance – and I look forward to more chats, more food and, since I’ve just found out about the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History, definitely more dinosaurs!


  1. Hello,
    If you get to Michigan, I’d love to meet up. Everett and Nellie Payne were my great grand parents. Arlene Grotbo was their daughter and my grandmother. I can show you the cemetery where some of the ancestors are buried, I think anyway. Years ago I took my grandmother there to see the graves, but haven’t been back since.


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