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How Crashing a Social Event Solved a Brick Wall

What’s the oddest thing you’ve done to further your research? Here’s my answer.

Long-lost family I met while chasing a lead on a brick wall by "crashing" a family reunion

I Crashed a Family Reunion

I am highly introverted. Normally, I would NEVER do anything like what I am about to tell you. But I'd exhausted all else I knew to do. And I decided I'd risk some social awkwardness and embarrassment to solve a genealogy mystery.

About nine years ago, I was stumped by a brick wall ancestor. I had theories about who a maternal third great-grandfather was, but that’s all I had… theories based on a bit of evidence I’d gathered.

Through a county-level, local genealogy society, I was able to connect with a fellow researcher who was interested in the same surname. Turns out, he is my second cousin twice removed. We met up for lunch and had a wonderful time comparing notes.

Soon after our lunch, my “new” cousin called and told me of a family reunion. He said that he visited with the Chancery Clerk in the county where my family originated. When he told the Clerk of my quest to find my third great-grandfather, the Clerk told him, “You know, that family has a reunion here every year at the church on the first Saturday of September. Nice bunch of folks. Tell her to go this year.”

Well, I did. I just showed up (with a dish, of course). Turns out the reunion was of the descendants of my second great-grandmother's brother's line. (Whew! I know, I was reaching waaaaay over into the collateral relatives box on that one!) Now, they had never seen me. They had no clue who I was. Even though they did not know me, as I walked in, I was greeted warmly. They extended me every kindness.

Introductions were made and we spent the day discussing family. We called other cousins who now live out of state and visited via speakerphone. We went for a drive to see old family homesteads and churches. We visited cemeteries and graveyards. It was one of my favorite days of my entire life. I soaked in all the information I could.

Brick Wall Problem: SOLVED!

Having my newly found family as a resource and team helped break through that brick wall. We were able to correlate the evidence I had with the family lore and memories they had. It all fit together perfectly to answer the mystery.

My found family and I are still close today. I go to the reunion every year. I travel to visit them from time to time. I solved a brick wall problem, but the true reward was finding my long-lost family who made me feel like I’d come home.

More Questions

As always, one answer in genealogy leads to another question. Now, I wonder who my FOURTH great-grandfather was. It seems that answer may be in 18th century Georgia which is another mystery for another day.

Genealogists must be resourceful and inventive to solve tough research problems. What’s the wildest thing you’ve done to answer a research question? I really want to know! Please hit reply and tell me.


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