Monday, January 16, 2012

Surreal Reinfection

     If you have ever been bitten by the genealogy bug, then you will understand the light-headed, giddy feeling of finding a new line of ancestors, followed by the incessant drive to find out more.

     For the past five years, I have been helping my friend, Sue Taylor* with her family history. We have found quite a bit of information about her mother's family going back to the early 1800's. However, her father's family was a mystery. Sue's parents never married. Her biological father, Nate Clark* vanished shortly after she was born. Sue's mother married another man, and his family became 'dad's side of the family'.
     Although Sue never wanted to meet Nate, she wanted to know where she came from. All she had was Nate's name and an address from the early 1990's. Sue didn't even know if Nate was his given name or a nickname. Sue's mother had no more information about him. No names of siblings or parents.

     Past Internet searches on Nate revealed nothing. The only other thing we had to go on was a family group page that I found about six months ago on Facebook. Sue's paternal surname is unusual enough that we knew we had the right family. Some of the people who were posting comments looked like Sue. This was her family, but how did she fit into it? Sue didn't have enough information about Nate's line of the family to post any inquiries. So, we decided to leave it alone.

     This past week-end I installed a new genealogy software programme on my computer. One of the features is its capability to search online databases from within the programme. For some reason I decided to play around with Sue's family tree. When I entered Nate's name into the search engine, it returned the name 'Nathaniel' and an address. The entry was from a city directory from 1992. The location matched the address we had about Nate. This was him!
     In that instant the genealogy bug bit me again. I was reinfected. When my family asked what was I doing all week-end, I told them "Leave me alone! I'm busy researching." Occasionally, they would hear shouting from my office, as I was relating my finds to Sue over the phone. We were so excited!
     The entry in the city directory had other names of Nate's family. When I entered those names into the genealogy database search engine, Social Security Index entries were returned, revealing that Nate's family was from Alabama. What else could I find about Sue's newly found paternal line? I had to find out. I couldn't let it go. Even while I was doing errands, dining out, and attending church, all I could think about was Sue's family.
     Forty-eight hours after I began my search for Nate, I had researched back to Sue's 3x great-grandparents. A distant cousin had posted an email address on the family group page on Facebook. Sue emailed them and got a response! She now has a paternal family of her own. When I asked her how she felt about this, Sue responded "All these years I never knew anything about them, and in the course of a week-end we've got names, dates and locations. It feels a little bit surreal."

*Names have been changed to protect the privacy of living people.

Copyright by Kathryn Lake Hogan, 2012.