Have You Helped Someone With Their Genealogy?

Things have been quiet on the blog because I’ve been fighting some allergies, but let’s change that. Please comment below about your experiences.

I do genealogy and DNA work for pay, but often, I do things for free. In fact, one of my friends says he needs to be my business manager because I’m not doing things right lol…. (I know he’s just kidding.)

I work at a local farmer’s market, and last week, I met a lady who was 80 years old. During our conversation, she told me her father had never married her mother and that her mother had died when she was only a few months old. She was adopted and raised by her mother’s sister and husband. She said she always wondered about her father. I think she said she knew that he’d married, but that was about all she knew. I asked her to give me what details she knew and give me her name and phone number. I told her I couldn’t work on it over the weekend because I was going away, but I’d see what I could find out before the next market.

So, on Tuesday evening, I researched her father’s side. I have to say that it was probably the most straightforward bit of research I’ve done. I only knew his name and approximate age when she was born and that he had a younger sister. In the 1931 Canada Census (you can search the Canada Census for free on Ancestry and MyHeritage, but you will need to pay to view the actual documents. But there is a lot of info on the search screen), I found one family by that name living in the city where she was born, and the boy had a sister. (I actually found this right after she left the market by using the app on my phone, but I wanted to do a proper search on my computer… bigger screen for these eyes).

I never assume, so I continued to confirm this was my guy. As I went along, I kept notes of what I was learning about the family. I then checked the 1921 Canada Census and learned more. I wanted to gather as much about his parents because these would be her grandparents.

I found him crossing the Canada/US border with his wife and son in 1952, and they were going there to live. I learned more about his occupation, his family in the US, and, ultimately, when he died and where he was buried.

But you might be wondering how I figured it was my guy. As I gathered information, I found a tree and realized it was his daughter’s tree (yes, my new friend has a half-sister). The lady was using a username, but I could figure out her likely real name, and I found her on Facebook. I confirmed I had the right family because this lady had researched my new friend’s family and showed my friend in her tree. (Note that no details or names show because all her generation and the previous were shown as living, but there is enough to know I have the right family).

By the time I had researched for around three hours, I had a seven-page report that included photos of my new friend’s father, grandparents, and even one of her great-grandparents. Her grandfather had lived an interesting life, but I won’t get into that.

While driving to the farmer’s market, I called my new friend and asked if she would be going to the market. She said yes, and I told her I had information for her. When I saw her, I asked her again what she knew about her dad.. and she said really nothing, only what she’d told me.

I then reviewed all the information I gathered and showed her the photos. She was beaming and said she never imagined she’d learn so much and that this was the greatest gift of all. I have to tell you that my heart was happy because I could tell she really meant it.

I told her to take the folder I had prepared home, and if she decided that she’d like to contact her sister, I could do that for her as she had no computer. I feel that if her half-sister has her in her tree, she obviously knows about her and might be open to contact.

So we will see what might happen next.

If you’ve had an experience like this, please post in the comments below. It doesn’t have to be the entire story, but it could be what you did and how it made you feel. Happy hunting.

For my research, I used Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Newspapers.com.

If you think you have a friend that might like this blog, please feel free to share it with a friend.

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  • Teresa says:

    What a wonderful gift for your new friend!

    In my capacity as a librarian, I have helped many people with their genealogy work and discovered information based on very little. I do one-on-one appointments. At the beginning I tell them I can’t guarantee success and there have been failures as well, for a variety of reasons – lack of records, lack of information etc. Even so, people are always grateful for me trying and most have learned how to continue on their own (my goal, though some don’t use a computer at all, so I do it for them)…

    • Teresa, yes I let them know that sometimes it’s easy and some ancestors can be very elusive and hard to find (does that make them more interesting? I know my William Beaton I get small crumbs at at time…and over years you might get a slice if put all together). I also would rather help people to learn how to hunt than to do the hunting for them (thrill of the hunt) but some folks don’t have a computer so as you do I help out. Happy hunting and thank you for your help to those people who come to the library.

  • Joan K Tonn says:

    I was asked to help an adoptee find his birth information. He was already in his 70s so all previous generations were deceased. Following his DNA hints, I put together a likely family tree, and discovered he had a brother and two sisters, also all adopted out, none knew each other. They were in tears to discover they were not alone. Each came to visit me and thank me with tears in their eyes, thanking me for making the connections! This is one of several adoptee family searches I’ve done. So enjoyable and rewarding.

  • J Ross says:

    I can’t remember all the details now, but about 5 years ago a friend at church asked me to help her find out what had happened to two of her first cousins. We were both in our 70’s at the time and she had wondered all her life about the cousins. When she was very young, her parents wanted to adopt them (so they would have been sisters) but they were not allowed to because of a difference of religion. I was able to find out where they grew up, who they married, etc.. She was very relieved to know that they had survived OK.

    • You brought answers and that’s what she needed. I have a similar situation. I’ve found one of the children just need to find the descendants of the other. Happy hunting.

  • Moira Haag says:

    At a party, a friend and I were discussing recent family finds. A woman at our table commented that both her parents had passed years ago, and she had very little info, and few photos. She was always bothered that her dad’s mother wasn’t at his funeral. I offered to do a brief search, and asked for a few names, dates, and places, along with her email address. When I got home, I started a tree for her in FTM, and within an hour I had censuses, obits, and more from 3 or 4 sites. I wrote up what I found, including a family burial plot, her grandmother’s death notice showing she had predeceased the dad, and a lovely yearbook photo of her mom. I was able to sharpen the photo and send it to her in a good resolution. She was thrilled with the tree and write-up, but the best part was her reaction to the photo. It turns out she remembered it from her childhood, and she and her sister had been looking for a copy for years. Her response brought tears to my eyes. Best couple of hours I spent in a long time!

  • Ann Shettles says:

    I wonderful experience helping a friend. She told me her father died when she was 12 but she hadn’t seen him since she was 4 when her parents divorced. She had his name, birth date and death date and that he had died somewhere in Georgia. He was from upstate NY but had remarried and lived in Florida. When she was 18 her mother passed away. She had two siblings but always felt the lack of any older adult family members except for her step father. She said she only had borrowed family, not her own. When her stepfather passed she approached me for help. I found the record of her father’s death in Georgia and got parents names. His family name was a common Italian name in upstate New York but I found out the Mother’s name was Rachel Brewster and a maiden name. Due to many men in the area in NY having with her grandfather’s name it was hard to find more information until I finally happened upon an obituary and the surviving wife was Rachel Brewster xxxxx and listed a child with my friend’s father’s name. He had lost his father at the same age she was when hers Dad died. It had other survivors listed including a sister of her grandfather. I checked the online databases and sound someone in the community about the correct age and got a phone number. She called the Aunt’s home. A cousin answered and said the Aunt was in Florida and said he would have her call when she returned. When her aunt called a couple of weeks later, she and the aunt were both in tears. The Aunt said we have been looking for you 3 kids for almost 30 years. It opened up new relationships with the family. They have had family reunions and my friend now has family history back to Italy She told me she is so grateful to have her family now.

  • Judy Roberts says:

    I have assisted many people but the most recent is my Daughter in Law. She has very few from the US prior to 1900, mostly from Germany, Italy, Prussia, Austria etc. Challenging for sure. We also have a grand daughter who has Mohawk Native American ancestry- also difficult as she was “Mary” daughter of a tribal Chief!!

    • Judy, but it sounds like you’re up for the challenge. That’s what genealogy is all about.. learning new ways to research in other countries or different ethnicities. Happy hunting.

  • Love your post! I thought about your question, and as I am now 80 years old and have been doing genealogy for pay and without, for a long time, I found myself thinking about several happy endings after research to help someone find an ancestor or answer a question. One that made both of us happy was when a friend of mine, and close friend and neighbor of my 1st cousin, called and said she wondered if I might be able to help her solve a question about one of her family lines. She thought she had heard us mention the Brock name and knowing she had a Brock in her tree she had been trying to find, wondered if I could help. I used DNA results of her Great-uncle and myself and her paper-trail as well as my own. We were both ecstatic to learn we were distant cousins. Having known one another for years and not having any idea of the relationship, I was so glad I took the time to look at my friend’s research. Hope all of have as much fun as I have had doing family research for yourself and others.

    • Thanks Judith, I’m glad you liked the post. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to find out that someone you knew was related and you didn’t know. Genealogy and understanding DNA is our super power. Happy hunting.

  • leslie rubinson says:

    a woman who is a dna match to my 2nd cousin’s son emailed the son which he had no interest in following up on so emailed it to his mom who emailed it to me so of course i said i would help. the woman was adopted and knew who her father was (no prince here, said he was drunk at the time and didn’t remember anything) and wanted to find her birth mom. by using dna, minimal birth info, and a tree that a search angel started for her i was able to piece it all together learn who her birth-mom (a deceased only child) was and found the 2 daughters of the birth-mom’s cousins. she contacted them and they gave her info about her birth-mom and also gave her contact info for the mom’s brother who she later contacted and he was very receptive to her and told her more about her birth-mom. we still don’t know the dna connection but the objective was to find her birth-mom. i was very happy to do so and give her a tree that showed the whole maternal family. it was very satisfying and i would help again if asked..

  • Eileen Swanberg says:

    Another story…I saw someone on a Brooklyn Genealogy Facebook page who was in Sweden looking for someone to help him find out about his father’s biological family that came to Brooklyn. They knew very little about his family and he wanted to give his father a birthday gift of finding his father’s father and relatives. I was able to track the family for him, all the way to Mattituck Long Island NY. The most fascinating part was that I live close to Mattituck and was able to go the family business, explaining why I wanted to stop by. The family was excited to meet with me. I brought along the tree I made from the information I had found. They were able to fill me in with more names and they got in contact with the inquirer in Sweden so that he could let his father “meet” his family in the US for his birthday!

    • Eileen, you’ve been busy helping others that’s for sure and to live so close has to be that it was meant for you to see that Facebook post. How rewarding to connect those two families.

  • Eileen Swanberg says:

    I volunteer at a FSC and have helped numerous people break down brick walls. I teach them to use the FAN method and to check out all possible links to family. Just two days ago, I was able to help a seasoned researcher try to find anything on her “elusive” grandfather (as she put it). We had limited information, such as father’s name and mother’s first name. With a little creative searching, we found what we are almost positive to be his brother. It was his marriage certificate which gave a mother’s maiden name. Everything matched up beautifully, including an address. So, she is now going to work on the brother to see if she can find more about him which might lead to some records for her grandfather.

  • Susan Brennan says:

    Back when people used to post on message boards for info, I used to see if I could find info about the person of interest. The person who posted the question was the son of a 90 year old man. The story was that his dad’s dad died in an accident when he was very young, and his mother married multiple times afterward. The father had never met anyone from his biological father’s family and wasn’t even sure if the story of the demise was true or not.Not only did I manage to confirm that his dad died in a streetcar accident but I also connected them to a family that had pictures of his dad and the family. It took a few days of back and forth emails to confirm details. But I knew I had made his dad a happy man solving his mystery of nearly 90 years.

  • Sharlene Gomes says:

    I was contacted by a “stranger” on Ancestry that we showed a close (1st cousin) DNA match. He explained. that he had been adopted at birth and was looking for his birth family. I was extremely cautious at first. I knew nothing of an adoption in my tree. The next communication said he also showed a DNA match to another person. She had a screen name which I knew because she was a first cousin through my mother’s side. She knew nothing about an adoption either. Between the 2 cousins from mom’s 1/2 brother, we figured out that it had to be one of the 3 daughters of Mom’s sister. I contacted two of them who were as surprised as I was, by the news. I told him who we guessed was the birth mother, their older sister (my age). He was able to track her down from the info that the 2 and I gave him. This all happened with a couple of months and that week, he called me and said, “I found her!” I got chills. They had talked on the phone (he is from Texas and she lived in Nevada) and she cried…so thankful to hear from him and how well his life turned out. They never met in person in the space of the next year, when she died. He called to tell me and said he was at peace with it. I’ve since met him and it was strange. I felt immediately connection and calm with the whole thing. I’ve shared family stories and pictures and of course, his branch of the family tree. He’s part of it now.

    • Sharlene, I got goose bumps too when I read your story. I love helping people with their DNA to discover family. I’ve done it within my family and for others. I think that’s why I’ve done DNA and have an extensive tree.
      To help those that don’t know their trees that DNA connect to me. I know the family stories and secrets. So often I either know where they fit or we can figure it out. I’m happy that you were able to solve this for your new family member
      and to let his mother know how he was. Happy hunting.

  • Donna Gauthier Shanks says:

    I met a lady in the laundry room of our building and got to talking. She was in her 80’s and had never known for sure if her Mom was her Mom. Anyway over time I got to sort out the story for her. It turned out her Mom was her Mom but her auntie, mom’s younger single sister, was the mother of two half-sisters. The auntie lived on the farm and worked alongside her Dad. It involved DNA testing and getting stories from several family members. She was so happy and relieved to find out the truth but the really great moment was when her son came and thanked me for finally putting his Mom at peace. He said this had bothered her all her life. Made me feel so good to know I had helped put this lady’s mind at rest after all those years of not knowing.

    • Donna, how wonderful it was that you could help her and put her mind a ease. I especially like that the son was thoughtful enough to let you know how important it was to her and to him. Happy hunting.

  • Marcy Belles says:

    I haven’t done extensive research like you did. However, I have done some research for my niece on my husband’s side in regards to her father (a brother-in-law).