Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The live people were the most fun!

(From Bruce)

This trip was originally about finding information and documentation on our dead ancestors in order to add some "leaves" to the family tree. An unexpected plus was the fun we had with the living. Some of this post will be repeat from earlier but much is new.

At some point we decided that we should make some attempt to actually meet face to face with some of the relatives I had met online while researching genealogy. Here are some of the characters we found:

Our first meeting was with Don and Barb Nickerson. They were kind enough to drive about an hour an a half to meet with us in Milwaukee. The amazing thing was even though we had never met there seemed to be an almost instant connection. We talked and laughed about genealogy and mostly about life in general. Having never really done much in the way of family visits growing up it was a lot of fun to meet and have such great fun with relatives. We enjoyed lunch and then had a photo session out in the parking lot. I am sure we looked like the atypical tourists but it was well worth it.

The next day we were invited to the home of our cousin Shirley Syster. She is a cousin on our Mencer side and she and her husband Bob had us to their house for a Sunday afternoon cookout. We also got to meet their children Daniel, Thomas and Elizabeth. We also got to meet Louis Mencer (aka Louie) who at age 79 is the currect patriarch of our Mencer line. After awhile I felt bad for Bob and the kids as the conversation seemed to center around the Mencers in our past and whether we were American Indian or not, why we Mencers were the way we were and just plain carrying on. Bob cooked us up a delicious bunch of barbequed chicken and ribs and we had that and sides and ate like kings (or gluttons in my case).

Of course since this was a genealogy trip after lunch Shirley took Curt and I out to a couple cemeteries to view gravestones. Earlier Curt had shared with me his just discovered apprehension about "traipsing around" graveyards and he mentioned it again to Shirley. We had a bit of fun with that for awhile. Another funny thing that happened was when we were taking Louie back home and he and Shirley got into a "discussion" on politics. Let's just say that they are COMPLETELY different ends of the political arena and leave it at that. I was sure glad that they were not both in the front seat or there might have been bloodshed .

Our next family group was Dale Wagner, his wife Maureen and their son David. They are cousins on our Nickerson side. They too drove about an hour to meet with us for dinner. It was such good fun to talk with them and to hear their stories from common ancestors. It was also great to just talk about what each of us was doing in our lives at the present time. Their son David told us of some of the experiences he has had on his 7 trips to Japan for missions work and that was very interesting. A good meal, good time was shared by all and again it was out to the parking lot for the group pictures. Another fun evening with another group of relatives that we discovered were a lot like us in many ways.

Our final meeting of living family was with Don and Doe Whetstone. Don and I had met online when we discovered that he had an ancestor who was a child of my wife's great great grandfather. This ancestor had been adopted out of the family and I had no idea that he existed. Don, working from the other direction had no idea that there were any remaining living relatives who knew our common ancestor James Magee. He and his wife Doe, live in Arizona until the summer months and then travel the US in a motorhome. We met them at his sisters house where they had the motorhome parked. We pulled up just moments after Don had somehow knocked out all the electric to it. We had a nice lunch together though and enjoyed the common family ties and the craziness that is genealogical research.

I know this is getting long but along the way outside of the family folks we met some interesting people. While at the Allen County Courthouse in Fort Wayne Indiana there was the guard who had to "'splain it to me like I was a five year old" that when the sign says no cell phones are allowed in the courthouse that doesn't mean they have a place you can keep them while you visit that means DON'T BRING THEM INTO THE COURTHOUSE! DUH! There was the jovial guard at the Ohio County Courthouse in Wheeling, WV who asked after we went through the metal detector, "you don't have a pocket knife or anything like that on you do you?" to each person that came through.

I also want to say thanks to the gals at the Allen County Courthouse for taking the time to dig up an old court record on a divorce for my great grandfather. When I gave one of the gals the 7 digit docket number she said "no, no, that is not a docket number they are much longer and have letters too." When I said it was from 1901 she laughed and realized that WAS the docket number. They took about an hour to go dig it out of the basement and made copies for me. The gals at the Ohio County Courthouse were also very helpful. Here you get to roam around in the books yourself and go through the indexes and get the volume you need out on your own - EXCEPT don't go back "THERE" which I did because they didn't tell me that up front. They got as big a laugh out of it as I did. Finally there were the gals at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Steubenville, Ohio. As we were going through the old record books they offered us and then brought us coffee. That was some kind of service there.

The live people made the trip both interesting and funny. The real "dirt" of the trip was about the dead ancestors and I will detail a little of that in the next post.

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