Saturday, November 28, 2015

Genealogy's Serendipity

Every so often a genealogical discovery is made that comes on the heels of some twist of fate that seems more than coincidental. It's as if some unseen force had a hand in the serendipitous find.

Several years ago, I connected with an elderly first cousin three times removed. Her grandfather, Francis Stephen Lamb, was my 3rd great-grandfather. 

Through persistent sleuth work, I found her address and mailed her a letter. Her response was music to my ears: "I have the answers to all of your questions." From snail mail, our correspondence evolved to email. We traded messages back and forth for several months. She didn't own a computer, but would respond each week while she was at her local family history center. We even spoke on the phone a couple times.

She had a wealth of knowledge about our shared family history. Like a sponge, I soaked up all the stories and information she would share.

She told me, sadly, that no photos existed of Francis. She had never seen one. I resigned myself to the fact that we would never know what he looked like.

Yesterday, on Thanksgiving, I learned from this cousin's daughter that she had died last year on Thanksgiving. 

I was saddened both to learn the news and to discover that I was unaware of her passing for an entire year. I searched online for her obituary. Turning to, a series of clicks through her family line brought me to Francis' memorial page. 

After the page loaded, I was very pleasantly surprised ecstatic to see a photo of Francis that had been uploaded by another user earlier this year. He had been photographed after all!

It felt serendipitous to discover the photo on the same day I learned of the passing of his granddaughter who believed no such picture existed. Perhaps she had a hand in directing me to the picture. 

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for distant cousins who share family history and hair-raising, serendipitous finds that bring you face-to-face with your ancestors.
Francis Stephen Lamb pictured with two of his children.
Photo used by permission.

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