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By Daniel Hubbard | March 9, 2014

The word “genealogy” is made of two parts meaning “origin” and “study.” It is, at its core, the study of our personal origins.

Genealogy is often broader than its own etymological origins because are naturally curious about those who share some of those origins. We want to know who descends from some of the same ancestors as we do. What experiences lie in their branch of the past that don’t lie in ours? What can they tells us? What mysteries of theirs can we solve?

I had a meeting this week with a man from Sweden who had wondered what became of a pair of brothers that branched off from his family a century and a half ago. They were born in Sweden in the 1860s and twenty years later they headed for North America. He had a few things that gave clues like a photograph taken in a small town in Michigan in the 1880s. He knew a bit about how their names had changed and who one had married but after that they just disappeared from what of his own branch of the family knew.

What had happened to those brothers? Do they have descendants in America? Are there relatives to contact and visit? Answering those questions is one thing but forming the connections is another. What is the best way to try to make them?

Different people will react differently to different kinds of contact. They will react differently to any kind of contact. Some people are thrilled and will begin a flurry of communication and will want to meet you. Others will think it is fun but not be particularly interested in your genealogical pursuits Others will be disinterested in contact at first but warm later. Others will think that it is a scam and want nothing to do with it.

When you are really excited about finding a long lost branch of the family, it can be hard to give people their own space to get used to contact from a new relative. My meeting was full of tales of different reactions and needing to tread lightly here but having immediate daily contact there. So many different reactions. So many different speeds accepting that a new distant relative had appeared. So many different levels of interest. Everyone’s reaction was different. Everyone came into the contact with different pasts and different reactions based on their own stories. It was fascinating to hear how things had gone. Some contacts went very well indeed, otherwise he would not have traveled from Sweden to travel the U.S. and meet his distant relatives.


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