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By Daniel Hubbard | April 24, 2016

You’ve probably heard that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want. That is true in general, and it is certainly true in genealogy. If we want to know what really happened, then one skill that genealogists need to develop is the handling of disappointment.

The last few days I’ve been trying to find living descendants of a soldier from WWI. I’ve read his letters, held his Victory Medal, and I know that after returning from the war he married and had two children, a son and then a daughter. I also knew that he’d been gassed during his time at the front. Perhaps his lungs never really recovered. Not long after the birth of his daughter he died of a lung ailment.

I knew nothing else. I knew his wife’s name but couldn’t find any record of her. I still don’t know how they met. They lived several states apart as far as I can determine. Nevertheless, now I’ve found her.

Inching Forward

She was born in 1901. Her parents married about 1899, but were living apart by 1905 and received their divorce in 1910. Her mother remarried in 1912. Knowing about the remarriage, in 1920 I found her with her stepfather’s name. In 1930 I found her widowed with her children, and with her married name badly misspelled. She was back with her mother and stepfather.

That is the last time I find her son. It is the last time I find her, until her obituary lists her survivors as a daughter and a grandson. Her daughter’s obituary lists a son who only outlived his grandmother by a few weeks. At the end it reads “Survivors: none.”

There are no descendants who will excitedly read his letters. There will be no great-grandchildren thrilled to hold that nearly century old medal, or to try on his cap.

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Topics: Genealogy | 2 Comments »

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2 Responses to “Disappointment”

  1. Emily Garber Says:
    May 8th, 2016 at 11:52 pm

    Sad. But, you tried to do a good thing and, in doing so, did good work. I suppose trying to find collateral relatives’ descendants might be beyond what could ever be expected.

  2. Ken Says:
    March 22nd, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    I recently attended a “death cafe” (Google it, it isn’t as bad as it sounds). As we were discussing life and death and the sharing of our stories with family, one lady (very emotionally) related that she had no children to leave her story to and that her life was not a happy experience therefore her stories were not worth sharing. The interesting part of her expressing her feelings and sadness to us was that the rest of our group became interested in her story and wanted to learn more. Not in a bad way but because we all were empathetic and wanted to understand her story and assure her that we felt her story had as much meaning (maybe more) than that of a “normal” or “traditional” family relationship. I believe that everyone’s life should be acknowledged and that process can be therapeutic (when done for the right reasons).