Shaking the Family Tree
I keep finding relatives. All my life I thought I came from a small family, if not in reality, then at least in feeling.
The relatives on my mother’s side were all in England, so it was as if they didn’t exist. My mom didn’t get along with my dad’s parents, so I barely remember them. To be honest, I think the dislike was mutual.
When my brothers and I were young, until I was twelve or thirteen, we did see two sets of aunts, uncles and cousins several times a year. But then Uncle Glen and Aunt Ann divorced. No one liked his new wife and we all fell away from each other.
But lately, I’ve reconnected with three of my cousins and discovered other relatives, one of them very colorful: Elizabeth Jackson Howe. My Cousin Paula’s hobby is genealogy. Through her detective work, she found Elizabeth, who is our cousin nine times removed. Elizabeth was born in 1635 in Rowley, Yorkshire, England. She married her husband, James Howe in April of 1658 then they moved to Topsfield, Massachusetts.
Through some mischief and petty deeds, Mrs. Howe earned the dislike and suspicion of the townsfolk. They took their revenge by accusing her of witchcraft. Poor Elizabeth ended up being convicted and became the first person to be hanged for her pastime during the Salem witch trials on July 19, 1692.
And then there’s the story of Great Grandpa Richard. He immigrated to America from Germany in the late 1800’s. I can’t imagine leaving my home, friends and family and take a dangerous sea voyage to an unknown land. He was a courageous man, in my book.
One day, he was in Toledo, riding the cross town bus. A beautiful woman got on the bus but all of the seats were taken. He gave that woman his seat and she became my Great Grandma Blanche. It’s because of his kindness that I am here today.
Paula also traced a branch of the family to Jasper, Indiana. That whole side of the family moved from Germany 200 years ago. Jasper’s sister city is Pfaffenweiler, Germany, our family’s home town. My brother, his wife, Paula and I have plans to attend the Octoberfest in Jasper this August. Many of our relatives from Germany will be there for the festival. I’ve been learning German just for the fun of it. At least I’ll be able to say “Hello”.
My Cousin Robin found me two weeks ago. I haven’t seen her since she was in grade school. We are both photographers and on Facebook. She saw a comment I’d made to a photo that had been posted by another photographer I know, and Robin contacted me.
Come to find out, she’s lived twenty miles from me for thirteen years but we never crossed paths. We met for a two-and-a-half hour lunch and still didn’t get caught up.
Lastly, one day during coffee hour after church, I sat next to a couple I’d met but wanted to know better. I knew their first names but not their last. The wife had two three-ring binders and on the spine was the name Wesch.
I asked if that was their last name and it was. I said, “Are you related to the Weschs that Wesch Road, at Clark Lake is named for? When they said, “Yes!” I said, “You’re never going to believe this; we’re sort of related.
I explained that my ex-husbands’ sister’s ex-husband was a Wesch and related to the Clark Lake Weschs. It turned out that my church Weschs and the Clark Lake Weschs are second cousins. So we decided we were cousins, sort of, too.
I’ve gone from thinking I had almost no family to finding I have family everywhere I look. ( I recently found out there is another relative of mine in Jackson, but I haven’t found her yet) It’s going to be a fun year.