Friday, June 4, 2010

Friday Funk: Losing Family Research Partners

~In Fond Remembrance~

Within a 6 month period death has claimed my four closest family research partners. These are people that I have known and worked with on a personal basis from nearly the beginning of my genealogical ventures which started in 1995. They were all four a generation older than me and all were genealogists years before I started.

My dad's first cousin Charlie tracked me down when he found my pathetic 200 name submission on a Family Tree Maker CD. He called me finally on New Year's Day 1998 and we quickly became inseparable. He lost his wife to colon cancer that year and cancer claimed one of his eyes just months later. He almost died 3 or 4 times in the 11 years I knew him, through illness or accidents.  We corresponded daily, many times a day, for most of those years. Through Charlie I became good friends with his sister-in-law Betty who was also a genealogist. It was Betty who called me when Charlie died in October last year. I was in denial. I figured he still had at least 3 of his 9 lives left.

Just a month earlier, our distant cousin Jean died. Charlie would have wanted to know that but even I didn't find out about Jean's death until just about 6 weeks ago. Jean is a great loss to the Tennessee genealogical community in general. Her contributions were many. Jean did not "do" computers. We corresponded by phone and by snail mail.

Then, early this year I lost Dorothy, my mother's fourth cousin. Dorothy was one of those really sharp-as-a-tack genealogists, witty and funny...a joy to correspond with. Dorothy's mother before her was a genealogist and Dorothy's husband also. What fun it must have been for her and her husband to both be retired and to have their heads buried in their extensive library of rare and out of print research books and to have each other to consult with about elusive ancestors! How I envy that! I found out about Dorothy's death around midnight one evening when I decided to make one last check of my e-mail before climbing into bed. I was so saddened I cried myself to sleep that night. I had known for a year that I was losing her. She had started sending me e-mails that weren't "quite right" and then one day she asked me if she'd told me she'd been diagnosed with Dementia. After that, she didn't write anymore....and I knew.

And lastly, I lost my mother in March. Mom wasn't a genealogist but she loved what I was doing and loved helping me all she could. I suppose I'm the only one of her children who has expressed a keen interest in all her many cousins and she knew I'd be the one to keep the family linked. I am so glad she and I made that delightful research trip together to Kentucky and Indiana back in 1999, just months before the sudden death of my father. It was a great time spent together and a memory I will always cherish deeply.

While this is sad for me to write and I sometimes feel alone now with my research, I also know that all these people had good lives and got to do the things they loved most. There will be other cousins for me to team up with, but these were special and deserving of my small tribute!


  1. That's tough. I lost a research buddy older cousin several years ago. I think about her every time I make a new discovery.

  2. I am sorry for both our losses! There have been so many times just in these few months that I have discovered something really exciting that one or the other of these four would have LOVED to have known about, only to find I had no one to tell. Which is why BLOGS are great! There is always someone out there to share with!

  3. Lisa, I was going to write about your lovely photo, until I began reading. How terribly sad about all the deaths. I had two in a 4 month period (both genealogists, I wrote abt. them), so I know the feeling. I am truly sorry for your loss x four times.

  4. Thank you for your nice comment Barbara. I guess it is inevitable...the older we get the more losses we sustain. I feel like I am so much more at ease with death as a genealogist than most of the rest of those I know. I'm ok with death, but I'm not always ok with the loss "to me"...if that makes any sense. But I have great memories and am so thankful for all the wonderful times with these family members!

  5. Lisa,
    I came over after seeing your very kind post on my blog. I just want to tell you how sorry I am that so many important people in your life have passed....I had never thought about this aspect before as I had only one living Aunt from my folks generation left when I started my family tree. Everyone else was gone, except for a few 1st cousins, I lost my parents wasy too soon in my mid 20's and so my journey has been thru people I never knew exsisted until I started this genealogy walk. I have met wonderful family members and I was able to get a book made for them on my maternal side. I wanted to get it to them before they also passed, it was just that important! And the feedabck was so endearing to me....I know have a larger family, if only for a short time. Please keep in touch! I haven't done a lot with my genealogy blog but I am going to start....your blog is fantastic and I really am going to take some time to rad it all! :) Sandy