Everything’s Relative: August 2003

By Family Tree Editors Premium

Kissing Cousins

At first, my husband, Morgan, supported my interest in genealogy with subtle enthusiasm. We occasionally took overnight trips to search courthouse records, and over time, he began to wonder where his roots had begun.

We visited one of Morgan’s cousins who lived nearby, and Morgan took notes about names, marriages and places. When we got home, he contacted another cousin to ask more questions. This cousin had an old family Bible with a family tree page in the middle, and he said he’d send my husband a photocopy. I was eager to fill in the blanks on Morgan’s pedigree chart.

The family tree page arrived a few days later. I stopped in my tracks when I saw that Morgan’s great-grandmother had the same surname as my father’s mother, the grandmother I never knew.

I immediately telephoned a friend who had done extensive research on my Cantrell line. In just a few minutes, he told me how my family and my husband’s family lines merged. It turns out my husband and I are fifth, sixth and seventh cousins once removed.

Morgan and I continue to pursue the mystery of our family roots. And we are well aware that we don’t know who all our cousins are.

Dickie Parris Weston, Bossier City, La.

Luck o’ the Genealogist

Although my husband has little interest in genealogy, he volunteered to accompany me to a distant town where I was speaking to a genealogical society. After my talk, we struck up a conversation with one of the attendees. It turned out that he was a longtime friend of my husband’s cousin, who lived in another town. He had just returned from there, after helping to dispose of a deceased relative’s personal possessions. I was only half-listening to the conversation, but the mention of the deceased’s surname, Runyon, piqued my interest. I had spent years searching for my Runyon ancestors, whom I thought to be Irish, with little success.

From that chance encounter, I learned that my “Irish” Runyons were really from France, and their surname was originally Roignon. They were Huguenots who immigrated to the United States in 1665, eventually settling in Piscataway, NJ.

When I recounted this story to a longtime friend and fellow genealogist, she quipped, “If your ancestor settled in Piscataway, then I’ll bet we’re cousins, too!” Well, she was right. Further research revealed that we are cousins. Our common ancestor is the father-in-law of one of my newly found Roignon/Runyon ancestors. I’ve learned a valuable genealogical lesson: Not all family is found in record repositories and libraries, or on the Internet.

Carllene Marek, Magalia, Calif.

Dead Heads

The idea of visiting yet another graveyard is a bit of a hard sell when you have a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old. I had thought about getting T-shirts made, like the rock bands’: “The Great Cemetery Tour — Summer ’99.”

We live in a small community in northwest Saskatchewan. For our summer holidays, we traveled to the big city in Winnipeg. Did we take in the zoo, the art gallery or the theater? No, we went to Holy Family, Glen Eden and All Saints — cemeteries, that is.

Our ritual was simple: First, we’d find the grave site with a map from the cemetery office, stop for a prayer and a word of remembrance, and then move on to the next one. I shared stories about my friend John, who lived to be 103, and my cousin’s son Blair, who died at only 3 months. We stopped at cemeteries along rural Manitoba highways and in country churchyards. Our vacation album is full of names and dates etched in granite; my sons, Stephen and David (pictured above), posed beside tombstones.

With my cousin Eugene, we visited a cemetery in Vesna, Saskatchewan. “This is where your great-great-grandparents are buried,” I told my children. Over the years, Eugene had taken his children to the cemetery, and he and one of his sons had spent days repainting the markers.

As my children grew restless, Eugene said, “It’s good to visit cemeteries. They remind us of where we’ve come from — and where we’re going.” I think I’ll get that printed on a T-shirt.

As for our next holiday, my kids are sold on a different idea. They’re hoping to go to Hawaii. After all, it had been their grandmother’s favorite place. They learned that from one of our cemetery trips.

Linda Mikolayenko, Ingleside, Ontario
From the August 2003 Family Tree Magazine