Everything’s Relative February 2002

By Family Tree Editors Premium

My mother was an attractive lady, but like most of us she wasn’t always satisfied with her looks. When my siblings and I were growing up, sometimes Mom would sit and look into the mirror and exclaim in disgust, “Just look at this nose! I look like George Washington.” In 1983, I began to research our family tree and, much to our surprise and great amusement, one of the things I soon discovered was that George Washington was a collateral relative. Recently I compared pictures of Mom and George, and Mom was right — she did have a nose somewhat similar to George’s!


Bryan, Texas

Pouring a Memory

I was barely a year old when my father, Robert Yahnke, left for Navy duty in the Korean War. While on leave, my father took a trip to Japan and shopped for gifts to send home. Mother and I received silk pajamas and fans, and he had a special Japanese tea set shipped to his mother-in-law. There were six teacups, six saucers, six luncheon plates, a creamer, a sugar bowl and a teapot. Each delicate piece was white with a gold design.

But when my grandmother, Opal Brooks, received the package in Plainville, Ill., and unwrapped the tea set, she discovered a small chip on the edge of one luncheon plate. The other 20 pieces had arrived undamaged. Grandma Brooks wrote to my father, the shop was contacted, and Grandma was sent a new plate, which arrived undamaged and joined the other pieces of this special set.

After Grandpa Brooks died in 1975, Grandma continued to live on her own until she no longer could handle being by herself. At that time, she moved in with her daughter, Donna, and family.

I went to Grandma’s to help her pack. It was then she told me, “Mary E., I have something I want you to have.” She told me where to look in the cupboards and she related the story of the tea set — including how my father had taken care of replacing her damaged plate more than 25 years ago.

After Grandma Brooks died in 1979,1 unpacked the set and looked at each piece again, remembering the story. It was then I discovered there were seven luncheon plates! She had kept the chipped plate, too.


Manhattan, III.

New Kin in the Old Country

After years of research, my brother and I went to the village in Poland where our deceased paternal grandfather was born. We asked an old woman if she’d ever heard of our family name, but she hadn’t. Late in the day we found our grandfather’s church, and the priest asked us to return the next day to look at the records.

The next afternoon when we returned, a man was standing under a tree in front of the church. Although he had a different last name than our grandfather, it turned out that his grandmother was my grandfather’s sister. We were completely unaware that our grandfather had family in Poland. Hearing that we’d asked the old woman if she knew of our family, he came to the rectory and was told we had an appointment.

We went to meet his family and see his farm, which had a duck pond that we’d photographed the day before. His wife showed us the family picture album. In the album was my baby picture. Evidently my grandmother had come to visit her husband’s family and left the picture!

Twelve years later, we still correspond with this family.


Downers Grove, III.

Poll Position

For the first time, I attended the annual gathering of my Gallup Family Association, descendants of Capt. John Gallop, who came to this country in 1630. The reunion is held every August in New England.

Tables were arranged under a big tent, and people sat wherever they wished. At my table we introduced ourselves and laughed at the sameness of names — several Richards, Donalds, Georges, etc. We decided our parents hadn’t had much imagination.

Another couple arrived and sat at the last two places at the table. We exchanged names and the man said he was George Gallup.

“Oh,” I replied, thinking of the famous man behind the Gallup Poll, “are you the George Gallup?”

He hesitated, blushed furiously, and answered, “Uh, yes.”

Now it was my turn to blush. In the conversation that followed, however, I found George Gallup Jr. to be a modest, intelligent and genuinely nice person, a true gentleman. We figured out that we are 11th cousins.


While researching my Cramer family, I based my search on my grandfather’s recollections. My mother’s side of the family were all from Canada, except for the Cramer and one French Roux. George Washington Cramer was my great-grandfather’s name and it seemed reasonable that he was from Pennsylvania, born to Pennsylvania Dutch parents as my grandfather had stated. But the fact that George had married Mary Ann Raycroft in Ontario, Canada, was a mystery.

Finding no records of George in Pennsylvania, I searched Canada and to my astonishment found he’d actually been born in Kingston, Ontario. He’d never even been to the States in his whole lifetime! Further searches revealed that his family were Loyalists prior to this, living in New York.

So much for being a Daughter of the American Revolution! But the research taught me a valuable lesson: Though oral history can be useful in beginning searches, the facts can certainly be distorted!


Crawford, Texas

From the February 2002 issue of Family Tree Magazine