The ad says you can find “it” on eBay <ebay.com>. I saved a search for the surnames Feyler and Feiler, and I get e-mails with new items for bid. One was a vintage album with 335 photos. I recognized the name Katherine Feyler, my grandmother. Of all the photos the seller could’ve uploaded, he chose one of Katherine. He’d bought the album at an estate sale in Florida; my grandmother was from Ohio. A mystery.
Bidding began with $1 and an excited phone call to my 85-year-old mother. By day five, several bidders interested in vintage photos placed bids. Finally, on day seven, after several tense moments, I won. I felt like I’d won the lottery. I live in rural Kentucky, so I alerted the post office of the impending delivery. The mail was swift and the carrier, almost as excited as I, blasted the horn when she arrived. I called my mother and opened the book. My grandmother, great-great-aunt and godmother were in the first picture. A few pages later, the mystery was partly solved: This was my godmother’s scrapbook. I found a wonderful snapshot of my grandparents the day before I was born, then two photos of a baby — me. How did the Griesheimer album end up in Florida, then on eBay? “It” was meant to be.
I’ve found a couple of humorous notes on my relatives’ death certificates:
• The family doctor apparently didn’t care for my great-great-grandfather. He listed the immediate cause of death as “Senility — dropped dead in chair without calling MD.” Maybe my ancestor should’ve asked permission to pass away?
• My wife’s great-great-grandmother’s doctor may have been in a hurry when he gave her occupation as “Old Lady.” We’re investigating, but perhaps she was royalty.
A Florida couple researching Tuckers in my area, Jefferson County, Mo., contacted me for help. As a local historian and genealogist, I did some research and looked up records for them. We struck up a friendship, and when they visited old friends in Missouri, we met for a field trip to a cemetery where we suspected Mr. Martin’s great-grandparents were buried.
An old timer gave us directions. I guess it didn’t occur to him to tell us we’d have to cross a creek and climb rough terrain on a giant hill. The Martins were in their 70s, so I was a bit concerned, but they weren’t about to be discouraged. Mr. Martin took a couple of tumbles, and Mrs. Martin tangled with a barbed wire fence, but we made it to the top.
We walked the entire ridge without finding the cemetery, then came to a clearing where new streets were going in. We’d just about decided to give up when I spied a green patch off to the side. There was the cemetery — with a road going right to it. We could have driven straight there — but we were happy to finally find it. It didn’t have stones for Mr. Martin’s great-grandparents, but we did find one for his grandfather’s brother.
Next, Mr. Martin asked me to look into his grandparents Anna Eliza and Lewis Thornton Hunt. The names piqued my interest, since I also have Hunts in my line. Sure enough, I found out Lewis was the son of Presley T. Hunt, my great-great-grandfather. Now I know why the Martins and I got along so well: Mr. Martin and I are second cousins twice removed.
Opposites might attract, but they’re just as often thrown together with no choice in the matter — at least according to your stories about husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, even pets who somehow ended up in the same family. Here, a sampling:
Scott Aaron of Newark, Calif., nominated a pair who never met, but had in common a wife who no doubt possessed a tolerance for impassioned political discourse. Aaron’s ancestor Zipporah Kipp married James Kipp, a lieutenant in New York’s Loyalist Westchester Refugees. At the end of the Revolution, they left for Nova Scotia (as many Loyalists did); James drowned soon after. Back in New York, Zipporah married patriot Caleb Carpenter. “A Quaker, he didn’t take up arms,” Aaron says, “but he’d helped the Committee of Safety in Westchester County by spying and disrupting British shipping.”
“My grandfather Charles Ransom DeLap grew up in Vernon County, Wis., to a family of staunch Unionists,” writes Helen Crowe of Martinez, Calif. “His father wept when Lincoln was assassinated.” Crowe’s grandmother Martha Octavia Farrar was born in Henry County, Mo., to a Confederate family headed by a conservative Baptist minister. Charles and Martha met in Lake County, Calif. He became a devout Baptist, but she never lost her loyalty to the Confederate cause.