Finding living relatives is one of the most interesting aspects of genealogy, in my opinion. While this may not be as exiting for some people, it can especially be in cases of adoption, when the living relatives in question share a biologically close relation to you. This is also a great way that we can find primary source information on our ancestors, especially when we have virtually none (as it typically is with cases of adoption).
In an earlier post, I explained how I found the biological family of my maternal grandmother. While tracing her ancestry back many generations was exiting enough, I thought it may be even more interesting if I could try to find any living relatives from either side of her family. Both her biological parents had several siblings, and I wondered if I could find any family that still lived in or near Freeport, Illinois.
Who was I looking for? How did I locate them? What did I discover from finding them?
- The Families:
As I stated above, both of her biological parents had several siblings. Mary Stahl and Glen Griffin were divorced a couple years after they had married, and I did not know if either of them remarried and had any other children. The one sister that shared the same parents as my grandma passed away the same year as their mom, in 1979. Finding information on the Stahl family was much easier than the Griffin family, so I tried looking for members of the Stahl family first.
- How I Located Them:
Found A Grave: Findagrave.com is the best tool for genealogists looking for pictures of grave stones and additional vital information. As to whether FindAGrave has this information available for a lot of burials (hint: it doesn’t) is another question. For the ones you do find on there, however, it’s interesting to see their grave stones. Members of the Stahl family; including Mary Stahl, Shirley Stahl, and a couple of Mary’s siblings were buried at a cemetery in Freeport. One day I decided to visit them, and at the information area I discovered that Mary’s sister Margaret Stahl was on the contact information for her gravestone. I knew Margaret was also buried in that cemetery, so I asked who the contact information was for her grave stone.
First Cousins: Facebook is a great tool for contacting living relatives. Between Facebook and Freeport Journal Standard articles from recent years available online via google searches, I confirmed my suspicions that the woman listed as the contact information for Margaret Stahl was her daughter. This would be my grandma’s first cousin, and my first cousin twice removed. Once I wrote to her and through some convincing, (and yes, hearing about an adopted family member you never knew existed via Facebook is only a bit strange) she believed my story and my grandma, aunt, mom, and myself met with her and several of her sisters one day at their home in Freeport.
- What I Discovered:
I was able to learn a lot from this experience, since I had not met anyone from this side of the family before. Primary sources can tell us personalized stories about the lives and experiences of relatives we have only heard the name of. I was also able to get pictures of my great grandmother, my 2nd great grandparents, and other relatives (Some of these photos can be viewed at the end of the Mary Stahl and Glen Griffin story). If you ever get the chance to meet or talk with cousins you have never spoken to before, I strongly urge you to do so. You never know what you will learn!
My grandmother, mother, aunt, and myself, as we meet my grandmother’s biological 1st cousins for the first time on August 3rd, 2014