These two lovely people are my grandparents. My Grampa George died when I was one, so I never met him but I will thank him for my brown eyes. Also my daughter’s brown eyes and my grandson’s almost brown but mostly camo colored eyes. Anyway, George and Lily moved to a small town in Utah after their five sons and one daughter grew up. Their daughter and her family lived there as well. This portion of the family cattle ranched for a living.
My family is very fertile. My aunt and uncle had three kids who in turned spawned an additional nine children. My other aunts and uncles had a grand total of 17 children. I come from a family of six. So with all of this math going on so early in the day, you can figure out that when we all get together, we is a bunch o’cousins. Now, the entire family does not live in this little town but there is enough of them. Say hi to little town in Utah. HI!
The remaining sons of George and Lily felt that their fame and fortune lay to the west. Go West Young Man, and they did. In fact, one of the sons went so far west that he ended up in Australia. How’s that for over-achieving? My family is scattered throughout the western half of our country. They went to Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico.
My parents divorced when I was very young so the contact with my father’s family became very sporadic. Every few years my older brothers with their growing families attended reunions held hither and yon, (I’m not quite sure what state Hither or Yon is in) but my youngest brother and I didn’t attend. We were probably 9 and 12 years old respectively. I would listen to the stories they told about all the cousins and such, wishing I could have gone with them. I got my chance when I was in college to attend a reunion in this little town. I reconnected with my cousins that I remembered from my childhood but time and growing families of our own kept us all busy and attending reunions was far down the priority list.
Fast-forward a few more years. My wonderful and beloved Aunt had a great passion for family genealogy. She traced our family back….way back to 1600’s on my grandfather’s side. When I was about nine years old and was on what I didn’t know at the time would be my last visit to the family ranch for many, many years, I asked about the history and she showed me the charts she had made. That very simple conversation with my aunt would instill the love of genealogy in me. She made copies of those charts and sent them to me. I lovingly kept those hand-copied originals to this day. I often wonder how she would react now with the advent of technology and the wizardry of Ancester.com. Finding long lost relatives has been quite a revelation. I have discovered five different cousins (of some degree) that I knew I had but had never met or lost contact with decades ago. We are in contact now and anticipate the next reunion to meet face to face.
Family lore (oh, yes…I use the word ‘lore’ instead of ‘gossip’ because it sounds nicer) would be discussed at the kitchen table at these reunions and I would soak it up. New stories would be told and old ones rehashed and argued over. Lies and truths would wrangle with regularity between cousins. If someone could tell a story to make us laugh another cousin would try to outdo the first story with a lie all their own. I would badger my cousins for birthdates and names of children to add to my growing family chart. I have researched distant branches and have discovered more and more family.
Our family reunions have taken on names instead of ‘Reunion’. Run to the Ranch is a common one we used annually. Reno Rendezvous was used once. We don’t have a name yet for the next one but I’m sure that some cousin will come up with one. So many of my friends are surprised at the amount of reunions we have. Anytime the Australian cousins come over, we all try to get together. We are the ‘reunion-ist family’ as my friends say. We really don’t need an excuse to get together, we just do.
One of the highlights of these reunions is the bond that has developed between four of us girls. We came up with the idea of a girl cousin vacation and sent the word out to all the females of the family. When push came to shove, it was the four of us that went on the Cousin Cruise last year. All we did was laugh. And laugh some more. We laughed until we cried. And sometimes we cried over stories being told.
We are now planning our next Girl Vacation. The call is going out for a trip to Hawaii meeting up with seven of the Australians. I don’t know now how many of us will be attending in the end, but I do know that the original four will be there.
While we were back there in that small little town, I got a chance to see the location of where my Grampa George lived. I say ‘Grampa’ because we come from highly intelligent people. My Gramma Lily took one look at the cabin Grampa called home and said, “hell to the H no!” and promptly lived with her daughter for a while. The cabin and it’s inhabitants eventually killed my grandfather. He was bit by a black widow and never recovered. This is him at his cabin.
And this is where the cabin once stood, now long gone but not forgotten.
If you ever get a chance to learn more about your family, grab onto it. It is an incredible journey that never ends. Also, if this little anecdote of mine peaks your interest in genealogy, Ancestry.com is a great place to start. All you need is a name and a birthdate. Have fun.