Monday, September 17, 2007

Not by Chance

Serendipity in Genealogy

It happens to individuals of all religious, cultural and intellectual persuasions. Almost all long-time genealogists have experienced it in one form or another. It can be as simple as a thought or feeling. Many times it is manifest as extraordinary luck or fortuitous coincidence. Genealogists have experienced guidance as simple as facts popping into their heads or as dramatically as post-mortal visitations. Explanations are as varied as those that experience the events, but their prevalence testifies of their reality.

Having been brought up in an orphanage, I knew very little about my family and I didn't have a great deal of interest in them. [Later in life] I became very interested. I wanted to do everything I could to learn about my ancestors.

One day, as I was preparing to go on a business trip to Canton, Ohio, I remembered that my father had been born in that state. I knew that he had been 20 years older than my mother and that he had been married before and was a widower. So I called an older half-sister and asked her if she knew our grandparents' names and where they had been buried.

She gave me their names and told me that when she was a child she would visit them in a town in Ohio called Osnaburg, later called East Canton, and she thought they might have been buried there. I was amazed, because this was only a few miles from where I would be going.

I was very excited, and after my business meetings and just before leaving to return home, I said a prayer that I would be guided if there was anything for me to find.

I found myself in front of a small cemetery. I decided to look at every headstone. While doing so, I saw an elderly man coming toward me on the sidewalk. I walked up to him and told him about my search for the grandparents of Fanny and John Robert Gier. He directed me to a house in town.

When I went there, I found a woman in her 80s, Gurtie Baker, and her husband, Paul. When I said my maiden name was Irene Gier, she began to cry. She said she knew Uncle Bobby had remarried and had other children but that she never expected to see any of them. It turned out her mother and my father were brother and sister.

I left the home with pictures taken in 1918 and 1920 of my father, all his siblings and his mother and father. She also gave me all their birth and death dates and told me where my grandparents were buried.

Throughout the visit, she said several times, "This didn't just happen by chance." I agree.

Source: Irene Durham, "Family history moments: Not by Chance," LDS Church News, 18-August-2007, p. 16.

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