Friday, March 16, 2012

Serendipity In My Own Backyard

It is as though our ancestors want to be found. Uncanny coincidence. Olympian luck. Phenomenal fate. Tremendous intuition. Remarkable miracle. We call It, “Serendipity in Genealogy.”

Right in My Own Backyard
   by Joan Byrne

A few years back, I was hunting for information on my elusive Chicago Leinen family. I posted a query on the Leinen message board on RootsWeb and got a reply from a person who was indeed a fellow Leinen descendant. We were both great-great-grandchildren of John Henry Leinen and Mary Clooney, who emigrated from Germany and Ireland (respectively) in the mid-1800s, met in Chicago, and married in 1859.

We were of course thrilled to find each other and exchanged information. She e-mailed, 'Where do you live?' I e-mailed my location (a small town outside of Seattle, Washington) and she quickly fired back, 'You're not going to believe this--so do I!' We couldn't believe the coincidence. She lived ten minutes away, and I drove to her house that very afternoon, where we drank tea, shared news clippings and photos, and filled in gaps in the family history.

We had much in common besides great-great-grandparents: we were both born in Chicago, went to the same small college in Grand Rapids, Michigan (ten years apart, so our paths never crossed), and ended up in the same town in Washington.

Previously published in RootsWeb Review: 26 September 2007, Vol. 10, No. 39.

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