Friday, May 13, 2016

Serendipity and Susan

Generic photograph of a cemetery by Peyri HerreraIt is as though our ancestors want to be found. Uncanny coincidences. Olympian luck. Phenomenal fate. Tremendous intuition. Remarkable miracles. We call It, “Serendipity in Genealogy.”

Margaret McCleskey shared with me a simple story of serendipity.

There is a small cemetery in the Hill County of Texas where I had been told that a great, great grandmother was buried. I had walked that cemetery several times without finding the grave. Then one day my daughter was with me looking. She asked what name we were looking for and I told her. She literally took two steps, turned around and said, “Here it is.” The irony is that gggrandmother's name was is my daughter's. I will always believe that gggrandmother was calling out to my daughter, “Here I am.”


Photo credit: Peyri Herrera. Under license.


  1. Serendipity is amazing. I was helping a distant relative who wanted to find a marriage record in a New Jersey town's records. My local family history center had the film in its library, so I volunteered to find it for him. When I looked at the film every page was ripped, blotched and stained and the film images were so dark the words were almost illegible. I dutifully made digital scans of every page anyway. I randomly picked a page to attach to my e-mail to illustrate how hard it would be to find anything in them. To my absolute amazement, in the middle of my screen appeared the very marriage record he was looking for.
    That is serendipity

  2. This made me think about what happened to me while going through Hampton Reformed Cemetery in Hampton, Adams County, PA. I was looking for the graves of my 2nd grandparents who I already knew were buried there. The surname is MYERS and those familiar with this area will understand that about half of the surnames in that cemetery are MYERS. I searched and searched and could not find them. I told my husband we might as well leave for our long drive home because it was getting late and would be getting dark soon. On my way out of the cemetery a bird flew right into my face (I later learned it was a Killdeer defending its nest). The bird forced me back to get away from its attack...and I ended up staring directly into the inscription on my grandparents' stone Father on one side and Mother on the other with the names as plain as could be. Had it not been for that Killdeer I'd never have found them. Somehow I feel they wanted to be found and reached out to me in the only way they knew how...through that bird.

    Joan (Myers) Young

  3. I would LOVE to correspond with 'Susan' who was looking in a cemetery in Hill County TX, as I understand that a great many of MY ancestors are ALSO buried 'somewhere' in Hill County, TX! Jerre Gaddy Beal, Simpsonville, SC

  4. I've had a couple of these cemetery experiences. The first 20 years ago looking for the graves of my aunt and uncle. I was driving a convertible with the top down and was leaving the cemetery because I was unsuccessful at finding them. It started raining so I got out to put the top up, happened to look at the grave stones on the ground next to me when I was getting back in, and there they were. I was shocked! The second time was two years ago in South Dakota. I found my grandparents graves the day before, but was unsuccessful at finding my great grandparents, who I knew were buried there also. I discovered when I stopped at a gas station to fill up with gas the next morning that I had apparently lost my wallet. I went back to the cemetery to see if I could find it, and found both sets of great grandparents and a lot of great aunts and uncles I didn't remember also being there. This with the assistance of cemetery workers who hadn't been available the day before, but just happened to arrive while I was there. I also found my wallet in the back seat of my car, where I had slept during the night since I was short of funds. I believe I was called back.

  5. My father was always a mystery as I knew he had changed his name. I had found an old trunk in the basement when I was about 9 years old. There was a letter he had been writing to someone in New Jersey and it said "I'm sorry I had to change my name. The letter gave the names. Just then my father found me playing with the trunk and it disappeared the next day. I never told my mother or sister about the letter. After my father died, I wrote a letter to the Munich City Hall as I knew he had been born there. This was before computers so I had to write a letter to "To Whom It May Concern" asking anyone there for any records with his family name. About three weeks later I received a letter from Munich saying I had written to the land office and they didn't open their records. However, an attachment to the first letter from them - there was another letter and it said.."I received your letter on April Fool's Day and thought it was a joke, however, our grandfathers were brothers. What are the chances that my letter addressed to "To Whom It May Concern" land in the hands of relative? He invited me and my family to Germany to meet the rest of the families. While at the gathering of my new found relatives, a woman asked what my grandparent's names were - and she gave me their wedding picture. That was the first time I ever knew anything about my grandparents. I've also had other mysterious things like this happen. When I wrote to the Archives in Metz, France about my great-great-grandfather - the Archives doesn't do research so they gave my letter to a man there. He wrote to me and said that my family was very famous and that his friend had a 257 book written about them. I truly believe they want us to find them.

  6. So did you find out why he wanted to change his name?


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