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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Familial infighting provides forums for sharing genealogical information. Among other things, there are forums for just about every name. I systematically visit the forums for several of the names in my family tree.

Lately, one of the forums I subscribe to has degenerated into a cesspool of bickering, name calling, and taking sides. Fortunately, I'm not part of it. I'm just looking in from the outside. It's obvious there's about to be a division that may never be put back together. How could I know this?

Well, a few years ago, I actually met a previously unknown relative through one of those forums. It was jaw-dropping because neither one of us knew of the other's existence. It started out by her mentioning a particular name on the forum. In trying to find that person's ancestors, she listed his descendants, of which she was one. And, of which, I was one. But she hadn't listed my name, or my ancestors' names leading back to the person she was researching.

To make a long story short, I contacted her by e-mail and sent her a photo of my great-grandfather, the person she was researching. She was floored. She said that the whole time she was growing up, her mother had the exact same photo on her dresser. Her mom and my mom were first cousins and they never even knew about each other.

Since then, she has driven a several hundred mile trip to Springfield a couple times to visit with me and my mom. I won't say that we've become good friends. It's more like warm acquaintances. For me, it's just nice knowing she's out there.

Back to the point. About 80 or so years ago, somehow our family got divided. I say 80 only because my mom is about to turn 80 and I believe this all happened before my mom was born. I don't know exactly how it happened. Neither does my cousin or my mom. Well, if my mom knows the details, she's not saying.

The only sense I can make of it is that somebody got really really pissed at somebody else. I think it might have had something to do with moral outrage, if you can imagine. Anyway, the family split and no one ever mentioned the other's names again. Until a couple years ago, when I met my cousin.

What's interesting, is, I think I'm witnessing a family about to become divided. As it's happening. Only in cyberspace. Totally weird.

Posted by Marie at January 14, 2006 3:20 PM


You're right -- the Net is an amazing tool for finding family connections; or for facilitating serendipity; or something. A long time ago, I wrote a little story about my mom's family, my Irish side. Years after it was published, I posted it on my first website. A good 15 years after that, I got an email from someone who live 10 miles from me out here in the Bay Area saying from the way I had described the family, he thought we must be related. (The stunner was that his dad was my great-grandmother's brother.) He had known my mom and her brothers when they were all kids in Chicago. So I went out to his house and met him; later, he went back to Chicago and had dinner with my mom, dad and uncles. All through the happenstance of finding that story online.

Anyway, I wonder about families. It seems to me that it's more common for people to drift apart -- to just lose the gravity that makes everyone stick together -- than to have the outraged or violent falling out that renders people perpetually silent about the reasons they're split from their kin.

Posted by: at January 16, 2006 12:05 PM

(Hey, that was my long-winded comment above.)

Posted by: Dan at January 16, 2006 12:06 PM

I have a friend in Frederick, MD, whose last name is spelled Stupp. One day I noticed a store in Frederick called "Stup's Tractors". I asked my friend if that was his family. He explained that way back when, his family had a split and a group of disenfranchised 2-P Stupps became the 1-P Stupps. He said to this day, the 1-Ps and the 2-Ps don't talk to each other.

Actually I don't know why I'm telling you this.

Posted by: Kem White at January 16, 2006 12:47 PM

Dan, that story about your family sounds familiar.

Posted by: Marie at January 16, 2006 1:12 PM