Friday, February 2, 2018

Souls without Heirs

Direct ancestors get researched all the time. Their graves are often visited and well tended, but those who left no heir, and sometimes not even a single record (like children who died between the censuses), those souls call to me.

Like my Cousin Mary over at Heritage & Vino I too have a strong affinity for those family members who left no heirs. Cousin Mary recently wrote about the siblings, Rebecca & Jacob Raynor; neither married but both obviously left strong impressions on the nieces and nephews around them.

I have recently been struggling to obtain a birth record from the City of New York for my relative, John Fay, who died in WWII and left no heirs. Part of the struggle is that I am not his direct descendant. I just want to document his existence for my family. Don't get me started...

BUT I have recently had some brilliant success, though, helping a patron connect with people that I will call his cousins even though they aren't really. Let me explain.

My patron, who I will call Jack, came to see me in search of information about the uncle he was named after but never knew. Uncle Jack died in WWII and is buried oversees. This patron came with a photo in hand of his Uncle Jack besides a woman who we believe to be Uncle Jack's wife; her name was unknown.

After some poking around on we found a record for Uncle Jack in the U.S. Headstone and Interment Records for U.S. Military Cemeteries on Foreign Soil, 1942 - 1949 dataset. Had we just looked at the indexed information and not opened the actual image file we would have never seen the note that in 1965 a woman in Missouri requested a photo of Uncle Jack's headstone in France.

We both suspected this woman, Helen, might be Uncle Jack's wife and so we set off on researching what became of her which lead us to a post on that included a photo of Helen. Although the FindAGrave photo showed a woman much older then the one in the photo with Uncle Jack, there was definitely a resemblance. I reached out to the FindAGrave contributor to see if perhaps he was related to the woman in the photo he posted.

In short time I received a response from the contributor. Unfortunately he was not related to Helen but he got the image from her online obituary which he sent to me. The obituary was a gem. It told of her life with great detail and mentioned that the last feat she wanted to accomplish before her passing was to write an autobiography. At the end of the obituary it listed all her children and their spouses by name and the cities they lived in when she passed in 2016.

I immediately went to Facebook and searched for her children who all had quite unusual names. I wrote to three people who I was 99% certain would be her kids but I still wasn't sure if Helen was Uncle Jack's wife. I told them that I was a NY genealogist working with a man who might have a connection to their mother. I asked if they had ever heard of her having a first husband who died in WWII. If so, I asked if I could get a copy of her autobiography. The next morning I received a response.

Yes, my mom Helen's first husband was [Jack], who died in WWII. ...As for the autobiography, it is 109 pages long and I only have my copy. Pages 19 through 24 are about [the Uncle Jack].

This was them. This was my patron's uncle's widow's family. That being said, obviously, there is no biological connection between my patron and these children of Helen; especially given the fact Helen's children are all adopted. But what makes family is not simply genetics.

Souls who leave no heirs does not mean they did not leave family, they most certainly did. They loved and influenced people around them and those energies emit long passed one's lifetime.

1 comment:

  1. April, you have one amazing story after another to tell. Your sips amazing.