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           August, 2007

      Carol Sanderson, Editor
      Charles Hansen, Advisor

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  A Long Journey
— Carol Sanderson

        It has been on the back burner off and on for sixty years. This is my hardest brick wall to overcome. I still have not, although I feel that I am nearer than I have ever been to solving it.

        This all started shortly after I was married. One of my father's aunts was visiting and in the way of conversation told me that my husband Bob and I shared a relationship other than that of husband and wife. The family name was Joy. Our families had lived in the same town for some time so that was not too surprising.

        I was not into genealogy at that time but that information was enough to whet my appetite for an answer to the puzzle provided for me. I knew my father had no idea about this relationship so I went to the other side of the family and started asking my father-in-law questions. He said his grandmother was an Abbie Joy but maintained he had no other information. I asked his sister and she said the same thing. All they could say was that she was buried in the cemetery up the road from where they lived.

        Bob, my husband and I went up to the cemetery and found the grave. She is buried in the family plot with her mother and father and some of her siblings. Other than knowing her parent's names and those of her siblings buried there and some dates there was nothing else to be learned there.

        I had been given the Joy Genealogy with the supplements so looked in there for Abbie Joy's family. Unfortunately, for me, Abbie and Charles were names used repeatedly in the family so it was hard to figure out the right family. I put it aside. Occasionally, I would go back to my search always with no success. It was put on the back burner so to speak. This went on for many years...My husband's aunt died and somehow I felt that information died with her. Dad still insisted they did not know anything about her. Then in 1980, my father-in-law died. There went the rest of any possibilities from memories of the family.

        We were going through the house getting ready to sell it as none of the children were in a position to take it over. A nephew, who had been helping, held up a small photograph album asking if everyone had seen it. My husband and I were the only ones who had not seen it. The photos were all labeled. Some of them were of Sandersons but others had the Joy name. A family pose of Joys gave the names of the people, identified as Aunt Mary, Uncle Charles etc. With that, I went to my Joy Genealogy and found the correct Joy family. With that, I could go back and determine the Joy we both had in common. In doing all this, I found another puzzle.

        The handwriting in the album identifying these people looked like that of my husband's aunts. That did not make sense to me. Her father had been the only living child of this Abbie Joy; so how could these people be labeled as aunt and uncles. This question got answered sooner than I had thought.

        Abbie G. Sanderson had spent many years in China and one of the eastern universities was doing a project on China because until that time China had been a closed place to most Americans. The university wanted to find out through letters, diaries, labeled photos and other things, what life was like before the Communists took over. We had a big wooden crate filled with letters she had written home. I suggested donating them to this project and the family agreed. I had known this woman when I was about ten and was curious about her life so I started reading some of these letters which her mother had saved and numbered chronologically. They were interesting and I got a view of her that I had never seen. Then serendipity happened! I found a letter that was not hers although the handwriting looked the same. It turned out to be one of her mother's to her! Now I had a solution to the labels of aunt and uncles in the photograph album.

        Abbie Sanderson's, father's mother, was a [surname] Joy and these were her brothers and sisters. That only solved part of the question. Where did Abbie Joy's mother, an Abigail J. Grant, come from? Who were her parents? I wanted to find the Grant connection. The Joy Genealogy stated that the Abigail J Grant who married Charles Joy was of Shapleigh, ME as was he. I found their marriage record but no parents were listed and so I continued looking. I could almost hear this woman calling to me. She wanted her line to be found but it was still elusive. It still is but I feel that I am getting closer. I have to be persistent but patient in looking for her.

        I went to Shapleigh, Maine and looked at vital records. I talked with a woman at the Historical Society and she understood the problem but could not offer much help. I visited some of the cemeteries. I went to the State Archives in Augusta. I got lots of documentation for some of the things I had but nothing more about Abigail J Grant.

        To go back a little in time...when we were cleaning out my father-in-law's house I had been working in the garage. I was throwing most of what was out there away but I had to look at everything. I was in the process of going through a box of papers and some books. I picked up what was a paper bound book called Pine Cones and Forget-Me-Nots that was obviously done at home by someone. It did not look worth saving so I tossed it. A few minutes later, there was another by the same name but different too. I tossed it. When I found the third one, I took a longer, harder look and decided that I wanted to read these later. I retrieved the two I had tossed away and I found two others. These contained memories and history of the area where both Abbie Joy and her mother had lived. They were about a Joy Neighborhood and a one-room school in that neighborhood.

        I found bits and pieces of information. I had gone through the process of listing all the Grant's in that town and a few neighboring ones from early census records. These listed heads of households with the remaining family as tick marks in various age groups. I had about ten possibilities. They have remained so for a long time. This year I wanted to break down or jump over that brick wall. I had half-heartedly been looking at my notes when an e-mail came announcing the meeting of a Grant research group that seems to be from that area. An address of someone I had corresponded with was in it. I wrote to her as she had said her ancestors were from there. We looked over both our notes and finally agreed to the possibility of two families to which Abigail J. Grant could belong. I pulled out the Pine Cones and Forget-Me-Nots and was able to put some of the people into families...both Joys and Grants. In the photo album, there were people whose surnames I did not recognize and my husband and his siblings did not either. I have found out why they are in that album. They were Grant cousins, and perhaps nieces and nephews...all go back to the Joy neighborhood in Shapleigh.

        The two Grant families from the 1820 census are still possibilities. One man had married an Abigail Joy and his family lived in that neighborhood, but only two children have been mentioned by name. The other family is mentioned many times in these books and while it does not say that she (Abigail) was of that family, her husband Charles had a sister who married a man whom I think is her brother. I have been able to link all of the others not having Joy or Sanderson in the captions to this Grant family. I would like documentation that is more concrete.

        I was talking with a friend who is not a genealogist the other night, telling her about my search. As soon as I finished, I realized that I had made a wrong assumption as all those people in the photo album could have been Abbie J. Grant's husbands relatives. I was assuming that a brother and sister had married a brother and sister. In this case, it wasn't true. I had ordered a relatively new book about the genealogies of early families in the Shapleigh area. It came and I checked but didn't see much help. After my awakening that night, I went back to the book and started checking other families I had found as possibilities in the 1820 census for that area. I found the connection!

        The brick wall had crumbled or I've succeeded in jumping over it. The next morning I was able to trace back and find another cousin connection between my husband and me six generations back.

        Lessons learned from this long tale are patience, persistence, reviewing and evaluation of your notes, make sure your assumptions are correct, searching for documentation but most of all just good genealogy practices.

  Genealogy is Meaningless
— Charles Hansen

        That is part of the title of an article in the July 2007 Smithsonian Magazine. The whole title is The Family Tree, Pruned:  Its lure is powerful but genealogy is meaningless, relatively, — by Richard Conniff.

        The reason I found the article was that one paragraph of his article was posted on genealogy blogs and even on our local genealogical society mail list asking for a comment from the members. I knew my dad subscribed to the magazine so I wanted to read the whole article before I commented.

        A paragraph in the article that got a lot of people upset was:

         But I also want my daughter to understand that nothing in her genealogy defines her. Our ancestors are dead, and they should let us rest in peace. What makes us who we are, what makes us people worth knowing, comes from within ourselves, and from the often annoying, somewhat laughable, occasionally lovable families we live with now.
That was the last paragraph of an eight page article, but seven of the pages had a lot of advertising, and the title page has a large picture of the author, so really about three pages of text.

        The article starts with Richard Conniff expressing his opinion that genealogy is bunk. His daughter tells of friends that have proof of being related to Charlemagne. He correctly points out that surnames did not start till the 15th century, so before then proof of any ancestors is pretty hard to do unless you are related to royalty. He then tells of the numbers of ancestors a person would have if he could go back that far; it would be in the billions, but there was not that many people on the earth then, so what happened? Our ancestors intermarried, millions of them are actually duplicates, but it does suggest we may actually be descendants of Adam and Eve if we go back far enough.

        He then went on to show how some genealogists are just interested in finding a famous ancestor, like Hugh Hefner boasting he is the 11th generation descendant of a Mayflower Pilgrim. I know people are interested in finding a famous ancestor and then they quit when they find a jail bird. I was at a genealogy luncheon one day and one of my table mates was telling she was related to the Mayflower pilgrim who ran the first distillery in New England, and I said her ancestor was the reason my Mayflower ancestor spent so much time in court and jail. My ancestor was arrested several times for being drunk in public, and so there are a lot of court records on him.

        Richard then goes on to tell about made up genealogies and the possibility that your great great grandfather was actually not the father of your great grandfather, so it is possible you have been searching the wrong ancestors, anyway. He does say DNA may actually prove you are not related to to your great great grandfather, but some people are so into DNA research that they have secretly stolen the DNA of male relatives to find their DNA matches. (Is that the annoying cousins?)

        Experienced genealogists have always known of the numbers game, and I hope a lot know about the made up genealogies, and that proof to Charlemagne is really impossible. It has always been important to get many sources for your information on your ancestors and that is where the fun of genealogy comes from.

        Richard Conniff is down on genealogy, but is still interested in family history; this is a quote from the next to the last paragraph of the article.

         What makes families interesting isn't the 99.9 percent of things we have in common, but the extra bit that makes us different. I'd like to know a little more, for instance, about the origins of our family name, which means, "son of a black hound  in the Irish language. And I am deeply curious about my Italian great grandfather, who used to chase my father down in the Bronx swinging a sickle and yelling, "I catch-a you, I keel-a you". These are the small, sweet pleasures of family history.
So, is genealogy meaningless while family history is interesting?

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