What would he be like?  Would he look like his pictures?  How comfortable would it be to visit with him?  Would we have anything to say after the initial polite introductions?  I had butterflies in my stomach and many questions running through my  mind as I drove down to the Family History Library recently to do research and meet a distant cousin.

Back in 2000, Claude and I began emailing while searching for more information about Martin Ayers. I had shared some information about Martin on  Rootsweb  and Claude saw the information and contacted me to see what the connection was. We then began the typical exchange of sharing information and working together to try and fill in the blanks on our family trees. As is so often the case, he had things I did not have and visa versa, so we were able to help each other.  We have continued to stay in touch for 13 years now.

Claude and I with our spouses at
This is the Place Heritage Park

Martin Ayers was born in 1796 in Greenville, South Carolina and his wife, Sarah Simmons, was born 13 July 1800 in Greenville, South Carolina.  They married 31 August 1817 in Greenville, but eventually moved to Georgia, where they were living when they died.  They are both buried at the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery in Haralson County, Georgia.  A picture of the cemetery and their headstone can be found here.

Claude was researching Martin and Sarah’s daughter, Mary Anne Ayers, who married William W. Johnson and I was interested in Martin Ayers for several reasons.  Martin and Sarah’s daughter Nancy E. Ayers was the first wife of James W. Ganus, who was brother to my 2nd great grandfather, John Monroe Ganus. In addition, Martin and Sarah’s son, Reuben Ayers,  married Frances L. Rainwater, who was sister to my 2nd great grandmother, Olivia Rainwater Ganus.  Claude generously shared pictures of descendants and pictures from his trip to Georgia and I shared information that I had been able to find at the Family History Library.

A few weeks ago Claude and his wife flew in with his local genealogy society for a week of research at the Family History Library and so, after all of these years, Claude and I were able to meet.  The initial nervousness left as soon as I met Claude and his wife.  Their kindness was immediately evident and their deep Texas drawl warmed this displaced southerner to her very core. 

View of Antelope Island
From the marina at the Great Salt Lake

We spent time researching at the library together while sharing more information and enjoyed going to lunch and getting to know each other better.  In addition, my husband and I were able to spend some time showing Claude and his wife some of the local sites. I had a great time and was so grateful to finally meet this distant cousin and his wife.

From family reunions to research field trips, there are many opportunities to step outside of court houses and libraries into the present and make connections with cousins—opportunities that I don’t want to miss.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013

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6 thoughts on “Are You Missing Out?

  1. I really like your phrase, "step out into the present." Our research, despite its complications, puts us in a world pretty much under our control. But meeting a live distant cousin is something else again. It definitely can make a person nervous. I'm so glad you were reassured by his manner and his Texas drawl. I always find a deep Southern accent soothing . . . I think I was just programmed that way. And I enjoy the deep layers of politeness, even if they aren't always candid.

    This july I'm going to meet a third cousin with whom I've been sharing a lot of information lately . . . together, we've built quite a tree. And I'm nervous, too! What if we don't "take to" each other? At least we'll have a lot to talk about. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Yesterday I sent a warmly worded snail mail letter to a 4th cousin inviting her to collaborate on a brick wall situation in our family tree. She has never heard of or from me…so I'm hoping it turns out as well as it did with you and Claude. Your post gives me hope!

  3. You are so right! The deep Southern accent IS soothing and the "deep layers of politeness" describes it to a "T"!

    Good luck with your visit in July. I keep hoping that life will slow down enough for me to take a trip to Alabama and Georgia to do research and meet cousins face to face. Like you, I can't help but wonder if things will be different after meeting some of my connections in person. The one thing that definitely gives me comfort is that for the most part, I've found genealogist to be friendly and easy to talk to. I think most genealogist are people people and so by the time you combine common ancestors, a love of family history and a mutual desire to meet, I think we have the recipe for success! Best of luck and you will have to tell us about your meeting on your wonderful blog.

  4. Good luck with it and I hope that she answers quickly and with enough information to bring down that brick wall! Wouldn't that be great. There is so much that we can accomplish together. Thanks for your comments.

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