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Thursday, 29 November 2012

How to Search for Relatives

By Marcy Belson

Occasionally, I find myself chuckling over some remembrance and one of my laugh out loud moments was my parents story about finding a long lost cousin in Texas.

It was their custom, my parents, to make a road trip to Arkansas every other summer and even after they retired, they continued to drive across country from California to Arkansas.

My mother would stay with her parents who lived in Clarksville and had a home on the far end of Main Street. My grandfather had a furniture store downtown and he walked to work every day, across the bridge, down the dirt alley to his property, where he had a milk cow in the pasture.

Then he opened the store, did the walk in reverse at lunchtime and again walked back for the afternoon shift. Winter, summer, same thing.

In the meantime my father, whose parents had moved to California when I was a small girl, would drive up into the mountains to visit his many cousins and friends. He also would make a trip to the moonshiner. He always came back to California with a couple of fruit jars with a clear liquid inside.

On one of these road trips heading East, my father told my mother that he was sure there was a distant Clark cousin living in Odessa, Texas but he couldn't remember the exact connection. My mother suggested that since it was nearing lunch time, they stop and check a phone book.

Sure enough, there was the name and address of the Clark family. They asked for instructions at a service station and found the home without a problem. There sat Mr. and Mrs. Clark on their front porch in rocking chairs.

My parents went up, introduced themselves and the four Clarks sat on the porch and talked about my folks trip to visit the family in Arkansas. Then Mrs. Clark, the hostess, said that since it was lunch time it would be nice if my parents joined them for a bite to eat. And they did.

As they ate the fried chicken meal at the kitchen table, the truth was finally established. They were not related. It was a totally different Clark family; no matter how they tried, there was no common relative.

After my mother helped Mrs. Clark with the dishes, my parents shook hands and left their almost new relatives sitting on the porch, rocking away.

I don't know which amazes me the most, the fact that perfect strangers invited my family into their home, fed them lunch and really tried to be connected or the fact that my parents walked up to them, sat down and had a nice visit without having any concrete evidence that they were related.

I love this story. I think it is so American. You know, the truth is, we are probably related to more people that we meet and never give it a second thought. We are brothers and sisters under the skin.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 03:18 PM | Permalink | Email this post


What a nice story, Marcy. I really enjoyed reading about the two Clark Families.

I agree that America is a wonderful country of good people.

Hooray for us.

In the 1995 my wife and I were planning a family reunion for her father's side of the family. Many stories came from that experience, but here's what amazed me most.

During my free time at work. I'd work on the project. Co-workers would ask questions. I'd tell them stories. The stories exited two of them and moved them to ask some of the questions I was asking within their own families.

The results of their persistance changed their whole concept of who they were/are. Secrets were told which changed their lives.

Who are we really? If I'm not a Newman perhaps it would be good to be a Clark. They seem to be right fine folk.

Good story. Part of our family lore is a somewhat reverse experience. My sister and her husband, Ray, visited Switzerland many years ago. His ancestors were Swiss, and they decided to do a search. They knew a likely area, but had no specifics.

In a small town they thought might be connected to Ray's family, they stopped at an inn to make inquiries. The inn keepers were family members! The contact resulted in a fairly large party for many relatives from the surrounding area.

Great story. Here's another way to find missing relatives: win the lottery.

You know, that was just fantastic! I love how had they worked to figure out that they weren't related. Very American. And tough sometimes for other people to understand.

Marcy, My mother was a Clark with relatives in Clarksville and in the 50s we lived in Odessa. :) My Granddaddy Clark used to say, "The Good Lord made man on Day Six and named the families all day long. As the Sabbath drew near he looked at the thousands still waiting in line for surnames and said, "It's quittin' time folks. The rest of you are Clarks."

Well, Deb, now we have to figure out if we are related!
I bet we are! Clarksville is not a large city...
And, thank you everyone, for the great comments, you make my day.

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