Thursday, February 3, 2011

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

During the hunt for our ancestors, sometimes we researchers do get lost in the history of our families and the intrigue of another time and place. For hours and hours we can find ourselves camped in front of our computers following a trail hundreds of years old. But, usually the simple demands of our everyday lives and a spouse feeling a little neglected from time to time, will interupt the hunt, bringing us back to the present and reminding us what's really important in our lives.

The thought that generations to follow may be looking at our lives some day should be enough to bring us back to the present and motivate us to do something really exciting and notable for those coming generations to discover. The irony of that is what I do that's most notable in my life time may well be to provide the bridge between the generations past and the generations to come with the history I dig up.

But folks, none of this is done in a vacuum, in spite of what my husband sometimes feels when I am secluded with old census records and out-of-print books. I do hear from some of my immediate family when I share something new about one of our ancestors here on Henrietta or through email, and that's always rewarding. It makes me feel like I am doing my job as self-appointed family historian. In addition to the family I've always known, I also hear regularly from living, breathing new family members I have met through the research done on-line.

Most of us have heard of the theory of the Six Degrees of Separation which is just another way of saying it's a small world. Specifically, it tells us that we in this "human web" are within six steps of everyone else on the planet by mutual acquaintances or friends.

A kind of fun offshoot is a game called the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, which I think is really funny. If you don't know about it, go to Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon on Wikepedia. Even though the game is to get from Kevin to any actor or movie within 6 steps, the truth is, everyone who is reading this has less than Six Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon because my sister and brother-in-law have actually delivered furniture to Kevin Bacon and his wife in the course of their furniture delivery business. I just thought you'd like to know that. And who knows, maybe someday I will figure out how we are related. But back to the original theory.
Kevin Bacon
My sister Cindy and Bro-in-law Steve

The theory of Six Degrees of Separation is proven over and over again when people on are able to contact others doing research on common ancestors or surnames. So, today I just wanted to tell you a little about some of these people I have met, just in the past six months, most of whom share ancestors in my trees.

Julie-Ed's second cousin. I "met" Julie when Ed's cousin Eileen got us together. Thanks, Eileen! Julie has done a lot of research on the Eaton side and been very generous with it all. I haven't met her in person yet, but we have exchanged lots of emails, photos and information. She lives up in Massachusetts and has done all kinds of tramping through cemeteries and taken photos of headstones. My kind of gal! My hope is that we'll get to meet this summer when I am up there again.

Jessie Willett Hall and me
  Joyce and Bob-Joyce contacted me when she saw my Willett family tree last June. At first when she wrote to me on, I didn't think we were in the same tree at all. But, she showed me that Joyce's 4th great grandfather is my 3rd great grandfather, Ebenezer Willett. That was really so exciting to me because the Willett tree has been a fairly short one since I began my hunt. Joyce and her husband Bob are both very involved in genealogy and have given me so much advice over the past year or so since we have connected. We think that Ed may well be in Bob's family tree and we must do more research on that! Bob and Joyce live in Florida and have a summer home in the mountains in Georgia, just a couple of hours from here. Last summer we actually were able to meet them in person when they invited Ed and I to their home in Georgia. We had a lovely lunch and a really fun visit. They are now good friends and we exchange regular emails. We are hoping to see them some time this month or next here in Chattanooga!

Leslie J Hall,
Henrietta's son

Sherri-Sherri lives in Utah. The roots we share are the Ames and Davis family. That's really interesting to me because those are Henrietta's parents. And as you readers know, Henrietta is my motivation. Sherri and I haven't corresponded in a few months, but I know as we learn more, we'll be sharing more information in the future.


Lady May Budd, my great Grandmother
Franklin Jay Ward and Lulu Budd Ward,
May's sister.
Carollee-Carollee is my Budd cousin! I recently contacted her when I found her tree which I suspected might be the same Budd family as ours. Sure enough, my great great grandfather Samuel Budd is in her line, too. We have been exchanging lots of information. The civil war correspondence I hope to get this summer from the NY Historical Society should be of interest to us both. And, recently I sent for his pension records and they are in the process of sending that to me. I am surely going to share that with Carollee as soon as I receive it. 

Jessie and Charlotte Willett
My Grandmother and her sister back row
 Karen-Karen, who lives in Georgia was a really remarkable find for me and although I haven't written to her since before Christmas, this is one person I really want to keep in touch with. After responding to my inquiry, Karen turned out to be the closest of all in terms of degrees of separation. Karen is the granddaughter of my grandmother's sister on my father's side. It is almost miraculous to me to have found someone who knew my grandmother Jessie Willett Hall's sisters personally. My great Aunts Charlotte, Millie and Edith were all in her life as well as mine and just as fascinating to her as they were to me. I remembered my grandmother talking about a wedding that she was going to in NY in the 60s and that the bride had gotten her lace in Italy. That stuck in my mind and for 40 years I wondered who that was. It was Karen! It is my hope that Karen and I can get to know each other even better soon. She's close enough in proximity that it shouldn't be too hard to arrange a nice day together.

Maryanna-When I was researching the story about Jenny Lind Lewis for my Henrietta Blog I found Maryanna on Ancestry. You can look back at the archives for January 13th posting to get the whole story. In a nutshell, this was just a story I read in one of the clippings my gggrandmother had saved. I had no idea why she saved the clipping but found the desertion of this young woman worth writing about. Maryanna helped solve the mystery of what happened to the husband and then she put me in touch with Wayne, who she thought would have more information.
Jennie Lind Lewis
Wayne-Wayne made a fantastic connection for me. He identified the connection between my gggrandmother and Jenny Lind Lewis. As it turns out they are cousins. Wayne's family includes the name Pelsue which was my great great great grandmother's maiden name. We are cousins of some degree and Lorena Pelsue Hyde Berry Grammer, or Gramma Grammer, had a sister named Sophia who married a Lewis, one of Wayne's ancestors. Sophia's granddaughter was Jenny Lind Lewis Evans. She and my great grandmother were friends, second cousins and both singers. And that is why the clipping is in the scrap book. Wayne and I have continued to correspond and find out things about the Hyde family and our ancestors in common.  What's even more of a coincidence is that until a few years ago, he lived in the same little town in Maine right across the street from where my uncle now lives. They may have missed each other by just a year or so. Wayne now lives in Texas and is retired military, again, like my uncle.

Josephine Patten Willett's Obit (My great grandmother)
Janet-Janet is my most recent on-line cousin. She is directly related to the Pattens, which was my great grandmother Josephine Willett's maiden name. Janet is such a warm and generous person. She has been doing research for many years and is eager to share. Her great great grandparents H. James Patten and Sarah Caroline Arden are my ggg grandparents. Janet sent me a big package of information which I received just yesterday. Thanks, Janet! I can see a blog forming around one particular item she sent me. I think she knows which one I mean, too! Janet and her husband live in Florida and has in-laws who live in the Villages, just like I do! They may even know each other! I look forward to meeting her some day soon.

Bell Rock Light, Arbroath
Scotland -My connections in Scotland have to do with the Bell Rock Lighthouse and the Waters side of the family. It's been really fun corresponding with them, in particular another gal named Janet who keeps me updated on what's going on in Arbroath with the Year of the Light celebration in honor of the Lighthouse's 200th anniversary. My Ancestor was a lighthouse keeper there in the mid 19th century. Janet puts me in touch with other Scottish genealogists, as well.

And, just yesterday I received an email from my friend Debbie who lives near Abroath. I didn't meet Debbie on line but rather a few years ago on the golf course in Kissimee, of all places. I told her about our Arbroath roots and in particular the lighthouse in Arbroath when we met and she never forgot that. (She and her husband were really fun. Should I tell you that she ran into the back of my golf cart with hers? No I won't tell you that! It was very funny.) A year or more after our meeting in Kissimmee, Debbie wrote to me telling me that she thinks of me every time she drives by the light house. Yesterday, I heard from her, which was a wonderful surprise and she offered to go to some of the Year of the Light Celebrations, take some photos and even find me a little souvenir commemorating the event. Such a nice person. I do hope our paths cross again soon!

Some of these wonderful "cousins" send me email regularly and I have gotten to know them pretty well. It's always exciting to make the connection with someone who shares your 3rd great grandmother or 4th great grandfather. The people I have connected with are all so generous in sharing their research and their time. Mysteries are solved and coincidences are discovered that make the hunt even more fun. I hope that I have provided them with some helpful information, as well.

For me, these connections with folks all over the country and in Scotland, are right there with me as we share the exploration of the past together. Many of them are reading this blog now and they never know when one of their ancestors might be featured! I am sincerely thankful to all of you who help with the hunt and by providing your information and an encouraging comment here and there, as well as my loyal followers and readers. Directly and indirectly you contribute to The Hunt For Henrietta and I am always grateful for the help!

Some upcoming posts for Henrietta-

"Gramma Grammer-Jekyll or Mrs. Hyde?"
"A Paige From a Love Story" a story for Valentine's Day
 "A Crooked Politician?"
"A Devil of an Ancestor-in-law"
"An Accusation"
"Seven Sisters"


Anonymous said...

you didn't say which auntie was Karen's mom.

Greta Koehl said...

Great list of contacts! I have some distant cousins I've met this way with who I still correspond regularly. And my connection to Kevin Bacon? My daughter went out with the son of a man who lived next door to the man who swindled Bacon and his wife out of a lot of money.