As genealogists, we usually think of ourselves as the ancestors trackers, following the trail and negotiating the jungle of old records and distant relationships.
Sometimes, however, the tribe unexpectedly finds us.
Last night, just as I was getting ready for bed, my oldest daughter wandered out of her room, phone in hand, texting away. “Hey Dad,” she asked without looking up from the screen, “Do I have a great-grandfather named Wesley?”
This question surprised me on two levels. First, it was a rare teenage daughter sighting. Second, she was actually asking about her family history without prompting from me.
“Yes,” I answered warily, not wanting to scare her off, “My grandfather’s name was Wesley. Why?”
My daughter looked up from her screen and sighed. “I just found out that I’m related to one of my best friends.” She sighed again, “Which means I’m related to, like … half the school! She’s related to *everyone*!”
I had to grin a little at this point. I could relate. When I was in school, it seemed that I was running into distant cousins all the time. It was one of the hazards of growing up in the area where your family had lived for more than a hundred years.
“What’s her last name?” I inquired, intrigued by the news. The answer was Wyman. “From Londonderry?” I asked innocently as the name triggered a bell in my head. My daughter paused and looked up again. “Yes,” she said.
I mentally ran through our pedigree in my head. I recognized the surname, but no immediate connection came to mind. “How’s she related?” I asked.
My daughter’s thumbs quickly flicked over her phone’s keys, sending my question through the ether to her friend and possible cousin’s phone. The reply came back faster than I could have typed my five-letter name on the tiny keyboard. “Her great-grandfather’s cousin was Wesley Davis.”
“Who’s her great-grandfather?” I asked.
“Harry Derby,” came the reply, after a short burst of keystrokes.
Ah ha. There was the connection. Derby. I’ve been tracking my grandfather’s grandfather, Charles Jenkins, for some time. His wife was Laura Derby. The girl’s great-grandfathers were likely second cousins
“It’s okay,” I smiled, “You guys are only like third or fourth cousins. Maybe fifth. I’d have to trace it.”
My daughter shrugged, looking back to her screen. “Okay good. I’ll tell her we could get married if we wanted to then.” She disappeared back into her room, leaving her dry sense of humor lingering behind her.