Friday, June 17, 2011

Connecting the Dots to Relative Strangers

Hostages: Phyllis Macay and Bob Riggle, both from Seattle, were aboard the Quest with the Adams when it was hijacked. They were also killed
So, I had my grandmother on my mind and thought I'd get her file out and work on her story for a minute.  I thought it would be a good time because dinner was well on it's way to being done and the house was pretty quiet. I called my mom to confirm the location of the cemetery where she had been buried. Easy. I found it on Google Maps, street view, Old Greenwich, Connecticut.  My heart skipped a beat. It looked so quiet.

I called my mom back and asked who else was buried there. Turns out there were four others. My mom's parents, my sister, and my brother. 

We had a quick conversation because dinner was being served. I wasn't hungry for food. The dead were calling and I had feet in two worlds again. I knew it was time to put Evelyn's file away. There was always later.

But then, out of the blue, she said,"Did your brother ever tell you about the Ridleys?" That familiar, quiet voice told me to pay attention and follow my heart. I'd never heard of these people. And how had my brother made a connection in Seattle that I was unaware of? I hung up with my mom. looked up my brother's number, and dialed.

My heart skipped another beat when my brother answered the phone. I speak to him once a year. Maybe. I love him. There's no excuse, so, I won't go there. But, I'd promised a trip to the library after dinner to three of the kids, and we reluctantly said goodbye. For the first time in almost a year I didn't get any books at the library. I just wanted to get home and learn more about a family line that I'd just uncovered.

As soon as I got home I reviewed what my brother had told me..He told me of Bob Riggle (not Ridley). They had been friends. And second cousins through some part of my father's line I have yet to figure out.( A few marriages for my grandfather makes things confusing!) I wanted to do that research later and stay focused on my grandmother. But then I realized I was working from the same file of one family group. So, I stuck with it. And I was rewarded. I googled the news story  and saw his picture, read the story, googled his obituary, and just sat in awe at the emotions that overcame me.

I barely slept. That "other" world wouldn't go to rest. I swear they were thrilled to have someone pay attention to them! They just kept reminding me of how the dots were connecting, and to remember 'til morning so I could write it down until I had more time for a deeper look into their stories.

So much happened in about 45 minutes. Here's a quick "map" of my journey and what I learned.

Took out Dad's mom's file and reviewed it. Noticed a cemetery on the death certificate.
Called my mom who told me the real location of the cemetery, and made a comment about a new person.
Called my brother who told me a great story.
Googled the news story.
Googled the obituary.
Found a ton of distant relatives.

Pretty great experience for me. But, the heart of it is different than what you see on the surface where all the facts show up.

What I had confirmed once again for me was that I'm moved by pictures of people and cemeteries because they are visual reminders of a life lived. Those visuals trigger other memories of people, places and times past. All night I kept telling the voices to please let me sleep. But the stories were too strong. So, I pondered boats and early mornings fishing with my dad, and my brother who lives 3,000 miles away and is leaving on a fishing trip to Alaska in a couple of days. I would've missed the opportunity to talk to him if I'd waited.

There's so much to tell, and time is short today. However, there's one more thing that I think is worth saying. I felt a shift yesterday as I thought about my family history. 

It's amazing how much you learn in a short amount of time when you focus and follow your heart. I went from thinking about what more I could do or say to help people fall in love with this work to deciding to show how that happens by exposing my own research journey.

I surprised myself!

I'd started out with my grandmother and ended up walking with a "relative" stranger, connecting the dots! 

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