Monday, November 17, 2008

Success (and small-world) story

I find a missing branch in an unexpected place....
Many years ago I learned of four sisters who were first cousins of my wife's great-grandmother. Through family connections I learned that they were from Mainz, and I made contact with descendants of two of the sisters. From one of these cousins I learned that one of the four sisters probably has no living descendants, but the other, Babette, was tantalizing. Her married name was a common Jewish name, which didn't help, but I was told that her granddaughter was a lawyer in Paris with a fairly uncommon name. I contacted someone who had done a lot of research on that family, but they had never heard of the granddaughter.
So I was stuck.
Then a few years ago, I corresponded with a student in Mainz who found Babette's birth record, from 1853, in the Standesamt (these records have not been filmed by the Mormons), and also found her marriage record, fortunately from 1875. So I learned the given name of Babette's husband, Leon, and the fact that he came from Colmar. But I was unable to find any information about Leon's family in Colmar.
Last Monday I was scanning the family tree for lost branches, and decided to try again. This time, when I entered Babette's maiden name and married surname in Google, one of the four hits looked promising, and sure enough, there was the entire family tree of Babette and Leon, with names and dates, not very well organized but clearly the family I was looking for. I transcribed the information into a chart and sent it, along with charts connecting it to our family, to Anne, the originator of the site, who appeared to be in France.
Tuesday morning I got a brief reply from Anne, thanking me for writing and saying she would write more later. A couple of hours later, I got an e-mail from Alison, wife of Anne's brother Axel. Axel and Alison live in a suburb of Providence, and their daughters go to school about three miles from our house!
Not only that, but my wife, who used to run a circus training program, gave a workshop at their school a couple of years ago, and she remembers the older daughter, who was in the class. And Axel works about a ten-minute walk from my work in Boston. We haven't met them yet, but we expect to get together with them soon.
The lesson to be learned from this story is to be persistent. If you don't find what you're looking for, wait a couple of years and try again. It really is a small world, and amazing coincidences really do happen.
Dick Plotz
Providence RI USA
Manager of Mailing Lists
JewishGen, Inc.
rplotz@jewishgen.org

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