15 or 20 years ago I went back to Northern Wisconsin for a family gathering. While I was there I made copies of a stack of papers that represented the research my Aunt had conducted on the Norwegian branch of our family. I stuffed the copies into an envelope and filed them away when I got back home.

About 10 years ago I got the itch again and started to get more organized. I bought my first Genealogy software package and started to organize my information, starting with that stack of papers I got from my Aunt.

There have been many wonderful discoveries since then, but one mystery has always been lurking in the background… one of those “dark stories” buried in my Aunts papers was about my Uncle (her brother) who had a son in 1936 in a marriage that dissolved almost immediately. Communications between my family and the mother & son quickly ceased.

Family History Form
Family history form obtained from Laura Marie Hanson [Evans]
That stub on the family tree has been one of those on again, off again areas of interest. I’ve chipped away at it now and then, but I have always been dismayed by the scarcity of information and the increasingly long odds of ever being able to bridge the gap of 60+ years.

On New Years day 2008 I was talking to my sister (who lives with my mother in Florida) and she brought up our long lost cousin again. My mother had a vague memory about their having moved “up East” following the divorce. My sister had been Googling and was convinced that she had found our cousin living in Massachusetts.

You probably don’t know my sister, so let me introduce her to you. She swears she can see the ghost of our father and her first husband walking around her house, and claims personal responsibility for diverting a recent hurricane by sprinkling tobacco around the tree in her back yard, so you can probably understand why my first impulse was to tell her how improbable it was that this was really our cousin. But, the few facts that her search revealed were compelling so I threw caution to the wind and called him anyway. Nobody answered, so I left a message.

The next day my wife called me at work and said that somebody had called and left a message for me. When I called our voice mail system and listened to the voice I had no doubt: he sounded exactly like the cousin I have known all my life, his step-brother.

I called him back and confirmed the facts… he really is my cousin, and he has had absolutely no contact with his fathers family since his birth (he will be 72 years old on January 30). At this point in time it’s a little hard to tell who is more shocked by this turn of events.

He does not have a PC or do email, so this is all transpiring by phone calls and US mail (and back-channel emails between my sister and cousins), but from what I can tell we are all thrilled. We hope to entice him to travel to Wisconsin for a birthday celebration/family reunion we already had planned for June.

My sister is like, duh, why didn’t you just Google him years ago? I cannot convince her how improbably impossible this all is.

For those of us dealing with the real world of genealogy, I hope that this story reinforces the importance of always gathering (and documenting) all sources of information. But even more importantly I hope that this convinces us all to never give up… You never know when a series of facts are going to lead to that next great break-through.

A New Cousin