Reconnecting With Family — Finding Our Roots“How good it’d be to get my father’s family together,” was just a chance remark made by me to my husband John. But it was enough to motivate him to initiate plans for our first reunion. An event which reminds me of the sense of continuity and the feeling of security that my close and extended family provide. It became a special day for many reasons.My great-grandparents and their three sons — one of whom was my grandfather Thomas — emigrated from Britain in 1887 to an established English community in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now their descendants would all come to-gether for the first time here. This day had further significance for me since my husband also emigrated from England to the City of Brotherly Love and our two young boys, John and Joshua, are Anglo-American.How many of my relatives are still living? I wondered. I remembered my dad had a cousin who owned a real estate agency. I was amazed and pleased to find his name still in the telephone directory. Francis was 80 years old and still working from his office.“You’re Tom’s daughter,” he said. Your father and I were buddies as boys. I’ll have to tell my brother Ralph about you.” Francis went on to share some of his memories of my father with me. “Your Aunt Jane will be able to tell you where her children are living and where your Uncle Bill’s daughter can be reached. Wait a minute and I’ll give you her telephone number.”“Let’s get together,” I said. This was a good starting point.I reached Aunt Jane, now 90 years old, at her nursing home.“You’re my brother Tom’s daughter. You were only a baby when I saw you last. I will come to the reunion,” she told me.Through Francis and Aunt Jane I was able to locate many more family members. So with great excite-ment I sent out the invitations to relatives scattered near and far. The idea was received with much ap-preciation and enthusiasm. The day began sunny and warm with a refreshing breeze — a perfect May day for such an outing. John raised the “Union Jack” alongside “Old Glory” on the pavilion we had rented for this special Memorial Day event in a nearby state park in Flourtown. Close to 100 family members including many children came out. A few of our clan were unable to be with us due to their age and illness. My brother and his wife arrived from Arizona. Their children and grandchildren who live nearby also came. So together with myself, John and our two sons, we represented my father Thomas’s side of the family. When everyone had arrived and names placed in our book as a record, then our day began with a benediction by my second cousin Francis. It was obvious he found it an honor to be called upon. His voice shook with emotion. I felt touched by the moment.After the picnic lunch, the older children and most of the men-folk played baseball or horseshoes, hiked, flew kites or went fishing in a nearby creek, while the women socialized. Towards evening, a barbecue was provided. The younger children were delighted with activities and games with prizes. For me the most meaningful part of this day was meeting family for the first time and reconnecting with others. At our gathering that day I met my father’s sister Jane for the first time. Until our telephone conversation Aunt Jane was only a name I had heard.As she was leaving, Aunt Jane took my hand and with tears said, “You and your husband have reunited our family after all these years. Thank you.” I was deeply gratified to hear this. We had many long conversations during her last few months.Prior to this day I had spoken only on the telephone with my cousin Millie. I learned she and her husband were doing our family genealogy research. Millie had gone to the actual location of the search in England. At our gathering she told of her discoveries while tracing our family’s roots. She displaying a genealogy chart she had prepared and requested help from us in completing our individual portion for the family tree. Much of the information was obtained from a family Bible of 1847 and records provided by the Mormon Church. Now our sons can trace their lineage back to England on both their parent’s side.An unexpected surprise came at our reunion when my father’s half-sister Mary produced the missing information necessary for Millie to continue the genealogical search. Aunt Mary had brought along to the reunion some of my grandfather Thomas’s hand-written records—an invaluable genealogical treasure trove!“This is great!” announced Millie. “Just what we need!”“Do you think you could go to the county records office in Gloucestershire when you are in England this summer?” Millie asked me. I felt so excited to be asked to help in the search for our roots. This would be my family’s first trip back to my husband’s home-land since the birth of our sons ten years ago.I realize my husband gets homesick and misses his folks in England. I was happy to hear him remark, “It’s wonderful to have such a large family here in the U.S.” To preserve and celebrate our history Millie and I are collecting personal and family stories, background information and photos on living and deceased members of our family for inclusion in our soon-to-be published history book. It has been a challenge for us to sort out oral family history from documented facts. We have discovered many things about our clan while gathering their stories for this project. I learned that my grandfather served as Speaker of the House in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Today Millie and I are making slow and deliberate progress with tracing our roots. We travel to the source to examine microfiche of the original parish records and search Bishops’ Transcripts, census returns and probate records in county record offices throughout the U.K. The Internet is useful in helping us gather our genealogical research. Although she and I have encountered obstacles along the way and feel frustration at times, nevertheless we are excited about the prospects.When will I find my great-great-grandfather’s baptismal certificate?”I asked my husband after spending many hours in family records offices while on vacation each summer. It was an exciting moment for me to locate my great-great-grandmother’s baptismal certificate in a parish register, to sit in Tewkesbury Abbey where she was baptized, and to walk through the Medieval town in which she spent her childhood. And later on to find their marriage certificate in a parish register in Wales. Recently I visited the cemetery in Wales where some of our an-cestors are buried. We hope eventually to find the missing information on our elusive great-great-grandfather to enable us in our further search for our roots. Some day we may even locate members of our clan living in the U.K. An added bonus has been that I have a closer connection to England through on-site research so that when I return to Britain I feel more at home in my hus-band’s native land, too.Since that first get-together I have recommitted to visiting regularly with my relatives. Another reunion is in the works. John and I realize now the importance of family ties and reconnecting through reunions strengthens the bonds we treasure.“Why did we wait so long?” I keep asking my family._________An excerpt of this article was published in Reunions magazine, February-March, 2005 and Positively Woman (e-zine), November 2004.