Sunday, June 5, 2016

Reconnecting with Family on Collateral Lines

Growing up, my sister and I never really got to know any of our extended family very well, especially the children our ages. I only had one aunt; her two children were the only cousins I knew and they were 10 and 12 years older than me. I have fond memories of shooting hoops with my cousins when I was about 4 or 5, but soon after that, they were too old to play with us. They were heading off to college and getting married. All my friends in school would come back from summer vacation or Christmas holidays, talking about all the fun they had with their grandparents, cousins, and other family members. As I listened to all of their stories, I longed to have that type of family.

My grandmother was a major part of my life. My parents divorced when I was young, and she moved in with my dad to raise me and a younger sister. She was the only grandparent I ever got a chance to know. The others were all deceased. She would take me to visit her sisters whenever we could make the trip. I got to know three of them; Mary Wickliffe Burnside, Lela Wickliffe Dunnahoe, and Lola Wickliffe Richardson. When we lived in Corpus Christi, we visited Lola. She had one son and I do not recall ever meeting him. Later, we moved to Dallas and Lela and Mary lived in Terrell - only about 40 minutes away. Lela never had children, and we visited with her the most. Mary had three children and several grandchildren. I only met them a few times over the years on these visits. This is a picture of my dad with my grandmother and my grand-aunt Lela.

I remember listening to my grandmother and her sisters as they recounted stories of days gone by. I remember my dad talking about his cousins and how they played marbles, went crawdad fishing and other exploits. They had all been so close in their younger days. Why didn't my generation get a chance to know the other cousins? Maybe it was the physical distance that prevented us from being close to the younger members. I always assumed they moved away from the area. Maybe it was the fact that the older generations, having all ready raised their own children, would rather reminisce with kin their own age, or maybe there was another reason. I never questioned it when I was a child and now it is too late to find out the answers.

The other day, while doing research on collateral lines, I came upon an obituary for the daughter of Mary Wickliffe Burnside. Her name was Helen Josephine BURNSIDE. I remember seeing her maybe three or four times in my life when I was young, but I recognized her picture immediately. She still looked the way I remembered her. She passed away 5 weeks before I discovered the obituary. She was listed as living in Forney, Texas - that is only about 30 minutes from me. I never knew that she had lived so close. The obituary also listed her children and they are all in the area. In the last couple of years, I have found numerous records for extended family within a short driving distance of where I live. Unfortunately, most of the records show it is too late to connect. They have gone home. If only I had researched the collateral lines earlier. It would have been nice to have sat down with my relatives and learned more about them. Instead, I have spent years only working on my direct ancestral line.

Genealogy isn't just about researching the ancestors who have gone on ahead of us. It is about connecting or reconnecting with family. In so doing, we learn more about ourselves. Today, I am more determined that ever to work on descendant research of the collateral lines. I want to reach out to those long-lost cousins to learn more about my heritage and to swap and preserve family stories.

Do you have collateral lines you know nothing about? I challenge you to research those lines and see what you can discover.