Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mining My Cousins on Facebook

This is the wedding portrait of my maternal grandparents, Milo and Nannie Becker Flanders who were married April 18, 1906 in my hometown, Great Bend, Kansas. At the time of their marriage Nannie was 18 and Milo was 22 years old. This is a list of their children:
  1. Ethel was born in 1908 and married in 1925
  2. Cleo was born in 1912 and married in 1933
  3. An infant son was born in 1914 and died a week later
  4. Pearl was born in 1916
  5. Albert was born in 1918
  6. Mervin was born in 1921
  7. my mother, Ruby, was born in 1925. 
Pictured above back row left to right: Cleo, Mervin and Albert. In front left to right are Ethel, Ruby and Pearl.

I included the marriage year for Ethel and Cleo because in my life it was significant. Ethel was married when my mother was 2 months old and Cleo was married when my mother was 8 years old. Their children were closer in age to my mom than the kids of her other siblings. My Uncle Cleo moved to other parts of the state as his children were growing up and I didn't have much opportunity to meet them or be around them.
When I was a toddler my mother and father divorced and my mother moved to another town in Kansas, remarried and had another family. Since we lived with our dad, my twin brother and I visited Mom frequently as children, but more infrequently as teens and young adults. For that reason, we had many cousins with whom we never became acquainted. Uncle Cleo's oldest 2 daughters fall into that category. I'd heard of Marlene and "Ginger" but don't recall ever meeting them. Over the last 10 years as I've developed such a consuming interest in our family history, I've tried to find and contact my cousin Virginia (whom I knew as "Ginger"). I got a listing of her children and husband's name from my Uncle Mervin, but had limited ways to contact them, other than just a cold phone call. I'm not much of a telephone caller so I hadn't done that yet. Earlier this week I printed a descendant list from my genealogy database on RootsMagic and sat down to Facebook and started searching for names of cousins. I found Virginia's surname and entered her children's first names. When the first one came up, I searched that individual's friend list and found other names that were on my descendant list. I knew then that I had the right cousin. I sent a request to be my Facebook friend, explaining that I was a cousin and how we were related. Within 2 days I was connected to probably 10 of my cousins in that family. The bonus is that I've received emails now from some and some have shared their photos on Facebook. I've even viewed a picture of my cousin Virginia with her great-grandchildren. The connection has only begun. Over time, I'll contact Virginia and get better acquainted with her children and grandchildren. All of this has been possible with just a click of the mouse, a few minutes of my time and absolutely no expense!
In addition to finding descendants of my Uncle Cleo, I re-connected with cousins who are descendants of my Aunt Ethel and have been able to become friends of their children, her great-grandchildren. Seeing the photos is such a benefit of connecting on Facebook, as well as chatting and just saying a quick "hi".
In the photo above are my grandmother and most of her siblings. From left to right are Mabel Becker Lillich, Esta Becker Batchman, Lew Becker, Edna Becker Smith, Bert Becker and my grandma, Nannie Becker Flanders. These brothers and sisters were very close and felt much love for each other. They visited one another as often as possible and spoke lovingly of each other. Notice that they're holdings hands and have arms wrapped around each other.
Over the past 10 years I've been very blessed to connect with descendants of Esta and Edna and have been well supplied with genealogy information on their families. Only during my "Mining for Cousins" on Facebook this week was I able to connect finally with descendants of (Grand) Uncle Lew. He has a LOT of descendants too! I've found and become Facebook friends with more than 15 of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren in the last few days.  
I was delighted yesterday to share messages with another cousin who is the granddaughter of my Uncle Albert. This is a screen shot of her Facebook wall after meeting me:
 
She added that she thinks I'm a "genealogy fanatic", which she finds "awesome"! I'm so flattered by that! Thank you, Riki! Her comment reveals how grateful she is, too, that we've discovered each other and can fill in gaps in our families stories and share photos that are so treasured.

Now today I'm able to be in contact with 30 more cousins than I was a week ago, thanks to this wonderful new social media available to us all for free. My "mining" has only begun. I look forward to getting better acquainted with many of them and am hopeful that I can gather more family photos, personal stories, and make my genealogy database more complete and current now that I am connected. Perhaps some of us can actually become FRIENDS and not just Facebook "friends".
My Grandma Flanders and my mother, Ruby Craine would be very happy for me! I'm happy for me!
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