Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Different Type of Tree

A few years ago, I joined ancestry.com attempting to trace my father's line. Unfortunately, as far as my father's family tree- I kept hitting brick walls. My mother's side of the family seemed to flourish in all different directions. It was tempting to go off on all sorts of wild goose chases, but I stopped myself realizing some of these connections were simply too far removed and not even blood related.
On the tree, hung a single solitary leaf named Margaret Tollefsen. She was my Grandfather Hansen's* first wife. My grandfather and his wife went to China as missionaries and Margaret S. Tollefsen Hansen died with Typhus fever in 1921. It was more than a year later that my grandfather married my grandmother, Letta Teuber. Grandpa Hansen and Margaret had no children. (even though they had been married 15 years) I left her on the tree because she was a part of my grandfather's life and although I did not know much about her, I thought it was important to keep her there.
One day I received an email from someone in Hawaii. She told me her name was Debbie and she was very excited to have discovered Margaret Tollefsen on my family tree. Margaret Tollefsen was Debbie's grandfather's sister and the only thing her family knew was she went to China and died. They thought my grandfather had also died. She was thrilled to see he remarried and had children. We shot a few emails back and forth filling each other in on details the other might not have. For Debbie, Margaret was not just a lone leaf on someone's family tree: she was an important limb on her own family tree. I'm so grateful I did not prune my family tree!
Frederick, Margaret & Olaf Tollefsen
*Grandpa Hansen is my maternal grandfather

7 comments:

  1. I thought this happens only in movies. Very interesting read.

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  2. That is a great story. I really enjoy seeing tales like this shared, rather than kept to oneself.

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  3. I'm wondering if you'll keep in touch with Debbie now.

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  4. Cool post! I love this type of thing. I keep hoping my father's brother may have sired some kids in France, where he lived for a while, that might turn up some day on my doorstep and tell me they want to share a fortune (while we are at it, we may as well embroider a bit more on the story) but nothing like that ever happens to me.

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  5. @ A, Mark - I love when this type of thing happens

    @ Alexandra- ah, don't we all wish for someone to come to our doorstep and tell us we have a long lost wealthy ancestor :)

    @ Bike Lady- we've exchanged emails and letters (snail mail) letters- in fact, she sent me the picture which I put at the end of this post.

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  6. I find this quite interesting. It should be a great way to re-unite with family with more migrations.

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  7. @Ajeya- Ancestry.com is a really great resource. I'm not sure how great their international data base is- I know when I attempted to find out about my husband's family tree in Malaysia, it was almost next to impossible using ancestry.com-- I'd be curious about the India connection though.

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