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Reunions, One by One
By Melody Lassalle

As genealogists, we sometimes view relatives in terms of what we can get out of them. What information or clues do they hold? What photographs are in their collection? We may not realized it, but genealogy gives us many opportunities to give back as well. There's not much more rewarding than passing on new found information. Even more rewarding is reuniting people who have lost touch for decades.

Many of the people I have met on my Portuguese side have a connection to E25th Street in Oakland, CA. On my Mom's side, it's difficult to find a person who was not born there, brought their family there, or lived there in old age. This cycle went on from ca 1906 to the mid 1960s. The family was very close and the Portuguese community surrounding it was very strong. My relatives ruled that road!

Over the years, people moved out of Oakland. Some of the older generation moved to the rural communities of Monterey County that reminded them of their early years within Kauai's sugar cane and Spreckel's sugar beet plantation communities. The younger set left for bigger houses and better jobs in other parts of the Bay Area. The bonds that held the community together from 1882 on Kauai through the 1960s in Oakland were shattered.

In the early 1990s, I begin my family tree research. There were very few members of the immediate family left and I had hardly anyone to quiz. I didn't let that stop me! I began seeking distant cousins. Didn't matter how distant. If they grew up in Kauai or Oakland, they had a story to tell.

As I've taken from their memories, I have been able to give a little back. I was able to put my Grandma in contact with a few of her in-laws--people she lost contact with almost 50 years earlier when she and her first husband divorced. I found my Mom's first cousin and now he, my Mom, and Grandma have renewed connections after 30 years. I have also put other cousins in touch with each other. If in the course of conversation they mention a name, I make sure to let them know if I've found that person.

So much with genealogy is the taking, but the rewards come from the giving. Being able to reunite folks who have not seen each other in 50 odd years is a wonderful feeling. You never know, it could work to your advantage. As those individuals reminisce, they might bring up a story or a detail that enhances the family tree.

© 2004 Melody Lassalle

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