Family history is a group sport. The Internet is in play. And everybody wins!

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Since my last blog post, I’ve been wrestling day and night with a giant family tree–using information sent to me by a third cousin. He found me on the Internet, of course. He asked me a while ago to verify his research, person by person, and help prepare materials for archiving at the South Carolina Historical Society.

I agreed. His goal was my goal, too. Research for this third cousin’s tree is connected with research for my own family tree.

He and I have great-great grandparents in common. They lived in the 1800s, a man and wife who occupy the narrow waist of a sizeable “hourglass” tree. For my cousin and me, eight descendant lines (many of them from the 1600s) converge in this one couple. These lines all begin with original immigrants.

Here are our common great-grandparents:

Fraser, Boone, Kirven, McCutchen

Hannah Atkinson Boone Fraser (1808-83) and Captain Ladson Lawrence Fraser, Sr. (1804-89)

The original immigrant surnames that feed into this couple are Boone, Croft, Fraser, Johnson, Lynch, Patey, Pinckney, and Vanderhorst. Gratefully using my third cousin’s material, I’ve filled out these early lines during the last six months. I’ve posted stories about several people belonging to these families.

But last month, with added prompting from my cousin, I was introduced to six more original immigrant lines: Bradley, McCottry, McCutchen, Montgomery, Wilson, and Witherspoon. I realized then that I am connected to all of these families. It is all one tree, by descent and by marriage.

I was up against the full range of my cousin’s material. He and I both had a lot at stake here. How could I NOT do everything possible to verify his research, enhance my own, build an enormous tree, and create huge descendant printouts for the SCHS archive?

Family connections were calling. I put aside Twitter and my blog posts. I rolled up my sleeves.

It’s lucky that I’m obsessive and compulsive, ho ho! This job took several hundred hours.

When I began this last push, the family tree stood at about 1,200 people. Now this tree, which joins my cousin and me and many others, embraces over 1,800 people. The supporting documents, historical and genealogical, amount to many times that number.

This third cousin and I will meet in Charleston on July 19th at the South Carolina Historical Society. We have an appointment. They’re ready to take our submissions into their archive.

And that is the reason I’ve been absent from my blog and from Twitter, for weeks now. Sorry, everyone. I’ve reached a stopping point, and I’m back.

Yes, this tree is far from perfect. Each piece of data is not exhaustively proved. But each person does have genealogical documentation. This project will be grist for further research–by us as well as others. My cousin and I have photographs to add, and scanned handwritten documents, and original letters, and . . .

Internet connections can feel magical, like postcards from the void.

I had several other surprise connections during my time away:

(1) A Presbyterian missionary from the Congo (see my last post) reached me through my blog and offered to take a photo of my relative’s grave in Bulape. So generous of him! I’ll try to reach my relative’s living family members and send them the photo.

(2) Two living mixed-race relatives contacted me by email, “out of the blue,” with friendly thanks for my genealogical posts on the Internet and for my family-memoir book. I was thrilled to hear from them, and I plan to keep up this correspondence. They descend from my 1st cousin 3 x removed, who died in the Civil War fighting for the Confederacy. History, go figure.

(3) In an attic box at another cousin’s house, I found more than a dozen small books: journals kept by Ladson Lawrence Fraser, both Sr. and Jr. (See the photo of Sr., above.) They owned slaves. One of these books lists the birth dates of slave children under each mother’s name, across a span of 60 years. This information could help people today in their search for enslaved ancestors. Here is a sample page:


Next week I’ll begin to transcribe and post this journal here. The more connections we can make between past and present, the better.