Kristin Butcher

Pieces of the past found in the attic

  • Dec. 1, 2016 1:00 p.m.

Research generally finds genealogists rooting through the past for hidden ancestors. Recently, however, I had occasion to use the past to hunt down someone still alive.

It was Thanksgiving, and my daughter, Sara, who had moved to a century-old home in London, Ontario last spring, had found two pieces of the past hiding in her attic crawl space.

The first was a yellowed obituary from 1962 for Ethel Arbuckle Humphrey, and the second even more interesting discovery – dog tags for Arthur Humphrey dating back to World War 1.

Wishing to return these treasures to the Humphrey family, Sara began a search.

She put a call out on Facebook and soon turned up Arthur Humphrey’s army service record.

Using the information in the obituary, she searched Canada 411 for Ethel’s daughter, Joan, and found two possible relatives nearby.

Fascinated, I asked if I could join the search. So she gave me all the information she had gathered – which was considerable, and off I went to Ancestry.ca.

I found Arthur Tillbrook Humphrey immediately, and things snowballed from there. We discovered that Arthur and Ethel were married, and that they’d had two children.

On Ancestry, I found photos, dates, names, and all sorts of connections. A 1970s census provided the link from the Humphreys to my daughter. The Humphreys’ daughter, Joan, had once lived in Sara’s house.

Recognizing that we definitely had the right family, I visited the trees of Ancestry members, who were researching the same people we were. Convinced there was a family connection, I left a message for a fellow named Bill in Innisfil, Ontario.

Then I found another promising tree owner named Kim. When I mentioned it to Sara, she reminded me that one of the Humphreys’ grandchildren was named Kim.

So I sent a message off to her as well. Eureka! I heard back from Bill, who confirmed that we had indeed tracked down the correct family, and that the person I wanted to contact was Kim, who, like Sara, lived in London.

He even provided her phone number, which I passed along to Sara.

Unfortunately, there was no answer and no voicemail. However, Kim replied to my Ancestry message as well and provided a different number.  That one did work.

Sara called Kim that evening and Kim came to the house the next morning to collect her family heirlooms and share the history of the house.

How’s that for a wonderful Thanksgiving?

Dog tags and an obituary lead to a fascinating genealogical hunt.

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