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I know some folks whose family trees look very neat and tidy, with the names and vitals of only those folks who are their ancestors. I think perhaps they are more interested in pedigree than family history.

You couldn't fit all the people in my family tree on a neat and tidy chart, because I research the collateral lines also.

I care about the lives and times of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and the greats and grands before them.

I also care about the ones they married - the ones to whom I am not related by blood, but whose lives are inextricably interwoven into my family history.

Sometimes I get ragged on about that - from friends as well as family members.

So it was a little gratifying tonight to see why those collateral lines, and the spouses of the people represented by them, are important.
I opened my email and found my monthly Callaway Family Association e-newsletter.

I always look forward to this one. My great-grandmother was a Clark County Callaway, descended from the line of Peter I, who came to this country as an immigrant soon after his birth in 1640. His family settled in Somerset County MD when Maryland was still a colony.

As there usually is in each newsletter, there was a "mystery" Callaway for readers to chew on, to see if we could get a definitive identification.

Only as I read the letters to Cicero Marion Callaway, written in April and May of 1849 from the journey to the fields of the gold rush, I didn't have the same reaction as the newsletter writer.

The letters are real gems - very newsy and chatty - and are signed, "Rueben Son."

CM and Louisa Callaway had a son named Rueben all right - but he was born in 1850, and may not even have been a gleam in CM's eye at the time the letters were written.

So I sent an email to the newsletter writer, asking:
Could the Reuben who wrote to Cicero Callaway about the gold rush have been the brother of CM's wife, Louisa (Son) Callaway?

I got a very prompt reply.
Hi Dee,
I think he was signing it meaning "your son, Reuben". At least that's what it seems like to me.

And to that, I replied:
Okay, I just thought since Louisa had a brother named Rueben who was born in 1826, it was most likely him.

And I still do.

ETA: This evening (9/2), I received an email from the CFA newsletter writer saying she had contacted the Callaway descendant who donated the letters to the University of Mississippi. He confirmed that Rueben Son, who authored the letters to CM Callaway, was the brother of CM's wife, Louisa.

My research has shown that Rueben Son did go to the California gold mines as he told his brother-in-law he would in the 1849 letters. In the 1850 census, he was in a gold mining camp in Placerville, El Dorado Co., CA.

Various family trees say that Reuben Son died in Shasta, Shasta Co., CA two days after Christmas in 1857, at the age of 31.
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Before I started this blog, I had a pretty steady stream of email contacts from both my activities on Find a Grave and my online family tree.

I'd get one or two email contacts a week, asking for more information or clarification, or search tips on brick walls. That's in addition to the handful of people with whom I have regular, ongoing email correspondence - usually collaborative research. A far-flung Bowden cousin is steadily sending me information about burial locations for just about all the Bowdens he has in his family tree. We share some, but not all of those.

Since starting this blog on Halloween last year, I get twice as many weekly contacts as I did before. They mention they found my blog in the email. Some of them post comments on relevant entries, but not all.

This week - starting on Sunday - all the contacts have been about collateral relatives, and the people they married. I've learned some really neat details about the people who are the subjects of a search.

So this week, I am hunting death dates and interment information for some people I didn't even realize existed prior to the contact.

For me, these contacts are so illustrative of the ties shared by so many people. Like ripples across a pond, we exist on a web - some of us directly connected, others not.

This week's email exchanges with some very delightful and passionate people makes me realize (once again) that even if I haven't yet fleshed all my collateral lines, or don't know who great grand-aunt Susan married, they are still connected to me.

It's just a different perspective.


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Dee Burris Blakley

August 2017

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