This is a long story about how two people who met 40-something years ago met again recently. But first some back story…
Very old history
Between 1890 and 1903, an English family had six children — four sons and two daughters. We’ll ignore the two girls for this story as one stayed in the same English town her whole life; the other came to live in Australia, but she isn’t part of this story.
Two of the sons went to Canada as young men and joined the Canadian armed forces. One (Alfred) died in World War One while fighting for Canada in Belgium; the other (Fred) was declared medically unfit for service and remained in Canada for a while. Another son (Jack) emigrated to Canada and joined Fred, then Jack emigrated to Michigan to work and to start a farm. Meantime, Fred went back to England and then he and the youngest son, Charles, emigrated to Western Australia (1923).
Charles was my grandfather, and Fred and Jack were my great uncles. Fred died in Western Australia in 1967, so he’s not part of this story either. Jack remained in Michigan his whole life, although he did take a trip back to England in the 1970s to meet up with Charles and the sister who had remained. Jack died in Michigan in 1995, aged 95. Charles lived in Western Australia from his arrival in 1923 until his death in 1981.
Jack had three children — two sons (H and C) and a daughter (J). All lived in Michigan for much or all of their lives, with only C moving to Florida and then later Iowa. All married and had children (my second cousins).
For those who know I have family in Michigan, it is H’s family whom I visit.
1970s and 1980s
In the early to mid 1970s, some of the distant family from Michigan were living in Sydney, Australia and on their circuitous way back to the US, they stayed in Western Australia with my parents for a few days and then with me (in Perth) for a few more days. I was never quite sure how we were related (like most teenagers, I had no interest in the family tree then), but have since found out that Jack was a nephew or cousin of Joan, who was married to C. Jack’s wife at the time, Judy, was with him, and it was Jack and Judy who visited me. In other words, they were likely 2nd or third cousins once or twice removed! And only related by marriage to C. Judy was even further distant as she was related by marriage to Jack and then he by marriage to C. It’s complicated…
When Jack and Judy were staying with me, they gave me a sweatshirt from Michigan State, a sweatshirt I wore with pride for several years before it wore out! At that point I had never been to the US — and nor had most Australians — so to have a sweatshirt from a US university was a ‘big thing’ 😉 This sweatshirt appears again later in this tale…
In the mid-1970s, I lived in Carnarvon, Western Australia and would occasionally go out fishing with friends. Yes, this is relevant…
Skip forward to the mid-1980s, which is when I lived in Canada for a year. I visited my Michigan family twice that year — once at Easter when I first met many of them, and then again at Thanksgiving (or thereabouts). I spent most of my time with H and his family, including my great uncle Jack, but never met H’s daughter S as she lived away from home at the time.
Are you still with me?
1990s and 2000s
During the 1990s and 2000s, I had the opportunity to travel to the US on numerous occasions, and whenever I could, I visited H’s branch of my Michigan family. At some point, I eventually met my second cousin S and her family. She moved around a bit in the intervening years, but eventually settled in northern Michigan, some three to four hours’ drive from H and the rest of his immediate family.
Early October 2014
In the week before I left on my recent NZ and US trip, my husband and I were watching an Australian food show — ‘Paddock to Plate’. The host/chef was in Carnarvon and showing the produce from there, including some pink snapper he had caught. During the 1970s when I lived in Carnarvon, I caught a couple of magnificent pink snapper and told my husband that the TV host’s fish were just tiddlers compared to what I’d caught. I went to my old photo albums and found a photo of me proudly holding up my pink snapper, which I showed him.
His first reaction was ‘Is that you?’ followed by ‘Why are you wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt?’ So I briefly told him that some people called Judy and Jack gave it to me and that they were from Michigan and had spent time with me in Perth many years ago (about 40 years ago!), and that they were distantly related somehow. Neither of us thought any more about it, though I did wonder what had ever happened to these distant relations of mine, and thought I should ask how they were related to me when I got to Michigan in about 10 days’ time.
To be honest, after that sweatshirt went into the ragbag, I had completely forgotten about Judy and Jack in the intervening 40 years. When you’re not even 20, you really aren’t that interested in relations from afar 😉
Mid October 2014
I hadn’t been staying long with H and L (his wife), when L mentioned that Judy was now working for S in her store in northern Michigan! And when I later got to S’s town, I met Judy again, some 40 years after last seeing her! She is S’s right-hand person in the store, and they didn’t know each other or that they were vaguely related by marriage until relatively recently.
Judy had been a customer of S’s for a while, then S offered her a job. At one point after they started working together, something came up about a school (a small high school in rural Michigan, three hours away), and they did the ‘Do you know so-and-so…?’ thing and found out that S’s uncle C and his wife were related to Jack, Judy’s ex-husband of many years.
That was freaky enough, but when S mentioned to Judy recently that her cousin Rhonda from Australia was coming to visit, they put two and two together and Judy realised that it was me — the person she had stayed with in Perth all those years ago! Much squealing and ‘OMG’ing ensued, I believe 😉
So after 40 years, I got to re-meet the person who had given me a sweatshirt that I remember so fondly. Judy and her husband had dinner with us the only night I stayed with S and her husband, and we marvelled at how spooky it was that we’d caught up again and the circumstances. Especially as I’d only talked about her less than two weeks before.
As I said, cue the Twilight Zone music about now…
Judy and I are now Facebook friends 😉