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Stories from our family trees

Jack Brockley | Jul 29, 2019

A tree and a book

We asked Kiwanis Update readers to tell us about their genealogy research. They tell how their quests have strengthened their families. They tell of discovering lost relatives. And they give advice for others who may be searching for their family roots.

“We have created the family tree, complementing this work with a family reunion that includes a program of music, dance, song, poetry and memories by delegates from each wing of the family.” 
Martha Andrade Posso
Kiwanis Club of Atuntaqui, Ecuador


“My initial idea was to gather information about family members from our local library. … When I realized that I was related to most of the people in the town (Berne, New York), I decided I would do a genealogy of the entire town, which has since been expanded to the four Helderberg Hilltowns of Albany County. My research now has 80,000 individuals of whom some 25,000 are my relatives. My high school class of 34 students held 17 cousins. I became the town historian for some 20 years, and my daughter is now historian for two of the Hilltown communities.”

Advice: “When others ask for your help, ask them to reciprocate by sharing their knowledge.”
Ralph Miller
Kiwanis Club of the Helderbergs, New York



“At 53, I didn’t even know my father’s name. … My DNA test turned up a match for my estranged half-sister. … We rebuilt our relationship and started finding common names from my mother’s side. … One day, my DNA test results turned up a second-cousin match. My sister followed up (on the information) and called to tell me that my father was still alive!”

Advice: “Stick with it. Hang in there. Things have a way of working out.”
Lisa Wick 
Kiwanis Club of Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada


“My ancestor, Thones Kunders came to America in 1683 with his family and fellow Quakers. … A plaque at his home read: ‘On this site stood the house of Thones Kunders, one of thirteen settlers of Germantown. Here was the first meeting place of the Society of Friends in Germantown. From members of this meeting went forth in 1686 the first formal protest in America against human slavery.’ How proud I was to read about my eighth-great grandfather and that he put his name to a document that professed freedom for all.”
Penny Fuller
Kiwanis Club of Charles Town, West Virginia



Advice: “Verify family stories. Visit places your ancestors lived. Use on-line resources.”
George Dixon
Kiwanis Club of Waynesville, North Carolina


Advice: “Just have fun. It can get tedious at times; so, turn it off for a while and then go back and enjoy.”
Nancy Witte
Kiwanis Club of Denville, New Jersey


Advice: “I talked to all the old people living in the villages where my mum and dad were born and got do much information.”
Hansa Naran
Kiwanis Club of Waiau Pa, Clarks Beach, Pukekohe, Auckland, New Zealand



My favorite story was in thinking that my nationality was German and Irish until I did a DNA test and found out I was Scandinavian and Irish.
Stephen Kieffer
Kiwanis Club of Ute Pass-Woodland Park, Colorado

Advice: “Create a file for every individual you are researching and keep a copy of everything you find for that person in the file. 
Daniel Rogers
Kiwanis Club of Augusta, Georgia



“On my mother’s side, I am related to the U.S. presidents John and John Quincy Adams. I am told we are not rich because one of our relatives did not believe in banks, and his barge sunk as he was crossing the Hudson River with his family, along with his chest containing the wealth of the family.
William Umstetter
Kiwanis Club of Istrouma, Louisiana



“Through Ancestry DNA testing, I contacted a young lady, who matched me as a possible third cousin. Her dad died in a car accident when she was young. …. I checked some family notes and found his name (confirming our relationship). … What she really wanted most of all was to see a photo of her dad. She never knew what he looked like. In the end, she got a picture of her dad, his brother, his grandparents and of me.”
Janice Williams
Kiwanis Club of Waycross, Georgia


“As a young boy, one of my fourth great-grandfathers was playing with a couple boys along the River Shannon in Ireland when they were kidnapped and brought to Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), where they were sold at auction. They were treated harshly, and the government took them away from the owner. My ancestor was bought by a North Carolina planter. … He was taken care of, schooled and fought in the Revolutionary War. He married his benefactor’s niece … moved to Tennessee, and his descendants have spread throughout the country and the world.” 
John Loggins
Kiwanis Club of Third District, New Orleans, Louisiana

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