The discovery of a Pennsylvania cousin who has lived in Cobb and Douglas counties for the past 28 years has given me encouragement and determination to meet more family and to finally honor the name which was my identity from birth.
We’re calling this person Cousin Ray. He is the grandson of my father’s only brother. He and his wife and their daughter and two granddaughters paid us a visit recently. It caused quite a stir, with us and with them.
One of the granddaughters, Sophia, is the same age as our oldest great-granddaughter, Regan. Unlike Regan, Sophia has no nearby cousins, and she was very excited with this sudden turn of events.
I had hoped to listen in on any conversation the two of them might have had, seeing that Regan has just entered kindergarten, and Sophia has just begun first grade. (Their birthdays are six months apart, splitting the school year.)
But listening to any conversation at all that day was not easy once the children entered the picture.
We all managed to get acquainted, and by the time the visit was over, it was well past bedtime and it was obvious that we were related. We felt like we had been to a family reunion, instead of to a first union.
I realized at the end of the day that this was the reason I had searched and researched. These children would never have known each other had we not persevered in our efforts.
Although the girls are not first cousins, for Sophia and her big sister, a cousin is a cousin. Our own little children have more first cousins than they can count, and when we figure out what kind of cousins these are to them, perhaps they will be somewhat impressed.
For the last few months Cousin Ray and I, along with my daughter Sarah, have corresponded and he has graciously shared information on the family tree, forwarding emails from his five siblings and exchanging stories about our common kinfolk.
During his visit we spent some time looking through my father’s scrapbook, a gold mine of clippings and photos, and a few enlightening pencil notes about his personal life.
I was anxious to share this with Ray since he never knew my father except through family rumor and supposition, much like myself!
I am finally beginning to know the person who was my father, and who was present in my life for less than three years.
He was 50 years and five days old when I was born. My mother was 18. I was born in Denver where, according to city records, he lived for about six years, and where he probably never returned after my mother came back to Georgia.
Neither his brother nor his own family (wife and children that I knew nothing about until his death) knew where he was for most of two, perhaps three, decades. He went back to Pennsylvania to live with his brother a few short years before his death in 1961.
By then I had found him and established communication. In letters that we exchanged, he remained very secretive.
We’re beginning to uncover some of those secrets, and they are not all bad. He loved opera; he read, a lot; he was fascinated with astronomy, leaving pages upon pages of drawings and charts in his scrapbook; he pursued knowledge to such lengths I can’t describe here.
In his scrapbook, he had made a list of his bad qualities and admitted there that he read too much, was too self-conscious, and was an introvert.
He had told my mother that he spoke seven languages, and she heard him play piano enough to believe that he was, as he told her, an accomplished classical pianist.
In his scrapbook he listed his occupations … many and varied, including railroad station agent, school teacher, grocer, coal miner, orchestra leader, common laborer, telegrapher, stenographer.
He even worked at a “filling station”…remember those?
In those days of the Great Depression, a job was a job, but regardless of the economy, he seemed to be a wanderer.
When I found him in 1954, he had just retired from his position as manager of the Woolworth’s in Barberton, Ohio. In true Ed Snyder fashion, he was then the janitor at the Knights of Columbus Hall there.
Sarah and I are going this Labor Day to a century-old annual community picnic in Pennsylvania where the Snyder/Schneider families gather.
We hope to meet and embrace a whole new passel of kin. Wish us well.
Juanita Hughes is retired head of the Woodstock Library.