THOUSANDS HAVE BEEN TOUCHED BY THIS STORY AS THEY LIKED, SHARED, AND RETWEETED IT ACROSS ALL SOCIAL MEDIA EAGERLY ANTICIPATING NEWS OF WHAT LUCKY PERSON WAS ABOUT TO HAVE 150 YEARS OF FAMILY HISTORY GOLD DROPPED INTO HIS LAP.
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Although I received messages from many family history fans who were eager to claim these vintage photographs and documents, I wanted to find the recipient with the closest ties to this collection which had been saved for a century and a half!
After examining the letters, report cards, and other documents, I determined that this collection centered on Marion Marshall who was born in 1891 in Allen, Texas. I began researching her family tree and discovered that the 1868 marriage certificate along with other pages torn from a family Bible had belonged to her grandparents, Frances Marion Marshall (1847-1891) and Laura Witt (1849-1899). There were also newspaper clippings and photos of her great-grandparents, Sgt. Hogan Witt (1824-1906) and Louiza Rattan (1826-1880).
I then utilized descendancy research to build the tree forward in time to find the closest living relative to receive this windfall. I was so pleased to discover that a grandson whom she and her husband raised was living right here in Dallas. After a few attempts to contact him and assure him that this was not a hoax and I was not trying to sell him anything, he and his daughter came to see what all the fuss was about.
They were astonished to learn that an anonymous benefactor had discovered these items in an old abandoned barn decades ago and knowing they were too valuable to discard, but not having any idea what to do with them, they had followed his family through 4 moves from house to house. Finally, one day this spring, he remembered me from doing previous genealogy research for his family and commissioned me to find the rightful heir and give it to them.
An avid family historian himself, he was overjoyed to receive never-before-seen items from his family, especially a tintype photo of his grandmother from the turn of the century. Although he had grown up in her home, he had never seen a photograph of her as a girl.
So, what is the moral of the story? Don't EVER throw away anyone's family history. It WILL matter to someone, some day. I often encourage clients to donate their family history research and collections to their local historical society or library when it seems that no one in their own family will want it. How much better for a generous, kind person to pay a professional genealogist to put it in the right hands? This story touched me so much, I can't wait for someone to do this again. I love playing Santa Claus!