I had my former mother-in-law, Ruth, and her husband over for dinner on Christmas Day. She's no longer married to my former father-in-law and from the use of the word "former," you can tell I'm no longer married to my husband as well. To add to the mix, she's really my former husband's stepmother, but the relationship endures. Technically, it's not a matrilineal line but in another way it is.
Because of my obsession with all things genealogy, I had looked into her family history years ago. On her mother's side, a book has been written which goes back several generations and is so intertwined with the local history that I discovered she and one of my closest friends and neighbor are related through a set of twins. I unfortunately had never been able to get far on her father's side of the family, though, and the stories her father told were often confusing. Her father passed away two years ago, just a month after my own father died.
So last night after a nice ham dinner, I sat down with her at the computer to see what else we could find. I have become rather practiced at picking up family lines and using a variety of searches (including Google) to discover at least some records out there on the internet.
Ruth knew her grandparents' names and typing in those along with the place of Lackawanna, NY, I came up with obituaries on two of her aunts who lived in Pennsylvania. Her grandparents had about ten children and there were lots of names that prompted Ruth's memories about the family. But we were hopeful of finding something on the earlier generations for which she has nothing but a blank slate.
Using Familysearch.org, I did find her grandparents in Lackawanna in the 1930 census. Then using the estimated birth dates, I was able to find her grandfather as a youngster in his father's household in 1920 and 1910. From those and other records we determined that her great-grandparents were Rollie George Backus born around 1882 or 1884 in New York of German descent and Jennie born ca. 1886 in New York. Rollie worked in the lumber business (at one point he was a machinist in a saw mill in a town in Erie County, New York). They had another child by the name of Phoebe (born about 1909) who appparently married a man named Lloyd Graves by 1930.
She was delighted with the information we found and I was happy about the progress we made as well. I take a lot of pleasure in being able to help people find something about their roots. As time allows, I will continue to dig around and see what else I can find.
We also have plans to take a trip in the spring to go the cemetery in Lackawanna where her grandparents are buried. Stay tuned!