Monday, June 6, 2011

Counting Cousins

Genealogy is very much about cousins. I grew up with plenty of cousins and through my research I am discovering more. I remember a conversation with friends when I was in school. We were talking about our weekends and my friend, Susan, was talking about her cousins.  She had gone to a park with one cousin and out for ice cream with the other cousin. I asked her why they didn’t just go all together. She said her cousins did not know each other. They were not related to each other.

I think that conversation remained with me because it was a totally new concept to me. My friend had cousins who did not know each other. All my cousins knew each other. My father, Delbert Keith Brown, was the oldest of seven children and my brothers and I have sixteen first cousins.  My mother, Alberta Joy (Gardner) Brown, however, was an only child. Holidays, picnics, summer outings were spent with our Brown cousins, our only cousins. We still see each other on many occasions, now with our children, a new set of Brown family cousins.

If you go back a step and count up second cousins the picture is very much the same. My father’s mother, Ivy Regina (Mark) Brown, was one of seven children, giving me thirteen second cousins. My father’s father, Roy Jesse Brown, was one of nine children, giving me thirty eight second cousins. Once again I have lots of cousins from my father’s family.

Compare that to my mother’s family. My mother’s mother, Helen (Coyle) Gardner, was the oldest of seven children but her siblings had no children. I have no second cousins from the Coyles. My mother’s father, Nathaniel Gardner, was the second of five children. He had two nephews, giving my mother two cousins. They and their descendants did not want to maintain a connection because of a difference in religion. 

That gives me sixty seven first and second cousins from my father’s family and two from my mother’s family. The scales are strongly tipped towards the Browns.

First Annual Cousins' Weekend
 It wasn’t until I delved into genealogy and internet research that I found cousins from my mother’s family. Discovering my third cousins was like digging up a buried treasure. I connected with Patricia Brady on the internet and we started sending emails and letters to each other. She had been gathering information for a long time on people I was just learning about. Patricia generously shared information that expanded my knowledge tenfold. Patricia knew of another cousin, Tara (Herbert) Cousins. Now I had two cousins who knew about my Coyle ancestors. Although we live in different states, we live in the northeast, within driving distance of each other. We decided to meet. We all drove to Waterbury, CT, the home of Patrick and Margaret (Brady) Coyle, our common ancestors. We were happily surprised to discover we all very ‘Irish’ looking, including lots of freckles! We were fortunate to find a restaurant that would let us sit and talk for a long time. It was a terrific afternoon.

The next year Patricia kindly invited us to her house for the weekend, our First Annual Cousins’ Weekend. We discovered we all love the ocean, seafood and antiques. Back with the internet, I found another Coyle cousin, Lisbeth (Timothy) Knapp. Emails flew between us.  She joined us in our Second Annual Cousins’ Weekend at my house. We had a BBQ and took a Hudson River cruise. 

My Mother's Cousins
The scales have not exactly tipped in favor of my mother’s family, especially if I count all the third cousins on both sides. However, it is wonderful to be able to talk about “my mother’s cousins”. Today we compare and share our Coyle and Brady photos, stories and other information. More than that we stay in touch and share happenings in our lives. We are planning our Third Cousins’ Annual Weekend, this year in Boston.  

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