September 2, 2009 Filed in: Family History
Before jumping into Ancestry.com, I had been dabbling in Internet genealogy off and on for a couple years without success. My father had given me a hardbound geography book, which had belonged to a “Garrison S. Welch” in 1857. Certainly a relative with my surname, but what does the “S” stand for? There were other names inscribed inside the cover: Peter B. Welch, George Welch, and others. Who were these people? Dad knew none of them, except for George: “I suspect that was my grandfather.”*
I’m skeptical of the supernatural and paranormal, but one day a self-proclaimed psychic friend had a “message from beyond” for me from “Melvin.” She didn’t know that my grandfather’s name was Melvin and that he’d been dead for 12 years. According to her (or Melvin), it was important for me to learn my family heritage. The very next day, I stumbled across a website containing the keywords I’d entered: “Garrison Welch.” A whole new world opened up to me.
The website I found was created by a Welch decendant, including transcriptions of notes from a family reunion in Ohio in 1937. Hm... I was born in Ohio. There was a link in the sidebar—Garrison. Click.
Oh, boy! Oh, generations of boys! Spelled out for me there was—no denying—my ancestry! And “S” stood for Smith: Garrison Smith Welch, whose son was Peter Bevelhymer Welch, whose son was George Hamilton Welch. George Hamilton? Yes! I knew that was my paternal great-grandfather. Dad had also given me a bunch of McGuffy’s Eclectic Readers with handwritten inscriptions inside the covers: “George H. Welch’s Book, Presented to him by his Grandpapa, Feb. 18th, 1892.”
I emailed the website’s creator, and we compared notes to verify that we were indeed fourth cousins, once removed. And my hobby had officially begun, as hours and hours were spent transcribing and entering data—names, dates, etc.
Most of my life, I had wondered what my family story was. Why had there been such a disconnect? Why were stories no longer told about our ancestors? Why were their names lost even to my immediate family? Perhaps I should thank my grandpa (Melvin)—posthumously—for helping me reconnect. Finally, I feel as if I’m discovering my story—the story of the Welches. If there’s an afterlife, maybe Melvin is hanging out with his dad, George, and his grandpa, Peter, and his great grandfather, Garrison, and his 2x great grandfather, Martin... and all their children. Now if only grandpa would come back and tell me who Martin’s father was!
*UPDATE: The real identity of this George: see “Mysterious Fingerprint”