Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Living-relative Connections

This post was created for the 40th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene on January 18, 2008.

I've been fortunate enough to make several "living-relative connections" over the past 12 years, but none more rewarding than that which occurred over the Spring of 2007. I was following through on a New Year's resolution to get back to my research after having cleaned out Mom's house in Liberty, New York. See, sometimes those resolutions are worth keeping!

In "The Box" were many photos that seemed to be part of the McCrickert line but one woman in particular could not be identified. Her graduation photo is above, taken about 1939 and her name was Dulcide Veronica McCrickert Sidden. My journey to her identity and the story behind a broken family began in early March 2007.

All I had to go on was this photo, and others of her with my great-aunt Ethel McCrickert Hannan, and a piece of paper listing the name "Dulcide Sidden." I worked from the presumption that Del, her more common name as I found out later, was Ethel's sister.

On March 7, 2007, I sent the following letter to the last known address for Del using the Social Security Death Index and the U.S. Public Records database at

"I am writing concerning a genealogy project involving the McCrickert family. Please excuse the formality of this letter – I made attempts to see if you had an e-mail address but to no avail. And I did not feel comfortable calling you directly lest you think this was some sort of scam or joke.

I have been researching my family’s genealogy for the past 10 years and I have recently begun work on the McCrickert side of my family. I did not realize until this past week that my great-aunt Ethel had a sister Dulcide. I am assuming that the Dulcide McCrickert in my family tree is the same Mrs. Harold Sidden, nee Dulcide McCrickert who recently passed away and was last listed at the above address. My condolences on your recent loss. I regret that I didn’t embark on this part of my genealogy sooner – it may have been possible to contact Mrs. Sidden while she was still alive and share information.

I remember my Aunt Ethel (who is actually my 1st Cousin Twice Removed) and in fact she lived with my mother Jacqueline MacEntee, in Liberty, Sullivan County, New York during her final years before she passed away in 2002.

My apologies if this topic is one that you’d rather not pursue – I understand that for some people delving into family matters and genealogy is not a happy venture. I would be very happy to share photos and any other info that I have if you are still interested. I am enclosing two descendant trees so that you will see where we all fit in terms of the genealogy.

Please feel free to contact me at my address or telephone listed above or you can email me at _______________. I appreciate your time and thank you."

I sent off the letter not really expecting an answer since I felt I was just taking a stab at making contact, and it was the first time I'd ever done something like that. Imagine my surprise when I received an e-mail response on March 27, 2007.

It was from Del's son, Harold Sidden, who is my 2nd cousin 3 times removed and living in Long Island, New York. He was able to confirm my original guess that Dulcide McCrickert Sidden was in fact the sister of Ethel McCrickert Hannan. My cousin was able to bring me up to date on his family and children and stated, "what a pleasure it is to hear from someone from that side of the family, I never knew that anyone existed. I never really met any of my mothers family, there was some sort of falling out when I was very small and I have no recollection of anyone."

So this would explain why, when Ethel died in 2002, there were no McCrickert relatives in attendance at the funeral, even though there were many relatives, including her sister Del, still living about 120 miles away.

Over the next few weeks, right before Easter (we celebrate the Orthodox Easter in my household and last year it happened to be the same date as everyone else's Easter), my cousin and I exchanged emails and scanned photos and even an hour-long phone call. These pieces of the puzzle were great to review and look at, but with some information as to the "why" of the rift, they really didn't fit together. Soon it would all make sense.

John B. McCrickert, husband of Elizabeth McGinnes McCrickert and father of Ethel, Del, Grace, John Jr. and Matthew (deceased in 1946), passed away in December 1955. To the left is a photo of Christmas or New Year's Eve Dinner in 1955/1956 at the home of Harold and Del Sidden.

Elizabeth, to the far left, had just lost her husband John two weeks earlier and had moved in with Harold and Del. Within a month, she too would pass away.

It was soon after both parents had passed away, that the rift took place, and as these things usually happen, over something that in the big scheme of things now seems rather petty.

It appears that Elizabeth had left her jewelry to Del including her wedding rings which seemed to upset the other sisters, Grace and Ethel, who were older and always inseperable. So one evening, their younger brother John Jr. went to Harold and Del's house, demanded the return of the jewelry and a fight ensued. Words were said, Del was struck and the police were called resulting in John's arrest.

After that, it seemed that no one among the siblings was on speaking terms with the other. And it would remain that way for the next 47 years. Only Del had kept in contact with my great-grandmother Therese McGinnes Austin for many years until her death in 1988. Del would later pass away in 2006.

Sleuthing does pay off, and taking the chance at making a "living relative connection," while initially awkward, can reward you in different ways. You may find valuable data and great photos but you also may find sad stories of a family fractured.

Sometimes I wonder how it would have been if I had known Del and could talk to her about a branch of the family that I am only now beginning to discover. I could have found out more about her brother Matthew being killed in a plane crash in 1946 and more about her mother's side of the family, the McGinnes branch.

And if you are still reading, I'll get on my soapbox for a minute: if you are currently in a similar situation, please see if you can still bridge the rift with that relative and make even a small connection to maintain. Personally, I've not been on speaking terms with my brother for the past 3 years and my father for the past 32 years. And I can't lecture others if I'm not willing to do the same myself. So, I'm off to make some calls right now and I'll fill you in on how it goes.


Lee said...

32 years?!? And you're going to call him today?!? This is huge!!! Yes, keep us informed. Just remember, dear man, that as much as we may want to, we cannot fix everything. If, for some reason, it doesn't go well, just know you are a better man for trying.

Terry Snyder said...

Tom, I read your post (I try not read them before the carnival but what can I say, I'm weak). I can imagine the excitement as you and your distant cousin exchanged emails back and forth and answers to some of the family questions became clear.

I agree with Lee about you being not only a better man for reaching out and making calls to estranged family members but also a brave one. No matter what happens, I have such respect for your courage.

Terry Snyder

Terry Thornton said...

Thomas, Practice what you preach --- a good policy! And I'll close with a paraphrase of our friend Terry Synder's words:

Most of us live in that gray area between the extremes of evil and saint. We live life the best we can given the variables we have to deal with. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we get it just right.

Reaching out is sometimes difficult --- but I admire you for trying.

Apple said...

You are braver than me and I wish you good luck. I haven't spoken to one set of cousins since my grandmother died in 1970. I haven't spoken to another set since shortly after my grandfather's death in 1984. Petty? Yes. Easily repaired? I wouldn't know where to start. I just tried to make a connection with a cousin I've never spoken to. No rift there, just a dysfunctional family. Even if I don't follow your advice and attempt reconciliation I will talk to my kids about who's who and what was what. Maybe like you, a future generation will fix things.

Thomas MacEntee said...

I really appreciate everyone's support on this issue. Although it seems impulsive to make the calls it really isn't - I've been processing it for a few weeks now. Writing this post really just helped cement the decision.

I will keep you posted as to my progress!

Tex said...

I hope the calls went well. Life is too short not to try.

For years, I watched my dad "take it" from some parts of the family--or at least what I perceived as "taking it." He's gone now, and now that I'm a bit more mature :-), I try to follow his example. I'm grateful for even the sometimes thin connections to that part of the family that could easily have been fractured years ago.

Congrats, and again, the thing is you did the right thing by extending a hand.

Chery said...


That kind of pain is a lot to carry around, isn't it? I do hope the calls went well, and you are such a brave person for making them. Time has a way of softening all pain and anger, and sometimes others just need someone else to take that first step. Congratulations on being willing to be the one.

Colleen said...

Good Luck, Thomas! I hope the outcome will bring about the process of peace.

Jewelgirl said...

I understand this so well, after
finding 2 lost cousins after 30
years and reconnecting them to
their sisters. (one cousin was happy, the other was reluctant about being found). I wish I could of found them earlier. 30 years
is way too long to wait.

Janice said...


You offer some excellent advice about bridging some small rifts. However in some families there are larger rifts (how about having a sibling who sold property out from under an aging parent who in turn sued them in court)? There are some rifts best left in place.


Anonymous said...

Hi I am Karen (Risdell) Guisti. I like you info about my Aunt Dels Family. My mom Helen was Her husband Harold sister. Very Interesting info.