This past Sunday (28th February) I decided to look for my father’s side of the family. My journey later me to many different homes. The first stop was to see Aunt Joan in Lamont, NY.
The First Stop – Aunt Joan
Upon arrival, I found an abandoned home! Driveway filled with snow, windows missing, and bramble as tall as I am. It was disheartening. I had hoped to meet with my aunt, because she would know where my dad is. With her not there, I did not know where to go from there.
The Second Stop – Reisdorf Farm
I left and headed to the Reisdorf farm, a foster home I was in for my last two years of “childhood.” A place I loved and enjoyed. It was tough at times – getting up to milk cows before dawn, feeding chickens, collecting eggs, and muck out pens from the overnight – all before boarding a bus to school.
I was excited to see it on the horizon. As I got closer, my heart sank. The house was abandoned and the barn was sagging. The pastures replaced with fields. The machine shop was open to the elements. It was hard to see a place I loved go to waste. I stopped and spoke with a neighbor, and he stated that the owners had passed away and the farm was sold to a larger farm down the road.
I knew that the day would not be wasted because I had found my Great-Aunt Norma on Facebook and was looking forward to seeing her later in the day.
I left the farm with sadness for the lost but hope to find my cousin Howard in Warsaw, NY.
Third Stop – Howard’s Place
Figuring that my Aunt Joan was no longer in her home after 30 plus years, that she would be with her son Howard. So with hope to seeing them, I drove to their last known address. Upon driving up the steep hill to the house, I noticed debris in the yard. The garage was missing. Then I saw the house! The second floor – broken windows, charred soffit, and smoke damaged baluster. The house had caught fire. Frustration and grief collided when I saw this. I parked, got out the truck and stood there wondering when this happened and if anyone was hurt or killed.
A neighbor come up the hill and stated it happened on a Sunday a few weeks ago. I asked about Howard, and the neighbor stated that Howard and his family moved out a year ago.
I asked if he had a contact for Howard. He stated that Howard worked at the local school as a janitor and had no other way of reaching him. The neighbor apologized for not having more information, I said it was no problem and left.
Fourth Stop – Father’s House
My next stop was at my father’s home at Dale Hill. To see if the family or anyone was there. Knowing that this was the last possible location of finding anyone on my father’s side, let alone finding my father.
As I pulled up to the homestead, I discovered a unplowed driveway and snow-fence blocking it. I parked and walked in, hoping to see some life. Nothing. Front house was empty and looked like someone was working on it at some point in the past. The back house was dilapidated and covered with tarps. The creek that ran by was filled with running water from the snow covered hills.
I felt defeated. I had hoped to see father and the family. No avail. Nothing but abandoned homes.
Fifth Stop – Lunch
Stopped at a local dinner and sat there thinking what to do and how else can I reach my family. The Information Age was working against me. Here we can look people up and find them. Every search lead to a paid website that “promised” leads.
I ate, pondered about all I been through this day. Hopeful to see my Great-Aunt Norma, my mother’s aunt before she moves to Georgia.
Sixth Stop – Aunt Norma
I pulled into her driveway and she came out to greet me. Wow! She reminded me of her mother, Loella, my Great-Grandmother, who passed when I was 16.
I gave her a hug. We talked about her move and about my mother’s family history. Got some great stories – which will be written about later. Upon leaving she gave me a set of books from the author, <<<<, a poet that Grandma Woolley had received from the author in 1928. I also received a genealogy of the Woolley family, and I cannot wait to apply this information to Ancestry.com.
Finally, Uncle Doug, Aunt Norma’s husband gave me an app that would help find my father’s family. We typed in Howard’s name and there it was!! An address. Finally, I might be able to make a connection!!
Seventh Stop – Howard’s New Address
I pulled into the driveway and immediately recognized Howard and his brother Charlie. What a feeling of happiness to find him. I asked how things have been and if he knew where is his mom, Aunt Joan, was. He stated that she move to Sloan, NY a couple of years ago with her boyfriend. Wait, Sloan, that is only minutes from where I live!! He also told me that the house in Lamont was going to be demolished.
I asked about my father. Come found out that father was only two blocks away! Oh how excited I was.
My visit with Howard and his wife was brief and sweet.
Final Stop – Father’s New Address
This was the end of a long journey. To finally see father after five years. Nervous. Excited.
I went to the door, knocked, no answer, I hesitated. Finally, the door cracked open and father looked surprised and puzzled in seeing me. The visit was brief, father was in a daze, glad to see me. It felt weird like I was intruding.
One Final Stop – Casey
As I was leaving fathers, my Great-Aunt Norma called, she wanted me to see my baby sister, Casey, before I headed home. I was initially not going to meet with her, but Aunt Norma said she was at a department store working and told Casey I will stop in. I have not seen Casey in 10 years. I was nervous about seeing her. Wondering what she looked like.
I went. I asked at the Costumer Service desk for her. As Casey came from the back, I was surprised to see that she finally gained weight and looked healthy. When I last saw her, she was a walking twig, sickly looking. Man, did she look so much older. I could see mother’s features in her. We chatted briefly and exchanged numbers.
I left with happiness knowing I got to see my father, the cousins, and my sister. I felt good on seeing my Great-Aunt Norma before she leaves to Georgia. All the visits were brief, to the point. I spent the next hour reflecting on seeing the family and what will happen next in this journey.