Before I begin this post, an important note: Most, if not all content on this blog is CC-BY-SA licensed. This particular post is © Erica J. Baker, All Rights Reserved.
I found my Uncle on Facebook.
Sounds pretty mundane, run of the mill right? Many of your family members are on Facebook, I’m sure. To grasp this, let me back up for about oh, 50 some odd years.
My grandma went down to Saint Petersburg as a young woman, I’m not sure why but I know she ended up working at a local business. There she met a man. They conceived my father. The man then went…somewhere. My dad was born and never knew his father or who he was.
Fast forward to 1997, as my grandmother knew her days were getting short. She told my dad the circumstances of how she and his father met and also his fathers name. My grandmother passed away shortly thereafter.
Fast forward again to 2005 or so. I started becoming extremely interested in my family tree and history. I asked my dad what he knew of his father and he told me his fathers name, as told by his mother. I immediately did a search on Ancestry.com for the name. No matches. I didn’t pay much attention to it. I hadn’t known my grandfather for 25 years and it wasn’t that big deal a that I couldn’t find him. I assumed either my grandmother remembered the name incorrectly or my grandfather didn’t tell her his full name.
Fast forward again to 2010. I had my dad do the the Big Spit (23andMe test) and he’s got many Relative Finder matches. His paternal haplogroup is one of great interest to several people in said haplogroup. These results reinvigorated my interest in trying to find my paternal grandfather. Once again, I turned to Ancestry.com. Once again, nothing. This time though, I decided to be a bit more persistent.
Let’s rewind to 2005 again for a moment. The internet was still all about search and finding information useful to you. Facebook was still private. MySpace was being purchased by NewsCorp and was still for music artists and teenagers, for the most part. Friendster had a brief explosion of interest and use but was fizzling out. In 2005, the concept of social networking just hadn’t yet reached the masses.
Things have changed here in 2010. Facebook has just reached 500 million users and I can easily strike up a conversation with both my future mother-in-law (hi Lynne!) and my dad on the site if I so desired. Social networking is not just an idea a few sites are toying around with, it has permeated the internet.
That was my thought process when I decided to take a pretty drastic (for me anyway) step on June 12, 2010; I searched for every person with the last name Anderson (of course this is not the real name) on Facebook and emailed anyone that looked to be any parts of African-American. The first person I emailed was also the first person to respond and he was who I thought I was going to get the best response from. I mean, he looks like my dad looked 20 years ago albeit a little shorter.
I sent him a message and got a response that I had mixed feelings about. On the one hand, he knew a David Anderson! On the other hand? This David was from Georgia and everything my grandmother told my had to do with a David from New Jersey. I decided to wait for other responses before chasing down his since it seemed unlikely to be a match.
I’d also sent a message to a person also named David Anderson. He didn’t have a profile picture (well he did but it wasn’t of himself, it was an inanimate object) but I decided to take the chance that he may be related in some way. He responded to my message with the following: “Lol ha Yeah i know him very well, thats my dad call me 555-555-5555″
What? Wait what? This guy is my uncle?! But…he’s younger than me! Composing myself, I asked more questions and eventually called. We compared details about his dad and my Dad’s dad. Lived in New Jersey? Yep. Lived in Florida? Yep. Born around the same time? Yep. Throughout the conversation, I was the one providing details and he was the one corroborating so my guard was up. Maybe he just responded positively to mess with me. Then he added his aunt (my great-aunt) into the mix. She was as skeptical as I was. Wouldn’t you be? Who just randomly pops up out of the blue like “Hey! I’m your brothers 30 year old grand-daughter! Holla!” She and I spoke on the phone and told me she’d talk to her brother about the situation.
She was true to her word. The next day, she called me back. She spoke to her brother. He remembered my grandmother. He’d like me to call him.
No way. I was still in disbelief and shock. I took down his number and never called. I did speak to the other David again and while we were talking, he put me on hold. When he came back, his dad, my supposed grandfather was on the phone. A month later I still shake my head at this. I talked to this man who we thought to be my grandfather but I was still skeptical. I asked him how he knew and met my grandmother and he called her his girlfriend. Said they worked together in Saint Pete. Said where they worked in Saint Pete. Highly interesting because I had no idea what my grandmother did down there. Once we got off the phone with him, I called my dad. Asked him what my grandmother did in St. Pete. He confirmed what the man on the phone said. The man who was supposed to be my grandfather. The man who is my grandfather.
Still on the phone with my dad, I asked him if he was sitting down. He was, watching some show on the Discovery channel. I asked him if he’d like to know his fathers phone number. The line was silent for what felt like 5 minutes but probably was only 30 seconds or so. He said yes. I asked him if he was shocked, he said yes. I gave him his fathers number.
The next day, I called my dad back and asked if he’d called his dad. Yes, he said, but they were going to have talk again later. Talk they did. 3 weekends ago, my dad went to meet his father for the first time. At the same time, he met the rest of his family at their family reunion. 3 days ago, he and his younger (by 25 years) brother had lunch.
My dad now knows his dad. Sorry if this is a bit dramatic. I’m all weepy-eyed as I type this because it still floors me. I can’t even begin to imagine how my dad feels right now.
All because of a search on Facebook.
The internet is a powerful tool. We truly live in the information age and it is remarkable, yet only in its infancy.
P.S. The person in message #1 is actually related. The real last name (no, not Anderson) turns out to be fairly uncommon. Also? Hate finding typos where my fingers skipped over a word because my brain was moving too fast. I do that a lot, as evidenced by the typos in the messages in the images above and likely in this blog post.
P.P.S. Thoughts expressed in this post are mine alone and not my employers, blah blah, etc etc.