Christmas came to our house on Apr 30th this year. Years ago, I saw the diary of my great grandfather, David Lewis Drew, in Copperopolis, California. One of my older distant cousins had it in his possession. He allowed me to take one photo of it and then sent me on my way. When I developed the film, none of the photos on it were any good. The film stock was bad from the factory.
When my cousin died, his attorney called and asked if I had anything coming to me. I mentioned that my cousin said I could have the diary, but that was the end of the conversation. I never heard from him again.
Last week, a second cousin in California found my website and sent me a note. She'd had the diary in her possession since the death and had recently looked at it with renewed interest. Searching the web, she found my family history website and sent me a note
Long story short. The journal is sitting in front of me as I write this note. I can't keep it but I'm touching it and will scan the pages. They contain all my great grandfathers recorded thoughts during his first year in California during the tail end of the gold rush. He left Plymouth, Massachusetts, sailed down around the Cape in a very long voyage and joined the rest of multitudes who were looking for their fortunes.
Over the years, several folks from around the country have contacted me about the diary. Their ancestors are mentioned in its pages. One of them is a professional genealogy speaker and uses my site and the entry about her great granduncle in her speeches. I just talked to her and am going to send her a copy of the image for that page, etc. She is as excited about it (her soon to be “held” treasure) as I am about my good fortune.
Looking at the names of great grandpa’s mining partner and other associates, I decided to find out who they were in life. Two of the three men he partnered or worked with in the gold fields were his distant cousins! In fact, his primary partner, Len Covington, was a distant cousin seven times over. That happens when families live in the same area like Plymouth, Massachusetts for three hundred years before the descendants start to scatter around the world. The other part-time partner was ‘only’ a cousin four times.
Did these fellows decide to leave Plymouth for the wild and woolly gold fields in California together? I’m trying to trace down any ship passenger records to see if they traveled together. It was a very long trip across land and many of not most of the folks from Massachusetts who participated in the gold rush traveled went by ship. Apparently, some of the intrepid young men opted to sail through the Gulf of Mexico and hike across Panama where they took passage on another ship to Sacramento.
The remainder took the long journey south around the Cape of South America and then back up the west coast of the Americas to Sacramento. No matter which path these folks took to find their fortunes, the trip was long and arduous.
Now for the rest of the story... Also in the package were a dozen photographs of David Drew's family in California. Working from the smallest photo to the largest, I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I think I have a photo of my brick wall ancestor, Thomas Farrar! I've looked for him for over 50 years. I can't prove it yet, but will spend considerable time trying to find out the truth behind the photo.
Next were photos of all of David's children except my grandfather (he ran away to Utah at age 16 and apparently was disinherited from the family).
I was finally down to the last photo. It is in the largest old mounting cover. Opening the flaps, I found a photo of my father and aunt when they were youngsters. It was obviously taken during at the same photo setting as a photo we have but none of the living descendants of my Utah Drew grandparents have ever seen this pose before. It is in mint condition... Wonderful... AND I like the pose better…
I know a few of you have had similar experiences like this during your own ancestral quest and can appreciate my excitement.
Christmas presents? They are nothing. It was Christmas at our home on April 30th. The photos and diary are valued beyond price in my opinion.