When the “Hunter” Becomes the “Hunted”
Over the holidays I experienced an event that many genealogists tend to initiate. I received a voice mail message from a gentleman who said he was “certain he was related to me” and could I please call him back right away. Now, this has happened to me before. Since I’ve been doing genealogy and even more so since I’ve published my books, I’ve had folks contact me saying they shared one of the surnames I was researching and “could we be related?” What made this message stand out was the fact that the gentleman said he was connected to me on my Alzo side of the family. In the 16 years I have been researching my roots, I have only had one other person contact me saying they were researching the Alzo name. So, needless to say this message really piqued my interest and I picked up the phone and returned the call.
It turns out that this gentleman was absolutely correct: We are related. He said that he read my book, Three Slovak Women and also showed the book to his mother who recognized many of the names in the book and who as a young girl lived where my family did in Duquesne, PA. His mother said she used to stay with her “aunt and uncle, John and Elizabeth Alzo” in Duquesne. When this gentleman first told me his mother’s maiden name, I did not recognize it as a surname on the Alzo side of my family tree. However, as he continued to provide details, he mentioned the name “Frena”and then the bells went off! It turns out, his mother’s mother, Mary, was my grandfather John Alzo’s sister. She had been married in Slovakia and had a daughter, also named Mary. Her first husband died of influenza and the two left there to come to America. In order to support her daughter, Mary went to work and my grandparents watched her daughter. Then Mary met a man, John Frena whose wife had died and he had three children. After the two married, they had three additional children. Mary (the daughter) went to New York to work when she was a young woman so I never met her. She married and settled there. And the best part is, Mary is still alive and at 89 still has an excellent memory! I was able to speak with her by phone and she remembered many members of the Alzo family including my late father and his sisters (all deceased). She said she even has pictures from the old country!
And, here I thought that my father was the oldest living member of his family and that when he passed away so did my final link to the past. It just goes to show you never know!
After an hour long conversation, we agreed that we would meet in person some day soon. It turns out they only live about 4 hours from me so I plan on making a road trip in the near future. I can’t wait to meet my newly found cousins!
This is one time I am glad that the tables were turned and that these relatives found me (apparently they have been trying to reach me for awhile – e-mails they sent bounced; but finally they were able to find my phone number!). So, the lesson here is when you do genealogical research and you put it out there for others to discover you never know who may contact you. I am used to being the “hunter” when trying to find family members or ancestors, but this time I was the “hunted”! And I couldn’t be more delighted!