Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Meeting a SAYERS Cousin

A couple of weeks ago, I checked my old e-mail address at Juno. I had it for years, and when I switched to Gmail, decided against closing my Juno account, as I had done online genealogy for so many years using that e-mail address. Every few weeks or so, I'll check on it, delete the piles of spam that have accumulated, and find a few messages from people that were unaware of my address change.

One such person was my cousin, Beverly (STRACHAN) STRONG, a fifth cousin, once removed and fellow descendant of William SAYERS, Sr. (1758 - 1860) and his wife, who we believe had the maiden name of GILLESPIE. Scots-Irish they were, from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. We know they had at least five children: William, Jr. (Bev's ancestor); Catherine, who married Stephen MARTIN; Henry; Gillespie; and John (my ancestor). We know from a history of the Martin family that some of these Sayers children came from Ireland c. 1830 with a group to the Bay of Quinte and settled in what is now Prince Edward County (not to be confused with P.E. Island), Ontario, Canada. A year or so later, they sent for their widowed father along with wives and children they had left behind in Ireland. Imagine being around 80 years of age, leaving the only home you had known, and boarding a wooden ship in order traverse the stormy Atlantic! Perseverance and luck played out, and William, Senior lived to the ripe old age of 102 before passing away in 1860 in Hungerford Township, Hastings County, Ontario.

William's descendants multiplied, as descendants will do, and today they can be found not only in Ontario, but in Alberta and British Columbia. Some of them crossed the border from Western Canada and resided in Western Washington. My particular ancestors, children of William's son John, headed southwest from Prince Edward County and settled in Muskegon County, Michigan. I've done a great deal of research in Muskegon County vital and cemetery records and found all sorts of branches of the SAYERS and related families, piecing them together and adding them to the family tree that Bev had begun to build.

I connected to Bev years ago (I just checked my files and it was in 1997) through another SAYERS descendant, Marge (DAINARD) McARTHUR, who had seen my information online (probably on a message board) and had called me from B.C. to tell me there was a whole tribe of Sayerses out there! Bev and I, and Marge and I, began corresponding and sharing information in earnest, along with a few other Sayers descendants we picked up along the way. For a while, we had a Sayers Family Website at that was fairly active, until it became a subscription site (no one wanted to pay the high cost of storing all the family photos on that site).

Bev (my dad's age and generation) and her husband, Ron, were for years directors of their local Family History Center in Alberta. While volunteering there, she went through roll after roll of microfilmed Ontario vital records and extracted names, dates, and places not only of the SAYERS family life events, but also those of other Bay of Quinte ancestors she was researching (DAINARD, WANNAMAKER, WESSELS, McCAMON). She and Marge and quite a few of the Sayers are descendants of many pioneers of this colony; I am not. Bev, out of the kindness of her heart, looked up my WILKINSON surname and extracted what little she could find out of those microfilms for me (William, Senior's granddaughter, Mahala Sayers, was my last Sayers ancestor, and she married John WILKINSON).

A few years ago, Ron and Bev applied to serve a mission for the LDS church, and fortune most certainly smiled upon them, for they were called to do a two-year mission at...the Family History Library in Salt Lake City!!! Now on leave, they are traveling around visiting family and friends, and it was Bev's message in my Juno inbox that I found not long ago, asking if it would be an imposition if they dropped by on Labor Day. Of course I jumped at the chance of finally meeting her after 10 years of correspondence, and I'm so glad we did! What fun we had visiting! Their descriptions of serving in the FHL were truly amazing! The logistics of coordinating thousands of volunteers for the Family History Library and Church history archives must be staggering; yet the FHL runs like a well-oiled machine. As we covered everything from genealogy to the latest matter concerning, we ended up discussing a topic we had in common: working with the disabled. It seems that the LDS Church accepts their developmentally impaired members for missions as well. Paired up with a non-disabled person, these missionaries are able to contribute to their community and church and help further the cause of genealogy. According to Ron and Bev, the library is also well-equipped to handle disabled patrons, no matter what their needs may be.

After visiting for a few hours, the Strongs took us out to dinner. We had an enjoyable meal together, then wished them well, as they continued their journey. Such a sweet and pleasant couple, so interesting and was nice to make new friends that were also family!

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