Several years ago while cleaning out my attic I found a small box left by a previous resident that contained pictures, eyeglasses, letters written in the 1940’s, and a few other tidbits. As a genealogist I knew how much any living descendant would appreciate these artifacts, and I set out to find someone from this family.
There was just enough information in the letters to allow me to begin a family tree. Whenever I hit a brick wall on my own family I came back to this little mystery.
The two main people of interest were: SARAH E MIILES (born Sarah Elizabeth Slutts on 11 Oct 1862 in Lee, Iowa, d. 01 Jan 1956 in Polk County, Iowa, married to Phineas Young Miles b. 15 Jan 1850 in Lee, Iowa, d. 24 Oct 1929, buried in the Corydon Cemetery, Wayne County, Iowa), and her sister MARY BELL HUNT (born Mary Bell Slutts abt. 1867 in Van Buren County, Iowa, d. aft. 1943 in Keosauqua, Van Buren county, Iowa, married to John C Hunt b. abt. 1861).
Over time I made a lot of progress, but I never was able to make the leap to somebody in the family who was still alive.
I subscribe to the RootsWeb NORWAY mailing list and am impressed by the level of knowledge exhibited there, so one day I posted what I knew and hoped for the best.
Just four hours and twenty seven minutes later I received a reply from Ron. He had already traced the ownership of my house using on-line records and started comparing names to the family tree I had assembled. He had also found some possible connections in the Social Security Death Index, which led him to an on-line family tree with names that matched those I had, and had contacted the owner of that tree to let her know that I was looking for a contact.
I received more updates over the next few hours from others. Meanwhile Ron happily went about filling in more blanks in my adopted family’s history. My post back to the list the next day says it all:
Dear Jerry, Joan, Hank, Dennis but especially Ron:
I watch the postings on this list on a regular basis and so I should be used to the skill, talent and generosity that is demonstrated here every day, but still I am overwhelmed… thank you all so very much for all the suggestions and the help!
Best of all was this email a few weeks later:
Hi, I got an e-mail from a Ron about the box you found in your attic. I think it may have been left there by my husband’s uncle Elton McClanahan, listed on your tree, and I would dearly like to have it. Elton was my father-in-law Richard’s brother (both now deceased), and lived in Texas around the time you mention.
My husband is Richard’s son. You have Elton, John and Kathryn listed on your tree, but there were also Richard and Robert born to John Newton McClanahan and Maude Miles (5 children total). Maude was Sarah Slutts and Phineas Miles daughter.
Richard, my father-in-law, now deceased, did a lot of genealogy and I am now working on it extensively. Elton was called Mick by the family. . . .
Thank you so much for posting about the box. My father-in-law cared deeply about his family heritage and I am trying to finish what he so arduously began, before sites like ancestry.com were around.
More email messages confirmed that I had the correct family. I heard from her again while she was waiting for the package I had shipped.
I can hardly wait to read the letters and see the ‘tidbits’, and to read what you have found out. I am really grateful to you for your efforts to get the box to our family. I am sharing what I find with all our family members. . .
My father-in-laws middle name was Phineas, after Phineas Miles. I wish he (dad) were still around to see all this. He’d be so thrilled….somewhere he is smiling!
I heard from her again after the package was delivered:
Thank you SO MUCH! The package arrived today and my husband and I are so excited, as are our sons. It is in fact photos, letters and items from my husband’s family on his father’s mother’s side…. and we are ECSTATIC. . .
Nobody in the family has ever seen any of these pictures or knew about the items…. and so this little box which means SO MUCH to us [was] found and cared for by you.