20    May 20100 comments

Success: The London Connection

Traveling to other countries provides an opportunity to reconnect with family.

In February, that's exactly what our genealogy and translation manager Daniel Horowitz experienced. He had traveled to London to represent MyHeritage at the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE family history fair.

His visit enabled several SINGER branches to meet once again. The family has its roots in Czernovits, which was in Austro-Hungary and is today in Ukraine.

The SINGER Family (c1930)

Daniel, born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, knew there were branches in London but didn't know much about them, except that they didn't talk to each other!

How did this all start? His father's cousin Renee visited Daniel in Israel and they talked about their lives and Daniel's upcoming trip to the UK:

"Renee asked if I knew about our London cousins and, of course, I knew about our late uncle Lothar," says Daniel, who adds that "about 25% of my current family tree is due to Lothar's work in the early 1970s, when he compiled a complete tree for my father's mother's family."

However, Daniel didn't know about his sons and other descendants. He once tried to contact Lothar's wife, but she wasn't very interested.

Renee reminded Daniel about their other cousins in London, including the sons of Dorica ( Lothar's cousin) and said she had met them when they visited the Israeli family a few times.

"My information on them was limited to their names and a few dates," shared Daniel. But, by the end of Renee's visit, he had received a very detailed family update, including the children on each side and previous family contacts. 

Most important was the information that the two London branches didn't talk to each other because their parents had experienced some problem.

"This was the perfect trigger for a genealogy quest," says Daniel, "and only encouraged me to meet with the cousins on my trip.

Renee provided phone numbers and email addresses and Daniel began contacting the cousins. He explained the reason for his upcoming London trip and that he really wanted to meet them.

"Their responses were all cordial and, to my surprise, they agreed to a small family meeting," he said, although it took many emails and phone calls to schedule a meeting with as many cousins as possible at such short notice and with a hectic business schedule.

"The first thing I asked them was to bring as many old photos or documents they could find," said Daniel. "I gave them access to my MyHeritage.com family site, so they could see what I already had for them and they could add new information."

They did.

One cousin couldn't make the planned get-together, so Daniel met him a few nights earlier. Over dinner, they talked about their families, and updated each other with information on the past 50 years.

"We had each heard the names before, but now I knew exactly what questions to ask. He told me about his father and the pre-WWII stories he had heard: How his father had been in the Russian Army and later with the partisans, how he had been involved in illegal immigration to Israel where he later moved, and how he got to London.

"My cousin found, in his parents' home, many photos with inscriptions on the reverse, along with a completely new family tree of which neither of us was aware. This was new information for me, and what you might call a moment of serendipity! It was the perfect preparation for our family meeting a few days from then."

Together again in London (February 2010)

Cousin Andre selected a restaurant in Piccadilly Circus. Three cousins were already there when Daniel arrived.

"I introduced myself and explained how we were related. They had brought photos and we began sharing information about our parents and grandparents. Mervyn arrived a few minutes after me.

These were cousins who had always lived in the same city and had lost contact for more than 20 years. Now reunited, they were beginning to recall their memories, sharing and comparing photos with each other. And I was there to hear all the stories."

Daniel learned about their childhoods, the family they visit in Israel and Brazil - which was a new lead for him - as well as  family that visited them in London. There was also all the gossip and family secrets buried in everyone's collective memory.  

"Not everything was revealed that afternoon and, of course, nobody knew exactly why their parents had stopped the contact between them, but it wasn't really important any more.

"I now have contact with family of which I hadn't been aware, and this is just the beginning, thanks to my cousins in London."

When will you visit your family in other countries? Let me know about similar experiences you have had.

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