Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Cousins We Will Never Know

I use Google Alerts to track a few of my less common surnames. Any time one of these names is mentioned online, I get an email notice and a link to the piece.

Today I received a Lenertz alert in my mailbox. On top of the list was an obituary from Minnesota, where my Lenertz came from and left 100 years ago. I didn't have to check my database to know there was a connection because I recognized some of the names in the obituary.

The person in question was my third cousin, once removed. I'm not going to put his name here out respect for the family, as well as to keep the search engines away. I do not know this person or his family. I just know how we are connected.

Our common ancestor was Alexander Lenertz (1826-1879) who had many children including sons Michael and John. Michael spent his entire life in Mankato, Minnesota while John left for Oklahoma.

I read this obituary and compared our different paths in life. The subject of the obit descends from Michael, who stayed in Minnesota and worked in the quarry. I descend from John, who took his geological knowledge to Oklahoma and built a life there.

The deceased in the obituary and I experienced completely different lives in different parts of the country because of the decisions of two brothers over 100 years ago. Our paths never crossed (or did they?) but we have these people in common.

Where am I going with this? I have no idea, but I'm just fascinated with all the connections we have to people we will never know. 

One fact I did find interesting from the obituary was that the subject loved to make homemade beef jerky. My dad (his third cousin) does, too. Must be a Lenertz thing.


  1. I know exactly what you mean. I have a Google alert set up for my maiden name, which is so rare that anybody with the same spelling IS related - no question. But I will probably never know any of these people, even though we are definitely cousins. Not sure if I should pester them into talking to me or not.

  2. I find living cousins all the time. They're in my tree but they don't know it and I don't feel right pestering them. I am open to sharing information if they want to contact me though.

  3. I swear by Google Alerts and my Blog. Both bring me so many connections I may not have ever made!

  4. I have never used that thanks for stopping and writing this up.

  5. I love Google alerts. I've had several similar alerts, and I'm always sad when its an obituary for someone I COULD have contacted!

  6. Great post, Amy. I sometimes feel that I have so much in common with some cousins through the sharing of a not too distant common ancestor, even though we have never met and yet we are quite distant at the same time because of the different paths our families may have taken.

  7. Amy I love Google Alerts, I am just having trouble getting the key words right! I did finally start using quotes and that helped a bit. Thanks for the tips, I always learn something new here.

  8. This is one of the many cool things about doing genealogy. Making those connections with relatives we never knew and sharing info on common ancestors....sometimes getting info we never would have gotten otherwise....is always so rewarding. For example, I joined DAR about 15 years ago, and at the time, had to use a census record indicating how long a particular couple had been married to prove their marriage, because the court house where their marriage certificate would have been kept had burned years ago. Many years after joining DAR, I met a cousin from this same branch through the Internet, and she sent me a photocopy of the ORIGINAL marriage certificate of this very same couple....they had been married in 1870, and someone in the family, on a whole other branch than mine, still had the certificate. There are amazing finds to be made out there.

  9. i have never used google alerts but you have shown me how useful they can be.