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Sunday afternoons were created for hours lying on living room sofas; strolls along shaded sidewalks, and slow page-turning novels. But sharing tea on a Sunday afternoon with a cousin not seen in decades, brings new knowledge to years of back-bending, teeth-grinding, genealogical research.

The Internet can bring forth communication amid distant cousins throughout the world; connecting and overlapping between Tulsa and Toledo and Detroit and Dublin. But discoveries and a reacquaintance of cousins renewed through the virtual web, when actual physical distance is less than two miles, is a refreshing surprise. Which is just what occurred when I opened my e-mail last week; an out of the blue contact from a cousin, living just "a short skip" away.

A tea time was quickly set and the meeting held. A swift mutual recap of lives was shared, and then we each showcased our genealogical doings. Files stuffed with records and documents were joyfully presented; finding that many were duplicates of the other. And we in turn, felt validated with our own research. But for me, the creme de la creme; the piece de resistance; was my cousin's transposition of her grandmother's trip diary.

Amazingly, my Great Aunt Hazel, composed a running memory of a 1948 road-trip taken from Oklahoma to Tennessee; winding northeast to Baltimore and Philadelphia; then on to New York and New Jersey. The details provided are breathtaking. But it's not the trip itself that is remarkable; though thrilling to read. It is the ancestral names woven throughout the manuscript that is a delight.

Great Aunt Hazel took a whirlwind road-trip to the east coast in the forties to visit relatives; and names of ancestors only recently discovered by research, are casually mentioned throughout the diary. And with Aunt Hazel's descriptive words, each ancestor was given a personality, not previously brought forth within the contents of my genealogical files.

A family bible is a rich historical find when discovered; but a little diary composed by a family elder can be a goldmine for researchers. Diaries often reveal running thoughts or stream-of-consciousness by the author. Whereas the family bible is often structured around generational family trees; a diary can be much more illuminating. Describing stories of relationships and familial moments in time, frequently not found within the family bible.

Though less often acknowledged as a genealogical resource, if the elders in your family are accepting of releasing excerpts from a diary; grab hold and take off. The whirlwind road-trip could very well bring pieces of knowledge not otherwise known. And with the random thoughts expressed in writing, previous generations may be brought to life. Providing new details for your family tree.

So e-mail a cousin and schedule a time for tea on a slow moving Sunday afternoon. And remind her to bring grandma's diary.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl