My mother was one of three sisters, so technically I did have aunts, but they died under the age of five. My mother had loads of aunts and cousins, so technically I have many great aunts and second cousins, although I can only count about three that I just about stay in Christmas card contact with, the rest having disappeared into the ether many decades ago before I was even born and are now presumed dead.
On my father's side, it is a whole different ball game altogether. Having escaped from Nazi Germany, the family was pretty much fragmented. My father's mother came from dubious Jewish stock. Dubious in that they were not practicing Jews at all, but merely had some strains of it going back generations. Enough for Mr Hitler to want them gone. No matter that my father and his brother were christened as Protestants and confirmed too. My paternal grandmother had two sisters and five brothers. The two sisters, my great aunts, although married, never had children and managed to ride out the war by hiding in Germany. I met them both in the 1960s and 1970s before they died. Two of my grandmother's brothers died before the war, leaving three brothers, whom we believed never made it out of concentration camps. If you are a little confused by the above account, here is my father's side of my tree.
I am therefore the sole surviving member of that family.....or so I thought.
About 12 years or so ago, I put my family tree on a website called Genes Reunited. The German side looked pretty much like the one above. Very vague, few dates and no other descendants except me. Time went on and I forgot all about that entry on Genes Reunited. About a year ago, I was contacted by a man (Peter) in Hertford who said he thought we might be related on the German side, as my German grandmother's (rare) maiden name was in common with one in his family. It turned out after some digging, that we weren't related, but he put me in touch with another man called Ed with the same (rare) surname as my grandmother. It turns out Ed and I are related. We are second cousins. Ed's grandfather, Richard, was the brother of my grandmother. It is true that Richard and his son Alfred had both ended up in a concentration camp. Richard had been killed, but Alfred had survived the war and been liberated by Americans in 1945. Out of gratitude, Alfred emigrated to America and lived there raising a family - Ed and his twin brother also called Richard.
Ed wrote to me recently and said he and his family were coming to Scotland/England for a holiday and would love to see me briefly in London on their way through back home. I met my second cousin for the first time at the weekend, together with his wife, two grown-up daughters and Peter who had put us in touch in the first place. We met in an Italian restaurant in central London and the hours just flew by, as we swapped stories of what we knew of our respective grandparents, great aunts or uncles and our own lives. I had brought along many old photographs of ancestors that Ed had never seen, as his family had not had the good luck to keep or pass on photos in the holocaust.
From having nobody surviving on my father's side, I now have a whole unit living in New Jersey as shown by the tree below. Without the internet, this would not have not been possible. If only my father were still alive to tell that he had a cousin he knew nothing about. Bittersweet or Schadenfreude, as the Germans would say.
In other news, today would have been Greg's 70th birthday. Kay and I intend to celebrate in his honour at his favourite local restaurant. To remember the good times and less of the bad.