I come from a big family. I have 6 siblings, which by themselves are awfully hard to track. My parents, combined, have 5 siblings who lived to adulthood, each with their many children. This means that I literally have dozens and dozens of first cousins. Stepping one generation higher, I have, to my knowledge, 13 grand-aunts and grand-uncles on my father's side (only two of whom are still alive) and another 13 grand-aunts and grand-uncles on my mother's side (I don't know of any that are still alive). You can imagine the plethora of relatives that could come from all those people!
Therefore, rather than trying to keep track of everybody, me and my siblings have pretty much drifted off and we feel pretty lucky to keep track of each other. There are no "big" family reunions anymore that include anybody other than me, my parents, and my siblings and their families; and even those only come every few years.
However, lately I've been looking into family history, and I've been working to piece together some of the mysteries around my paternal ancestors. Apparently, the first one to bear my family name from my father's side who came to America was actually a fellow who was conscripted into the British Navy and jumped ship when they made landfall in the States. He hid out in the back-hills of Virginia the rest of his life, living a humble life and having many children. This story is family folklore, and nobody can seem to find any evidence of it's truthfulness.
So, I've been trying to gather as much as I can about the family -- including looking for some evidence of this story. I called my father last night, and he told me to call somebody that I'd never heard of before. Turns out that the woman he told me to call is his first cousin who lives in southern Utah. That makes her my first cousin, once removed. I called her, and she was delighted to hear from me, but couldn't help me. She told me to call her brother, yet another one of my first cousins, once removed. I called him and we had a very nice little conversation. He's in his late sixties and actually his own mother, a 98-year-old woman -- the last of my paternal grandfather's siblings that still lives -- was staying with him for a short time. I didn't have the chance to visit with her, but he did tell me that he has a binder full of loose pages about the family.
I was ecstatic! I didn't want to seem too eager, but he did promise me he'd look through what he has and mail me some of the family stories. I asked about pictures, and he says he has a photograph of my paternal grandfather and all of his 10 siblings and his parents. What a treasure! ... if I can actually get it from him. He was quite reticent to actually send any photographs. (Sidebar: You see, that's the problem -- nobody's willing to share their family heirlooms! What a shame! I don't want to keep it, I just want to digitize it, then I'll send it right back!! Sorry, sore point there ...) He said he could copy some of them, but I know that photocopies of photographs don't usually turn out very well. With my intention of taking all this material and putting it online, I really need digital copies of everything. *sigh* How am I going to get that?!
Well, in any case, I've connected with a family member I didn't even know existed, and I have begun a dialog with him about family history. Hopefully something great will come of it!