In the olden days, you sat and waited. In some mimeographed newsletter or erratically published journal you’d run across an address to pin your hopes on, a descendant on the same track you’re plodding, a grande dame with access to caches you don’t. Or: you’d pressed your own address into the palm of a kind, but wary, librarian, hoping she would be able to crack the reserve of the stingy local historian. Either way, you sat and waited for the mail to arrive.
In late 1994, I reached in my mailbox to pull out a letter forwarded from my parents’ address in North Carolina. The writer was K.K., and she’d run across a query I’d posted in the North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal. K.K. is a descendant of Micajah Casey (1748-circa 1800) of Dobbs and Wayne County, whom I believed to be my great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. K.K. was living abroad at the time, and correspondence was slow and expensive, but we exchanged a few letters about Caseys, Herrings, Jernigans and Lewises before exhausting our mutually meager information and losing touch.
A few days ago, my cousin D. received her 23andme results. She is the granddaughter of my father’s first cousin, and I was interested in comparing her DNA matches to his and mine. As I scanned her nearly 1000 matches, a name leapt to my eye — K.K.! My father and I didn’t, but D.’s chromosomes retain a tiny piece of Casey that K.K. has held onto, too. I ripped off an excited message, and K.K. responded immediately. More then 20 years after her first letter arrived, our relationship is confirmed.