GENEALOGY LIFE

I Was the Only One Who Knew

Megan Smolenyak
3 min readJun 29, 2021
locket found among my aunt’s possessions

I’ve written an entire book of genealogical serendipity tales, but have been something of a wallflower in this regard. With a couple of cherished exceptions, these magical moments of happy coincidence have mostly eluded me in the course of my research, but my dry spell just ended.

Like so many last year, my family lost loved ones, including my Aunt Bea, and due to the pandemic, her memorial service was delayed. When it took place last week, the family — gathered together for the first time in who knows how long — tended to overdue business, including divvying up her jewelry. The plan was to rotate through her children from oldest to youngest with each picking pieces to remember her by, so everyone spent a few minutes looking at the collection beforehand.

One item — a small, metal square on a ribbon — provoked curiosity. My sister who was also present suspected it was a mourning locket. Prying it open, they discovered two photos. One was recognized by all as Aunt Bea’s father, the grandfather of most assembled, in his WWI uniform. The locket, it was agreed, must have originally belonged to Aunt Bea’s mother, our nana. But who was the woman in the other photo? No one — including six members of my generation — knew.

But they knew who to give it to. I’ve been the family genealogist since I was about…

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Megan Smolenyak

Genealogical adventurer & storyteller who loves solving mysteries! You may not know me, but chances are you’ve seen my work. (www.MeganSmolenyak.com)