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Looking back at my lack of dedication to this project in 2015, I am almost afraid to try again. But thank you, Amy Johnson Crow, for giving me another chance.

The prompt for the first week in January is Start. A small word for that all important first step forward, or in the case of genealogists, backward as we search for those who have come before us.

According to my DNA results, my ethnicity is 54 percent Great Britain and 17 percent Ireland/Scotland/Wales. While researching my Scottish seventh great grandfather Thomas Brownlee, 2nd Laird of Torfoot, I found a very interesting story preserved by the Clements family of Cumberland, WA.

Thomas lived an adventurous, daring and dangerous life that’s well documented and fairly easy to trace. Briefly again, Thomas was the second laird of Torfoot. (Laird meant he was a landowner.) Torfoot is still a farm, now owned by the Drummonds, Billy and Carolyn. Thomas was a Covenanter, a member of the Presbyterian religious movement of his time. A librarian at the East Kilbride library in Lanarkshire told me, “Your grandfather was a very brave man. (By being a Covenanter) he defied the king, which in the 1600s was not something many people would have dared to do.” Thomas fought in the Battle of Drumclog near his home, Torfoot. The Covenanters won this battle. But they lost at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. There, Thomas was wounded, captured and force-marched to Edinburgh. He was imprisoned in Covenanter’s Prison in Edinburgh Kirkyard. Five months later he was taken from Edinburgh Kirkyard to the harbor and Leith Docks. He was put on a ship, the Crown of London, to be transported to Barbados to be a slave there.But the ship wrecked in the Orkney Islands off Mull Head near Scarva Taing about 9 p.m. the night of December 10, 1679. Two hundred Covenanters drowned that night, unable to escape from below decks. There’s a monument to them at the shipwreck site. But Thomas managed to escape, swim to shore, scramble up the dirt cliffs and survive. He made his way back to his home, Torfoot, in Strathaven in southwest Scotland, regained his lands and died there at age 73.

Needless to say, learning this has made me eager to know more about Thomas, Torfoot and other places in Scotland that were so dear to my ancestors.




I’ve got to say I’m inspired by the camaraderie in the genealogical community. Most of those I’ve reached out to with questions about shared ancestors have responded. And they have been helpful, whether or not there is an actual family connection.

In fact, I am so impressed that I’ve decided to reach out to at least one of my GenFriends each day. If nothing else, just to keep in touch. I know we may never meet in person, but that doesn’t matter. These people are special to me.

They are the comforting souls at the other end of my message or email or phone call who understand a brick wall or an amazing discovery or double first cousins or disappearing ancestors. They just “get it.”

And I appreciate that … especially the fact that they take the time to respond, however brief. Some even go way beyond that, sending me CDs of information that I would never have guessed existed. And there are those in Find A Grave who have driven miles to document and photograph graves of my ancestors living far away from me.

For my part, I am trying to be just as good a GenFriend to other genealogists as they are to me. So if you have research questions about any of the branches on our family tree (see Word Cloud above) bring them on. I’ll try to help!

Just wondering, how do you reach out to your GenFriends?

Over this past weekend, we got together with members of my mother’s family for a “Beauchamp Family Lunch.” At this point, this is the closest we’ll come to a reunion, because of distance and health issues of some members. But we had such a good time! Sharing a meal, trading stories, looking at old photos, taking new ones for our tree.

And most importantly, the best result of reconnecting is renewing kinship. Time and life itself puts distance between siblings, cousins, even whole branches of the same family. It was so good to see each other, face to face, to give hugs and kisses, to make new memories to carry us on to the next time we can get together and renew our family ties.

I’d love to know: Other than through family reunions, how does your family “keep in touch?”

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