As you are gathering some of the stories of your ancestors, one aspect many times overlooked or not investigated by asking relatives are the stories of coincidences. Those chance happenings that proved to be major life changes. It could about a job opportunity, a move to a new location, life-saving incident or meeting one’s true love.
Everyone has at least one of those strange, unusual or life-changing coincidences. Of course, the best place to learn of such stories is by interviews with living relatives. They may not have thought of the events surrounding a specific event until asked about it. Include the typical type of questions in such an interview.
Cover about how they got into their occupation, why did they move to a certain place, how did they meet their spouse, did they serve in the military, who was their best friend, why and when did the family first immigrate to America, etc. Listen to the story and question further the details to see if there is a happenstance or coincidence that can’t be overlooked. This will really add to the story with such details.
Here are a couple examples of real life coincidences.
1943 – a young man from Ohio was in special radar training program in Florida during World War II. He was very homesick. He would walk in his free time along the nearby beach shore to just think, planning how he could go AWOL, or “Absent without Leave,” which is usually called “Unauthorized Absence”. It was doing one of his walks, a local young lady whom he did not know spotted him walking and started up a conversation. Over a period of several meetings on the beach she eventually learned of his homesickness and his desire to go AWOL. This girl was a young married lady with a soldier husband who was stationed in another location. Yes, she missed her husband, but she understood in the war effort that everyone needed to do their part. She talked to the Ohio soldier and eventually convinced him it was not a good idea to go AWOL, it would destroy his life and that of his family. He did remain with his radar training, was sent overseas, survived and returned to Ohio. He married, raised a family and had a full life, all due to the chance meeting on the beach with this Florida gal. He did not hear over the decades from the young lady who convinced him to remain in the Army until around 2008 when her family researched and found the former Ohio soldier and got the two back together for a joyous reunion.
1863 – During the dedication of the new Gettysburg Cemetery on November 19th, invitations were sent earlier to many nearby locals to attend the ceremony. One gentleman in Manheim, PA had just received news earlier in November 1863 that his only son had died of disease while a prisoner at the Confederate prison of Belle Isle in Virginia. The father was specially invited to attend and sit up on the main platform from which the speakers would stand. Little did he know he would be a witness to history with the Gettysburg Address given by President Abraham Lincoln that day. Afterward, letters between he and sister were exchanged about that ceremony and his attendance. Those letters were handed down through the descendants. The letters were nearly thrown out by a relative who was cleaning out papers in 1995 if it had not been for a friend helping her who realized the importance of saving those letters. She managed to sneak out the letters and send them on for preservation to another of the family relatives, who would treasure the documents.
Photos: Camp Murphy in Hobe Sound, FL in 1943; The wide view of the Gettysburg Ceremony Dedication and the Gettysburg Address and Lincoln and the platform stand.
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