Corresponding cousins, connecting cousins...

I got an e-mail from cousin Milton yesterday. I know I've mentioned him before - he's been extremely instrumental in my Haase family research, providing me with the only photo I have of my 4th great grandmother Barbara Reinhardt Haase, some histories of her husband Charles from his time during the Civil War, and copies of several Civil War documents of Charles', including his discharge papers.

What I find amazing is how genealogy can not only connect you to family from your past, but how it connects you to strangers who are alive now and turns them into family. Milton is a 78 year old living in Georgia. Besides all the knowledge he has shared with me, he put me in touch with a cousin of his who remembered meeting my second great grandfather. Just like the polite Southern gentleman that he is, he always refers to me as "Miss Mary" in his e-mails to me. And the fact that he is Internet and computer savvy, that he corresponds by e-mail and keeps a pretty well-documented family tree on is both amazing and endearing.

Cousin Claudia who has helped me with my Ricklefs research and Cousin April who has helped me with my Raynor research are also people I correspond with regularly - April and I live one town away from each other, but would never have met save our shared interest in our shared family tree. What also amazes me is how an interest in genealogy spans all ages - April and I are about the same age, Claudia is about my parents' age, and Milton is up there with my grandparents. But we all get excited as little kids at Christmas when someone discovers new information.

Milton didn't have any news for me; he was just checking in. But I sent away last week to the New Jersey archives for the death certificate of John Reinhardt, a shared ancestor of ours - my 5th great grandfather and Milton's great great grandfather - so hopefully I'll get that back and be able to have some news to share with Milton.