Happy 97th birthday to my genealogy inspiration...

Grandma, circa 1930, with her mother, Ellen Casey Cronin.
 My grandmother, Mary Cronin Raynor, is 97 years old today and still kickin'. She started to learn genealogy as a hobby when her kids - my mother, my aunt, and my two uncles - were in school, way back when you still had to use books and write snail mail letters to distant relatives to ask them what information they know, and depend on church records and any old letters or photos or, if you were lucky, birth and death certificates that your parents or grandparents might have kept. My grandmother's family is 100 percent Irish - her dad, Timothy Ambrose Cronin, was born in Ireland, as were her maternal grandparents, Peter Casey and Mary Agnes Enright, and while Grandma did a great job of recording as much as she could find on her family from her grandparents down, what lay beyond that was always a brick wall for her - she even made a trip to Ireland to try to find her grandfather Denis Cronin's grave, but the cemetery was full of Denis Cronins, with no dates or other info on the headstones. I've had a bit more luck, finding Mary Enright's maternal grandparents, but not much more than that. My grandmother kept good notes though full of clues about cousins on her dad's side of the family, and she gave them to me, so at least I have something to work with.

My grandmother actually focused much of what she learned on my grandfather and her husband, Clifford Monroe Raynor's, side of the family. The Raynors have a lot of information out there. My grandmother recorded it all down, and she even researched his mother's side of the family, the Bergs. She wrote down who she got the information from and little anecdotes they told her as well.

After my parents got married, Grandma even went so far as to find information on my *dad's* side of the family tree - the first thing I know about my paternal grandmother, Helen Stutzmann's, side of the family is from my maternal grandmother. How cool is that?

But I got my first taste of genealogy from looking through the books of information my grandmother had put together. I was hooked even before I knew I was hooked. And as I got older and took it more seriously, I became someone she could share her research with, she loved hearing about all the new things I was discovering about the family, and genealogy became something we could always talk about.

So thank you Grandma, for inspiring me to always keep chipping away at those brick walls, and for instilling in me a passion for trying to learn who my family is and where I come from. Happy 97th birthday!

The two Marys and two genealogists.