Who exactly was Cousin Maisie? I knew Cousin Maisie existed because I met her when I was very young. I could also remember Christmas presents from the USA when we were in Wales for Christmas with my grandparents. But that’s all I did know about her when I began researching my mother’s family tree. Mum had died several years before I began my research so I couldn’t ask her.
My aunts and uncles only knew there was a ‘Cousin Maisie’ who wrote to my grandparents regularly and occasionally visited but they had no idea how she was related to us or on which side of the family. There was the possibility that she was related to both of my grandparents because they were second cousins. My Mum had stayed in touch with Maisie after my grandparents died, they thought, but Mum’s siblings had heard no mention of Maisie for a long time and assumed she had died years before.
Several years of research later I had still not been able to place cousin Maisie in our family. The Ancestry website didn’t exist when I began researching and all my research had been done in record offices or LDS centres, viewing records on microfilm. As records began to go online I occasionally searched for Maisie in US records but with no luck. I had discovered that she must be a cousin on my grandfather’s side. I knew she was a contemporary of my grandparents and I’d located all my grandmother’s family up to 1900.
I looked in more detail at both sets of my grandfather’s grandparents and their children. One set was fairly easily discounted which left his paternal grandparents, James and Elizabeth, as the likely common link to cousin Maisie. In the 1871 census they had three children, and two more were born to them by 1881. By then their daughter Caroline had married and was living nearby. Both parents had died by 1886, as had their youngest child. The boys had both married by the time of the 1891 census and were still living in the same town, but of Caroline and her husband and Mary Ann (then aged 19) there was no sign. None of them had died and Mary Ann hadn’t married, according to the GRO index.
I guessed that cousin Maisie must be the child of one of these. I searched the Ellis Island website and found no record of any of them entering the USA. Ancestry was adding worldwide records by this time and a kind friend had a look for them for me. I had been looking in the wrong place. Caroline and her husband emigrated to Canada in the early 1880s and were found on censuses there. Still no Mary Ann, though. She was only 14 when her remaining parent died, why wasn’t she with one of her siblings in 1891? Then the UK to Canada passenger lists went online and at last I found her. A few months after her mother died in 1886, Mary Ann had travelled to Canada to join her sister Caroline’s family and became a naturalised Canadian citizen.
Everything fell into place fairly quickly after that. Caroline and her husband stayed in Canada and had six children, none named Maisie. Mary Ann married William in 1893 and had three children, all born in Canada. The eldest daughter was Maisie born in 1894. So why did I remember cousin Maisie as being American? The 1930 USA census answers that question, it shows Maisie living in Colorado with her husband and three children.
That’s not quite the end of the story. I was sorting through my father’s papers after he died and found a letter from Maisie dated 1967. She was writing in sympathy to my mother following the death of my grandmother a month earlier. This set me off to search again and some intensive googling revealed her obituary in a local newspaper, she had lived to the grand age of 95. The obituary gave the names of her children and I was able to locate an address for one of them using an online directory. I wrote to him and shortly afterwards received an email from her son, so the families are back in touch, and there is another convert to genealogy.
And who exactly was cousin Maisie? My first cousin twice removed, that’s who.
© Guinevere 2010