Finding Grandpa Lemaster

Curtis Austin Lemaster, age 12, in 1930.

I had the great fortune of finally meeting up with Gail Skaggs, her brother Timothy and her mom.  I’d contacted Gail almost two years ago through Find a Grave to discuss my great-grandpa William Arby Lemaster because she seemed to have quite a bit of information on my Lemaster side.  Turns out, she and I are third cousins and we have a lot of matches on our DNA.   So we’ve spent the last two years emailing back and forth about our family and helping each other with pieces we’re missing from our trees.

When I met up with Gail and her family, she pulled out a box of photos that came from Dewey Lemaster, her grandpa and brother to my grandfather, Curtis Lemaster.  She pulled out the photographs thinking that I might be able to help identify certain unknowns, but the most amazing thing happened.  One of the very first photos she pulled out was a small school picture from 1930.  On the back was written “Curtis Lemaster.”  I about fell off my chair.  It was my grandpa Curtis at age 12!  Until that moment, I had never seen a picture of grandpa young – not even in his teens or twenties.  All my photos of grandpa are of him from my childhood and he’s already in his late 50’s/early 60’s.  But there was that sweet, little familiar face, slightly smiling, wearing bib overalls and showing his remarkably long arms that my mom commented he always had.  To my delight and surprise, Gail gave me this photographic treasure after making a copy for herself.  I think my heart nearly burst in my chest with excitement.

I immediately sent a snap to my two uncles, neither of whom had seen that picture before, and they were thrilled.  My cousin Shawn also had never seen it.  We were all so tickled!  I tried to show my dad, who is still suffering terribly after his second stroke and he didn’t really seem to grasp who it was.  When we told him it was his own father, he shrugged and said “Whoever that is!”  I wish he could remember more.

It goes to show you that for however many bad, rude and jerky people you may find on Ancestry (or any of the other genealogical sites, for that matter) there really ARE those people out there who are helpful, caring and willing to share their information.  Luckily for me, Gail is part of my actual family and while I found a new relative in her, I’d like to think she and I would have been friends regardless even if we wouldn’t have been related.  So please, don’t give up when someone won’t reply or someone won’t share information you’re looking for.  Keep going, keep reaching out and perhaps you’ll get lucky too.  I’m always amazed how Providence has placed some of the most amazing people in my life when I needed them most during my genealogical research.

Why You Need to Be Persistent with Offline Searches

William Arbie Lemaster & third wife, Ethel Castle.


I cannot stress the importance of tracking down records offline. It would be positively lovely if every document, record and trace of our ancestors were scanned and readily available online, wouldn’t it? Isn’t that every genealogist’s dream? But since they’re not all online, we have to resort to other sources, like our living relatives, and hope that they can provide additional clues to help further our research.

When I asked my dad what he knew about his grandfather, William Arbie Lemaster, he had really no information to give me. How is that possible? Well, firstly, William Arbie died in 1941 and my dad wasn’t born until 1950 so they never met. But I thought for sure that my dad would have some stories, quips or gems of genealogical information he could share… alas, no. He knew the scantest of information aside from two of Arbie’s spouses names. Arbie’s son, Curtis, my dad’s dad, had mentioned there was a brother that he’d never met, that another son was called ‘Peanut’ and not much else. That’s not a lot to go on there, genealogically speaking.

My Shamrock Tattoo Isn’t Because I’m Irish

Yes, I’m technically Irish. Well, I should say I am 9% Irish according to my Ancestry DNA test and I have a story handed down about my family’s immigration from Ireland. I also have a small shamrock tattoo on the back of my neck that most people naturally assume is for my heritage. However, I do not celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. It’s never been the traditional jovial, happy day at the bar drinking green beer with friends nor feasting on Irish soda bread, corned beef and cabbage. Saint Patrick’s Day has been nothing but a constant, solemn reminder of my grandpa Curtis Lemaster’s death thirty years ago. It’s not that I don’t remember my other grandparent’s dates of death nor feel their loss any less, but his is just emblazoned in my brain (and on my heart) because he was the first one I lost as a child.