Connecting with Our Family
One of the best parts of building this Hagenbuch family website has been connecting with relatives. Sometimes these are individuals I’ve simply lost touch with. Other times, as happened recently, these are people I’ve never met or known.
A few weeks ago, I noticed several messages in the forums on this site. (Yes, we do have a forums area!) I immediately responded. One of these was from Marjorie (Marge) “Hagenbuch” Cockrell. The conversation quickly moved to email and, during the course of our exchange, we soon realized that both of us live in California. Even more amazingly, Marge’s son, Darren Cockrell, lives only a short distance away from me in Oakland. What a coincidence!
Marge and I are second cousins once removed, meaning that her great grandfather/grandmother are the same as my great, great grandfather/grandmother. This also happens to make her son, Darren, and I third cousins. The common connection between the three of us is Hiram and Mary Ann “Lindner” Hagenbuch.
Hiram and Mary Ann Hagenbuch had many children, including Percy and Clarence. Both of Percy and Clarence’s families have been written about on this site. My line is through Clarence who married Hannah Sechler. Read about Clarence and Hannah’s family. Starting from our last common ancestor, my line is Hiram (b. 1847), Clarence (b. 1889), Homer (b. 1916), Mark (b. 1953), and Andrew (b. 1981).
Darren and Marge are descended from Percy. Their line, beginning with our last common ancestor, is Hiram (b. 1847), Percy (b. 1880), John (b. 1910), Marjorie (Marge), and Darren. Percy married Gertrude Hill, and their family was recently written about on this site.
Without any hesitation, Marge invited my wife, Sara, and I to dinner at Darren’s home in Oakland. She and her partner, Gary, already had plans to come to Oakland and visit. So, on Saturday, September 12th the six of us met for the first time: Marge and Gary, Darren and his wife, Andy, and Sara and I.
We had a wonderful evening connecting with one another over dinner. Along with the good food and old family photos, there were many stories shared between us. One of the most exciting was from Marge. She recounted how my father’s writings decades earlier in The Beech Grove newsletter had inspired her to travel to Europe and meet our distant Hagenbuch relatives in Germany. The trip even included a visit to the town of Hagenbuch, Switzerland.
After leaving that evening, I couldn’t help but imagine how happy Hiram and Mary Ann would be that their great, great grandsons, Darren and myself, had met. Having spent their whole lives in Pennsylvania, how surprised they would be to know that this reunion happened all the way on the other side of the country!
When families are small, it’s not too difficult to keep track of everyone. Most people can name their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and first cousins without too much trouble. However, going back to great grandparents or trying to identify second cousins isn’t always that easy. Time and distance have a tendency to weaken family bonds until we hardly know if or how we are related.
There is the real possibility that I may have unknowingly passed Darren on the street sometime during the last seven years I have lived in Oakland. How funny it is to think that only a few generations prior our great grandfathers, Percy and Clarence, were brothers farming the fields of Montour County, Pennsylvania. Time and distance do change things. That’s for certain. But, this doesn’t mean that we have to forget who we are and where we come from.
The Hagenbuch family is a story that stretches across generations and continents. From Andreas’s arrival in colonial Pennsylvania, to Enoch’s journey west, and continuing through all of our experiences today, the Hagenbuch name is something special. Not only does it bind us together in a way that runs deeper than friendship, it also connects each of us to a narrative that is bigger than any one individual and that continues to be written with each new branch on the Hagenbuch family tree.