One of the advantages of blogging about family history is that it sometimes allows distant relatives to find each other. And last week, thanks to the fact that Jeannie Wallis Bowser visited this blog, that happened to me.
It all began last Tuesday when I received an email from Jeannie, telling me we are cousins! It seems that she had been searching the internet for information about the Netherland Family and found a photo of the Netherland family on my blog.
The photo Jeannie found and posted here today shows Jeannie's grandmother, Amabel ("Amy") Netherland Wallis holding her father when he was a small child. Imagine my surprise, when Jeannie told me that Amabel and my grandfather, Ralph Ernest Netherland, were brother and sister! Jeannie provided a phone number in her email and asked that I call her. On Wednesday, I did just that. We talked for almost two hours, and Jeannie filled me in on many details about the Netherland family's life that I had never heard.
One of the most interesting outcomes of our cousin-to-cousin phone conversation was that Jeannie told me several things about my maternal grandfather that I never knew. In order to explain why I did not know more about my grandfather, I need to provide some family background. First, Ralph Ernest Netherland was twenty-three years older than my grandmother, Rosa Mae Pettus, when they married. Second, he and my grandmother divorced when my mother was 14 years old and her only sibling, a brother, was 11. My mother's contact with her father after the divorce was limited, and when she married my father less than 5 years later, the newlyweds soon moved out of state where my father was working at the time. Third, I had never met my grandfather Netherland until my parents took my brothers and me to see him at a Jackson, Mississippi hospital in April of 1959, where he was suffering from terminal stomach cancer. Several days later, on April 10, 1959, Ralph Netherland died of the same disease that eventually caused the deaths of five of his siblings.
What Jeannie told me about Ralph Netherland was priceless information about a grandfather I had never known. As a child, Jeannie often visited her grandmother, Amy, at the old Netherland home place near Coxburg, Mississippi, where Ralph also lived. According to Jeannie, Ralph kept a beehive that provided honey to the family. One of Jeannie's fondest memories was eating hot, homemade bread spread with Ralph's homegrown honey. In my mind's eye, I can see the children eating the treat on the wide front porch of the big old house in the country. Jeannie also told me that Ralph kept a trunk filled with childhood keepsakes, as well as a his grandfather Netherland's Confederate uniform, that he allowed Jeannie and the other grandchildren to look through when they visited. Jeannie also shared with me information about her generation, who married whom, where the families moved when they left Mississippi, their occupations, and where some of them now live.
When our conversation ended, we planned to talk again and promised to continue to share our families' histories. Ironically, I had taken photos of four Wallis headstones when we visited Coxburg Cemetery in May of this year. Now I know how these Wallis family members are related to my Netherland family.
Thank you, Jeannie Wallis Bowser, for finding this Netherland cousin!