User Stories Who was your great-great-great grandma? ….One user’s discovery. By Aaron April 28, 2011 Share Share Copy Link Little did MyHeritage.com user Jeff Ausmus know, that by answering this question he’d be reuniting family ties lost through fate and time. Jeff has lived all his life in the small town of Erie in Monroe County, Michigan. During Thanksgiving 2008 he decided to begin tracing his family history – after a discussion with his grandma, in which she knew very little about even her grandparents. With family trees numbering over 6000 people, Jeff has not only traced his family roots as far back as 8 generations to Germany and Poland – but discovered that two people he grew up with in the same grade in High School were in fact his cousins! Jeff’s tale includes finding letters in Germany written by his great-great grandma in the late 1890s – and a reunion with descendants of his great-great-great grandmother’s brother – ironically who also live nearby. Read on to find out more about Jeff’s fascinating family history discoveries, from Barack Obama to nearby neighbors… Jeff doesn’t know the reason why some of his mother’s family left Germany in the late 1800s – but it was a step that would divide the family for over a hundred years. Thanks to some persistent research, Jeff managed to reconnect to his mother’s third cousin in Germany – whose ancestors had kept copies of letters sent by Jeff’s great-great-grandma from the US to Germany following her emigration. Even though communication between the two sides of the family in Germany and US had been broken, the fact that the letters were kept and looked after symbolizes the strong bonds that once existed. One of the letters written by Jeff’s great-great grandma in German On his father’s side, Jeff has, only in the last several weeks, discovered long-lost cousins in Poland. Coincidentally, Jeff speaks German which has enabled the two sides to exchange information in a common language and share family memories. Sometimes we expect to reconnect with long-lost family in far flung locations whilst doing family history research. However few of us expect to find relations we never knew of living nearby. That’s exactly what happened to Jeff. Following a Smart Match a few weeks ago – Jeff attended a family party of descendants of his great-great-great grandma’s brother. Originating from Poland – his great-great grandma moved to the US in 1903. His newly discovered 3rd and 4th cousins had no idea their great-great-great grandfather even had any siblings – let alone that he emigrated together with his niece. The meeting and newly found knowledge of their shared ancestral history has brought the divided family together again. Reunited – Jeff surrounded by his newly discovered cousins – celebrating the 90th birthday of cousin Louis Truna (left). Jeff attended Erie Mason Senior High School in 1999 for 4 years. He played baseball and studied Science together with his classmates, and faced all the trials and tribulations of every other teenager in his grade. What he didn’t know was that he was in fact related to two boys within his peer group. The boys that he grew up with weren’t just his friends – they were 4th cousins! What an incredible discovery to make ten years later. Jeff didn’t just have a little luck with his family history research – he deployed every tactic in the book to break through brick walls. His methods included interviewing distant relatives, neighbors of ancestors, approaching a local hotel in Germany for more information about the history of local residents and researching census data for clues. One by one, each small lead helped him take his family history research to the next level. One of the most mind-blowing discoveries was made in the past few weeks. Jeff was contacted by a relative in Germany – and discovered that he shares a common ancestor with Barack Obama from the 1500s. From class-mates to the President of the United States – building Jeff’s family tree seems to take endless exciting turns! We’re happy to provide a home for Jeff’s incredible family tree research and to have played a role in reigniting old and lost family ties. Thanks to Jeff for sharing his family history discoveries with us. So do you know who your great-great-great grandma was? Perhaps, like Jeff, you’ll find out more than you ever imagined along the way.