Thanks for Finding Me


I remembered my cousin Edward (name has been changed). His father had died in World War II when Edward was only two years old. Eventually his mother remarried, and her new husband adopted my young cousin. Edward’s surname was changed, and because his stepfather was in the military, the family moved from base to base until we all lost track of Edward.

Fifty-nine years later I was strongly impressed to try to find my cousin. I contacted several other cousins, but no one knew where to find Edward. Searching the phone book of our Ohio hometown, I found one surname similar to Edward’s. I sent a letter and received a response from this man saying he had an e-mail that included the name of a corporation in the East where Edward may have worked.

I went to the Internet and searched for the company’s Web site. Sure enough, there were Edward’s name and e-mail address! I was filled with excitement as I sent him an e-mail asking if he was my lost cousin. Finally a reply came: “Yes, I’m your cousin. I’ll call you later today.” As I read that short message, tears filled my eyes, and joy flowed from the bottom of my soul. After 59 years I had reached out and found my cousin. Maybe I could renew a family relationship that had been lost.

When Edward called, he told me he had really only known one father—his stepfather. His mother had spoken very little about his biological father, and the only remembrance he had of his father was his Purple Heart.

I gave Edward some information about his ancestry and told him that he was named, in part, for his paternal grandfather. He vaguely remembered his grandmother, his aunts, cousins, and me.

I sent Edward his family history. Some stories and photographs were familiar to him, but others were new—flatboat captains who plied the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans, early settlers in the Western Reserve of Ohio, Indian scouts, and a great-grandfather who emigrated from Ireland with his large family.

Last year I received a Christmas card from Edward, and following his signature he wrote, “Again, many thanks for finding me.” As I read that sentiment, I wondered how many of my deceased ancestors have felt the same way when I have taken their names to the temple and performed their ordinance work. When we “find” our ancestors and learn about their lives and their stories, it is as if we come to know them in a very real way. Giving them the opportunity to accept the ordinances of the gospel creates an eternal bond between us. I don’t believe I’ll ever perform another vicarious temple ordinance without thinking of Edward’s words: “Thanks for finding me.”

[photos] Photographs and documents provided by Nancy M. Hopkins; purple heart © PhotoDisc; Mississippi flat boat © Corbis

Nancy M. Hopkins is a member of the Doylestown Ward, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake.