Friday, November 19, 2010

The Long Lost Relative

There may not be one in absolutely every family but certainly many families have a long lost relative, especially if you go back a few generations. William Robert Taylor was a long lost relative through no fault of his own. Bill spent many years of his life not even knowing that he was lost to a big part of his family.

Bill's parents, John Cook Taylor and Margaret Frances "Fannie" Warren, were married in Rockcastle County, Kentucky on August 22, 1894. Bill was born on May 16, 1895 and was their only child. His parents divorced when he was just a toddler. Fannie and Bill moved in with her parents and John remarried in 1900. Sometime shortly after the 1900 census was taken, the Warren family decided to move to Kansas. Fannie and young Bill went along with her parents, her brother, two of her sisters and their families. 

According to family stories, John chased after the wagons as they were leaving Rockcastle County begging Fannie not to take his son away but he couldn't stop her. It would be 30 years before John again saw his son.

Bill grew up in Leavenworth County, Kansas believing that his father had died when he was a baby because that's what his mother told him. Fannie eventually married Jerry Logsdon, a widower from Pulaski County, Kentucky with two sons. Jerry had lived very near the Rockcastle County line and the area of the county where Fannie's parents lived so it's quite possible that he was a long time friend of the family and had moved to Kansas with them.

The years passed. Bill married Nellie Frances Ready on March 21, 1917 in Leavenworth County and they had two sons, Orin Edward and Verne K. Bill's mother died before 1930 and on her death bed she told Bill the truth - that his father had not died all those years ago and was probably still living in Rockcastle County.

Bill & John, abt. 1951
Bill returned to Rockcastle County about 1931 for the first time since he was a little boy on that wagon heading to Kansas. He traveled by train and didn't try to contact his father before making the trip. When he got off the train in Mt. Vernon he asked about John Taylor and someone gave him directions to John's house. 

John had no idea what had become of Bill. He didn't know where Fannie had taken him or even if he was alive or dead but when he answered the knock at his door that day he took one look at the man standing there and said "That's my boy."

Bill was welcomed into the Taylor family with open arms. He learned that he had five half-siblings, four sisters and one brother. His sister, Emma, wrote the following about meeting Bill:
"I did not see him till I was 30 yrs. old. He came to visit Papa. We were so glad to see him and he felt as much like a brother as my whole brother, Hartford, did. He came back every year after that and was home when Papa died."
Bill did indeed come back every year to visit until he was into his late 60's/early 70's and no longer able to make the trip. Besides his Taylor family, his mother also had relatives still living in Rockcastle County and Bill would see them as well. Even after his father died in 1953, Bill continued his annual visit and always stayed with his step-mother, Emma Jane. Bill's sister, Emma, also visited him in Kansas a few times.

Bill died on July 7, 1975 in Lawrence, Douglas County, Kansas and was buried there in Memorial Park Cemetery. Fortunately for Bill and his family, he found his way back home and didn't remain a long lost relative.

Poster by footnoteMaven
This was written for the 100th Carnival of Genealogy "There's One in Every Family." 

John Cook Taylor was my great-grandfather. His daughter (and Bill's half-sister), Emma, was my grandmother. I remember Uncle Bill visiting every summer during my childhood and hearing the stories about John chasing the wagon, Fannie's confessing and John recognizing Bill when he showed up at his door from my grandmother and others in the family. For other sources, click on the links above for Bill, John and Fannie.


  1. This is the first post ever that's brought tears to my eyes - and down my cheeks. Beautifully done, Linda. So glad there was a happy ending .

    I think what moved me so was remembering when we were able to reconnect with family after decades of forced separation.

  2. This is a beautiful story, Linda. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Love this Linda, so unlike my lost ancestor, who never went home again, and leaving a bitter daughter and what I believe was a heart broken mother. This is looking to be a fantastic COG! Great story, well written!

  4. What a heart warming story! Thank you for sharing.

  5. I'm so glad to hear others were touched by this post. I am listening to Elton John crone a song entitled Curtains (1975) and read this post. It didn't take time to slip into a melancholy state just thinking of the senseless heartbreak that really affected three persons.

    Thanks for sharing and reminding me that it's not just events, but events with adjectives: "sad events", heartbreaking events," "life tormenting events..." Either way, it brings the past and the present together through emotion!

  6. Thanks so much for all the nice comments. To think, I almost wrote about something else.

  7. I loved this story. Perhaps it is my "child of a divorce" thing, but, somehow this story grabbed me. Thanks for sharing it.

  8. I absolutely love this story - so many of our family stories end up tragically, or with no resolution. To know that a family not only reconnected, but again became a family is just wonderful.

  9. What a moving story, Linda, thank you. And thanks to Fannie for eventually spilling the beans to make it all happen.

  10. Excellent story Linda! Of course, seeing the Logsdon surname always reminds me that I want to tie those Pulaski and Rockcastle Co. Logsdons to my husband's family someday. His family was from nearby Madison Co. and I feel very certain they are all related. It's been on the back burner for a long time and I really do need to give it some attention. So much genealogy, so little time!

  11. Thanks everyone. I really appreciate all the comments!

    Something that hadn't really registered with me until I read Imagespast's comment - this was a secret that Fannie lived with for many years but apparently she couldn't die with it.

  12. Your touching story as left me rather speechless (that's hard to do!) and makes me think of my own grandfather with a "what if." What if he had gone back to his family and tried to rekindle a relationship - how things could have turned out differently. I am thrilled to finally hear of a story where there is a happy ending. Well done!