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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Great-uncle Levi

I have heard that gardening and genealogy are the two top hobbies in our country today. One of the reasons genealogy has become so popular is because the Internet has made research so much easier. The Internet has expanded the exchange of information and shrunk the world.
In the research of my Powl-Burkholder great-grandmother's family, I included her son Levi Burkholder. He was sort of the black sheep of the family. He left home when he was young, lived in at least 5 states, was married and divorced three times, and had children to all three wives. As far as I know, he never went home to visit his family and the Burkholders knew very little of the details his life. He died in California in 1949.
A few years ago, a pack of letters he wrote to his sister in the 1930s and 1940s was passed on to me. By reading the letters he wrote in his own hand, I was able to piece together an outline of his life. In one letter he listed the names of his wives as well as when and where he married them. I was also able to sort out his children and which ones belonged to which wife. He had a daughter and son with the first wife, another son and daughter with the second wife, and one daughter with the third wife.
Using these clues and resources on the Internet, I was able to find more information on these people and eventually tracked down a granddaughter by his first wife., Belle. I wrote her a letter and got an enthusiastic response. She had been born with the Burkholder name but never knew anything about the Burkholders. She gave me the name and address of her cousin, who was a daughter of Levi's oldest daughter. I wrote another letter to this lady asking if she would be willing to give me information on her family.
Today's mail brought another enthusiastic response from her. Her mother, Lula, was thirteen when her parents (Levi and Belle) separated. She told me the story as Lula had told it to her and sent me some pictures of Levi and his first family. I had never seen this picture of Levi before. It was taken in Sterling, Illinois, where he married Belle in 1902.

With the help of these two women, who live in Colorado, I am able to trace all the descendants of Levi and his first wife. And they are delighted to finally learn something about their mystery Burkholders. This would never have happened without the Internet.

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