Through family tree research, many families have been able to contact long lost relatives or other ancestors. And for Mason County resident Darlene Haer, researching her family enabled her to meet her cousin, Gloria Chandler, from Australia.
According to Haer, through the help of the Internet, letters and e-mail both she and her sister, Sharon Schwarz Pafford of Virginia, were able to locate their cousins in Australia.
“We found cousins through letters that came through Andrew (Alex) Wilson...Sharon wrote a letter to Gloria’s brother, Graeme Wilson, and that’s how we made contact,” Haer said, adding that Wilson was the family’s connecting relative.
After making contact, both Haer and Pafford went to visit Chandler in Melbourne, Australia in 2005. During their visit, Haer said that Chandler showed them several sites, including the place where Wilson lived. Following the trip to Australia, the family kept contact.
The cousins were able to meet again this month as Chandler paid her first visit to the United States to spend time with her family as well as explore the country. Accompanying Chandler on the excursion was her long-time childhood friend, Belle Emmett, who also has not been to the United States before. According to Haer, Emmett has become just as much part of the family as Chandler.
During their stay in West Virginia, both Emmett and Chandler have seen the many sites that Mason County as well as the Tri-County area offers. According to Haer, they have visited several area cemeteries, attended many family functions, went to the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) lunch, played Bingo and had lunch at the Mason County Senior Center, visited an Amish bakery in Gallipolis, Ohio and visited Marshall University in Huntington. Chandler and Emmett both watched the We Are Marshall movie prior to visiting the campus, Haer said. She added that during their time in Huntington they dined at the Marshall Cafe.
In addition, Haer has taken Emmett and Chandler on an excursion through the Mason County Quilt Trail. Emmett and Chandler also have visited the Mothman Museum, Mothman statue, Krodel Park, Fort Randolph, Point Pleasant Riverfront Park and floodwall murals, Point Pleasant River Museum, Tu-Endie-Wei State Park and the West Virginia State Farm Museum.
Chandler described her experience with both her cousins and America as being wonderful. She also noted several differences between the United States and Australia, including the landscape, which both she and Emmett described as being much greener. In addition, Chandler said that many homes in the area do not have back fences and are more open, compared to homes in Melbourne.
“It’s been great,” Chandler said of her experience in the U.S. so far.
Emmett agreed and said that she still could not believe that she was in the U.S., a place that she has wanted to visit for many years.
“I’m glad I’m here — this is a once in a life time experience,” Emmett said.
Both Chandler and Emmett also said that they enjoyed visiting Wal-Mart because the prices were cheaper and they enjoyed looking at the different styles of clothing that they don’t have at home. They described viewing the different wildlife, such as the many deer that frequent Haer’s backyard, as being enjoyable as well. According to Chandler, in Australia they do not see deer, but kangaroo are very common and are usually spotted in the early morning hours.
Haer described having her cousin and Emmett visit as being an amazing experience.
“It’s just been wonderful. We’ve treated them just like family and they’ve really fit in,” she said. “We’ve added Belle as part of the extended family, and we’ve learned more about Gloria through her.”
Emmett also said that she was grateful for her trip experience as well as the chance to bond with Chandler’s cousins.
“We’ve been so welcome here and I feel like family,” she said.
In addition to Mason County and surrounding areas, Emmett and Chandler visited Charleston to see the state capitol and will continue their trip by taking a motor coach through the major cities and sites of the U.S., including New York City, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, Mt. Rushmore and the Grand Canyon.
“I am quite looking forward (to the rest of the trip). I am excited for San Francisco to see the trolley cars and the Golden Gate Bridge,” Chandler said.
Emmett also said that she was excited for the rest of the trip and that she looks forward to seeing the Empire State Building as well the historic sites.
Haer, Pafford and Chandler encouraged others to research their family history and connect with their distant relatives because others could have a chance to meet and explore new cultures like they have done.
“Do (research your family). It’s very interesting,” Chandler said.