Family research has mostly consisted, for me, of going through the old family papers and my great-grandfather, Daniel Simpson Chessher's Bible. His daughter, Sallie Mittie Chessher, married Robert Howard McAllister (B03-8-1-1), my grandfather, 23 May 1894. D. S. Chessher was a prominent man in Texas after the Civil War, and Sallie kept quite a pile of papers, documents, clippings, photos and other scraps of family history about both her mother and father. God Bless her for that. It has been a treasure trove of data. My great regret is that it is almost completely devoid of McAllister data from before my grandparents were married.
There is no record of where Robert Howard McAllister was born except the cryptic "Mississippi" on his death certificate. (A side note: his wife's place of birth is listed as Kansas on her death certificate but is surely not correct. I have her birthplace, written in her father's own hand in the family Bible, clearly as Nelsonville, Austin Co., Texas). Robert Howard and Sallie had only 2 boys, Raymond Eugene and my dad, Robert C. Uncle Ray was married twice but had children only by his first wife. His children were Eldon, the first born, and twins Richard and Jean. He and his first wife separated long before I was born. I knew their names but had no birth/death dates for them. Mom and Dad never spoke about Uncle Ray's first marriage, and I never got around to asking.
So, I was going through some of Mom's things one weekend recently. She died back in 1994 but, after all, why rush things? Anyway, I found her old address book. On a whim, I turned to the "M"s and found addresses and phone numbers for several long-dead McAllister relatives. There was one for Uncle Ray's second wife, my Aunt Pauline. (See http://www.clanmcalister.org/rh-mca.html) Uncle Ray died sometime in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Pauline was born in 1908 and I was sure she was dead, too. I met her once or twice back in the late 1950s or early1960s.
There was also an address for Pauline's only child, Don McAllister. Although born to her by a previous marriage, Uncle Ray had adopted Don and raised him as his own. "Hmmm,..", I thought. "There might be a chance..." I checked a web address search engine and, sure enough, the phone number and address listed were still the same. So I called. A woman answered. I identified myself. She said yes, she had met me when I was only 2 or 3 years old. She gently informed me that Don had died three years earlier and that she was his widow. I explained that I was just trying to do a little tracking. She said that Don had not kept in touch with any family members but that maybe Pauline had. Pauline?!!?
Yep, Aunt Pauline is still alive. She just turned 93 in April and got her driver's license renewed last month. She is a little hard of hearing, only wears glasses to read and, when we spoke on the phone she said, "I'm going to have to move into one of those assisted living places. The yard work here is just too much for me." What a treat! She and I had a great chat.
She was a welder during WWII and, for a while, worked at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California, where my dad also worked. (Along with thousands of others.) I remember my dad always said that she could make the best looking welds of anyone he ever saw, man or woman. (High praise, indeed, from my dad.) She later moved to the Naval Shipyard in Long Beach and she said she was the very last woman laid off at the end of the war.
Buoyed by that success, I tried the other McAllisters in Mom's phone book. No such luck. A Yahoo search turned up about a dozen McAllisters in the general area where Uncle Ray's older son, Eldon McAllister, was last known to live. So I started calling. It was Sunday afternoon so at several numbers I only got an answering machine. Everyone I actually spoke to was, without exception, very nice and helpful but clearly not related. The list exhausted, I went about the rest of my afternoon, thankful for what had been given.
About 5:30 PM the phone rang and Mike McAllister informed me that his grandfather was named Ray. Bingo! We had another very nice chat. He even knew of the Clan McAlister of America web page. It seems that several years ago he was playing around with a computer graphics program and he combined the Clan McAllister tartan and badge into a single graphic. He sent it to me back then and I had posted it! We had a brief but cordial exchange back then, never guessing we were close cousins.
A week after our phone conversation Mike wrote to me, "My dad, Eldon McAllister, had a real problem with his father, Ray, ... but he was quite fond of Robert, Ray's brother." (My father.) "In fact it was Robert's farm in Hemet that we visited when Steve and I were very young. There are pictures of us sitting on a tractor somewhere. Isn't interesting that we might have even played together as kids?"
Mike's Aunt Jean, Ray's daughter by his first wife, is still alive and lives nearby. I called her, too. She is 75 years old and as sharp as a tack. She told me that she had also met me when I was about 2 or 3 but never since. Please realize that until that day, as far as I knew, my younger brother was my only living close McAllister relative, except for my kids. I felt like I had just won the lottery.
Then Cousin Jean dropped her bomb, perhaps unknowingly. She said, "You know that I had quite an argument with your dad?" I knew nothing about this at all and said so. Apparently it was because Dad's mother, Sallie, had given the McAllister family Bible to Eldon and Jean rather than to my dad. I was thunderstruck! I had never heard even a whisper about a McAllister family Bible and had often privately lamented the fact that there was none. I told her that Grandma was perfectly correct to give the Bible to the older son's family. Anyway, apparently it is still extant and in the hands of Mike's older brother, Steve, in Georgia.
You guessed it. I spoke to Steve the next day. Another really great chat. Like so many scots, including his dad and granddad, my dad and granddad, and me, he is involved with machinery and engineering. It seems to be a genetic trait of some sort. (Remember Scotty telling Captain Kirk, "Ahm givin' it all ah kin, Capt'n! Eny more an' ahm a'fraid she'll blow!") Like all self-employed people, Steve is as busy as a bee in a tar barrel but he is interested in genealogy, too. So, although we have yet to meet, Steve and I agreed to continue the conversation. Genealogy is a tale with no end.
God knows best what the future holds. It was an inspiring weekend. Two days like that really help sustain me during the tough days of dead ends and missing records. What a blessing!