I was writing a post for inclusion here today and I will publish that post tomorrow, though that hadn't been my plan when this day began -- but first things first. I had to take the time today to make a separate post to commemorate a cousin of mine, Patricia Ann (Wickcliffe) O'Connor.
Sometime in 1993 I ran across Pat. She was convinced that her Browning ancestor, John Wesley Francis Browning, was connected to mine. Knowing next to nothing about the Brownings at that time (I wasn't even sure who the "S & M" Browning on my ancestor James' tombstone was!) I replied to her inquiries politely and let her know I didn't have any conclusive proof that she and I were related.
Fast forward to 1995-6. She contacted me again. By this time I'd learned about Samuel and Margaret (the S & M!) and begun to discover more about the women and men their children had married. I'd learned that one of their children was named John Wesley and that he'd married a Corderman girl. In the course of our conversations, Pat mentioned that her ancestor John Wes had married a girl named Matilda Corderman. I sat up and took notice.
Comparisons flew back and forth. Censuses compared. Families connected. After everything was said and done I had one of those Happy Dances that day. I think Pat and I both did.
It was the start of something beautiful. For the next decade the two of us researched the Brownings together. I could never have done some of the work I did without her patience and help and most of all, her perseverance. After all, she'd pursued me, hadn't she? We took a trip back to Crawford County together in the summer of 2001. It was the first time we'd met face to face but it seemed we'd known each other for years.
She brought two remarkable things with her. She brought original vellum patent papers that John Wesley Browning had filed with the government in 1864. John Wes was an engineer and an inventor! She also brought the only other thing she had about him, a picture of him from about the same time period. (I'll feature Pat's ancestor John Wesley in my Browning series -- he was Samuel and Margaret's 11th child -- and at that time I'll delve into the details of these papers and the mystery that surrounds him to this day.) Pat and I spent a week as roommates in our hotel room and although there was over 30 year's difference in our ages we felt like sisters and never ran out of things to say. I had a wonderful time discovering Browning history with her.
I was working on my Browning book at the time while she was busy building a great Browning webpage using our research as a base. (It is listed on the sidebar to my blog as Pat's site.) She gave me encouragement when I felt like throwing in the towel and her independent research on the Markee side gave me excitement of a different sort when she'd locate something fantastic. She was retired and I was a mother with a young daughter. She gave me advice, listened to my worries, absorbed my stresses. She was a sounding board and an astute observer and a fantastic friend as well as a cousin.
In December she emailed me and said she'd been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. We emailed a couple of times after that, but she'd moved to her son's home and she was growing weaker and it was harder for her to communicate. I told her everything I wanted to say to her the last time we spoke in January. She let me know that one of her greatest regrets was that we hadn't been able to prove (though we just "know" it, if you know what I mean) that our Samuel Browning was the son of John Browning (b. 1771-5) who lived in Harrison County in 1820-1830 within six households of our Samuel.
I scheduled a trip back to OH when I heard this from Pat. This is the trip I'm going to take in three more weeks. I wanted to go back and find that proof and give it to her as my last gift to her. I made the trip dates as soon as I could because I was worried that it wouldn't be in time.
Pat passed away the 17th of March. I received her memorial notice from my ex-husband today (where it had been mailed) since the address Pat had written down next to my name in her address book was my old address from a few years ago.
I'm still going on my trip. I still hope to find that proof. I'll still enjoy the trip but now it's tempered not with the urgency it once had but with sadness and loss. It'll give me one of the biggest Happy Dances of my genealogical life if I do find proof that John and Samuel are father and son but as I dance I'll feel a deep regret that I'm not going to be able to do what I wanted, which was give Pat one of her last wishes. But I do hope that if I find something that wherever she may be now.......she'll know.
I loved you, Pat -- friend, cousin, mentor. Rest In Peace.
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