Being the Keeper

My aunt Cheryl died just as some of the best evidence of her paternal family was coming in. Right as the needle moved from high confidence to absolute confidence that we had the right man. Since Cheryl’s death in 2017, I’ve left her DNA at 23 and me, FTDNA and Ancestry along with her genetic family tree. I like to think her information can be a helpful way marker for other lost sheep. You can catch up with the ups and downs of researching Cheryl here:

Along with keeping that legacy comes a connection. I have another family of sorts that I’m tied to.

This Fall, I was contacted by a family friend of Mary Pauline Roberts. Cheryl’s first cousin.

Polly Roberts military photo

The family friend was the daughter of one of Polly’s close personal friends. When Polly died in the 1960’s her service flag was given to that friend who kept it until she too died. The family had come to the conclusion that they wanted to return the flag to Polly’s blood relatives in the Roberts family and Cheryl was a close blood relative.

They wanted Polly’s service and friendship to be remembered. If I could have been the go-between for my aunt, I would have. Unfortunately though my aunt is also dead. I didn’t feel like my aunt’s children would be interested so I contacted Cheryl’s other living Roberts cousins to see if they would like to honor the flag.

I also had some conversations with these family friends who knew Polly in life and had real bonds with her. The Roberts blood relatives were considering giving Polly’s memory to a museum, which is (to me anyway) a high honor and a way to continue public service, in the form of public education, after death. Several of my grandmother’s things went to our local museum.

I also offered to keep the flag at my house indefinitely if that is what they wished. I Have many people and memories here. Not as good as a museum, but I feel like I have space to honor people here.

Ultimately though, I expressed my feelings that there is nothing particularly special in the blood of a relative that would make them any better suited than anyone else to remember Polly. Who better to remember her than the people who have already been doing it for 50 plus years?

In the end, they agreed and kept Polly’s flag, which was the best possible outcome.

I will continue to be Cheryl’s keeper as Cheryl continues to be a genetic light in the darkness for people she never knew.

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