Facebook helps long-lost sisters connect

March 14, 2011 

Pat Wohlford Claxton, left, and her half-sister, Ruth Wohlford Ogier, recently found each other on Facebook. Ogier is holding a picture of their brother, Kenneth Wohlford McTeague, who lives near Salem, Ore.

BOB SOFALY/THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

  • Genealogy enthusiast Bob Williams recommends these websites for genealogical research:

    www.sciway3.net/pressandstandard/

    www.facebook.com/pages/Olive-Tree-Genealogy/16127378259

    cyndislist.blogspot.com/2010/04/uses-for-face
    book-in-genealogy.html

    genforum.genealogy.com

    www.familytreeDNA.com

Pat Claxton of Beaufort recently discovered a new branch of her family tree.

Raised as an only child, Pat found a younger sister, Ruth Wohlford Ogier of Virginia, and two older brothers. Facebook gets much of the credit for connecting Pat with her sister and other members of the family of their father, the late Leslie Lloyd Wohlford.

Since December, the sisters have pieced together a puzzle of their father's life. They know he was married six times. They believe he had a total of nine wives.

When Ruth was 14, her mom broke the news that she had some half-siblings. Around 2003 -- after Ruth's mom and the brother she grew up with both died -- Ruth started searching for family members on Facebook.

She eventually discovered the "Society of Wohlford's" on the social networking website.

"I said, 'I know I have a half-brother and sister out there somewhere, and I would love to find my family,'" Ruth said.

Pat started looking for her father's family in December 2010 and got excited as she scrolled down and fouth's post, which listed Pat's father's full name.

"I immediately instant messaged her," Pat said of their first contact Dec. 5, 2010. For Pat, finding a baby sister was the perfect Christmas gift.

"When we started to exchange photos, there was no doubt," Ruth said. "My son said (we looked and sounded) alike."

The final proof they shared the same father -- they both had the same business card with the stage name: "Les Lee; Hammond Organ; Sophisticated Swing." Their friendship grew online and over the telephone -- sometimes they would talk for up to four hours at a time.

Ruth recently spent a week in Beaufort visiting Pat and her husband, Robert, where they shared a musical talent of playing guitar.

"A lot of people don't realize how important family is," Pat said. "It is exciting for me to find all this family."

In the late 1970s -- way before the Internet -- Pat, who had never met her father, searched for him using telephone directories.

She would look up the uncommon last name. She eventually found a cousin who connected her to her father when he was living in Pleasant Plains, Ill. He joined Pat and her family for the following Thanksgiving.

"He stayed a week and came two other times," Pat recalled.

Pat learned that her father had taught in the Civil Air Patrol. She learned that he was a good cook who was a traveling salesman and a musician. "Playing the organ was his big love," Pat said.

Ruth is appreciative of the time Pat spent with their dad in his later years. "I am so glad Pat got to know him. Through her, I've gotten to know more about him," Ruth said.

Now the two are hoping to find more family.

"We are looking for the possibility of other siblings, maybe a sister and possibly another brother," Pat said. "We've got 53 years to catch up on and you can't do it all in a week."

ANOTHER CONNECTION

While Pat Claxton and Ruth Ogier used a social network for their search, Bob Williams of Beaufort, president of the Old St. Bartholomew Chapter South Carolina Genealogical Society, has found other sources more helpful.

He found some of his family members by submitting a DNA sample to Family Tree DNA, an online company that helps people trace their ancestry, in January 2004.

"Back then, there were only about 60 people who had submitted Williams DNA samples," he said. "Seven years later, the Williams DNA project has grown to more than 800 samples submitted."

So far, Williams has found two matches. One is a first cousin who also lives in Beaufort. Williams did discover via census records that his mother was his father's second wife. His first wife died in 1929, leaving him with a daughter and a son. For now, Williams' search continues: "The 1940 Federal Census family names will be released next year. There might be some information there," he said.

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