Olin Family International Reunion 2016

This circular proof literally made me shake my head.

Olin Family International Reunion 2016, Saybrook, OH – July 15-17, 2016

After we left the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we headed east on I-90 . The Wife wanted to stop in Geneva-on-the-Lake, so we did, enjoying a great view of Lake Erie and eating at a fairly new restaurant in town.
We traveled to the hotel, and then the reunion. I’d been saying we were going to Ashtabula; well, we were in that county, but actually at the Saybrook United Methodist Church. About 65 of us gathered over the period from the Friday evening ice cream social to the Sunday morning brunch, coming from California, Washington state, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ontario, and probably other states besides New York and Ohio.

In fact, at least five folks I had seen only the weekend earlier, including my parents-in-law.

Practically as I entered the door, Kay Olin Johnson corralled me. She had something to show me, an article in the Jamestown (ND) Sun titled “Talks to focus on ancestry search and Princess Diana. “There was an online posting on June 5, 2011, by Roger Green, whose wife and daughter are related to the Spenser [sic] line, and who is author of ‘Ramblin’ with Roger: a Librarian’s Life.’

“Green introduced a Fargo lady named Kay Johnson, whom he met at his wife’s family reunion of the Olins/Spensers.”

I laughed hysterically because it was clear that the reporter was vetting Kay’s bona fides through my blog when much of the information about the Spencer line I had gotten from Kay! This circular proof literally made me shake my head.

As is true with lots of organizations, recruitment of new members is key. Reaching out to people who may not know they’re Olins, through social media, is a key tactic.

On Saturday, we shared historical finds and identifying genealogical resources, including DNA testing; ate lunch; participated in a lengthy auction; had dinner; talked a lot; and watched the sunset on Lake Erie. This was a whole lot more fun than it sounds. And we talk WAY less about Diana than you might think.
ashtabula bridge disaster
I was particularly intrigued by one entrepreneurial woman who puts my ecological efforts to shame. She and her partner discover businesses that are tossing certain products, and they dumpster dive to find items that can be auctioned on eBay or sold for scrap. She was clearly brokenhearted when the stuff goes to the landfill, not primarily because she wants the revenue, but because those items will clog a landfill somewhere, not the planet she wants to leave to her young granddaughter.

We visited covered bridges, including one named for the Olins, and went to a cemetery where some Olins are buried, plus the folks in the Ashtabula Bridge Disaster of 1876.

The Daughter had a reasonably good time at the Olin Family International Reunion, assisting with the auction, playing with one of her cousins, previously unknown to her, and eating the free ice cream available all weekend, thanks to one of the tribe. That’s usually my gauge of a successful trip, how The Child fared.


That “once removed” stuff involves people of different generation. Donald and Robert, my mother’s cousins, are my first cousins once removed, for instance.

As I have noted, my parents were both only children, so my sisters and I had no direct aunts or uncles, and no first cousins. But we do have cousins. And a whole lot of them were under one roof on Thanksgiving night.

When people try to describe cousins, they tend to talk about the siblings, but I find it easier to understand a generation earlier.

Edward Yates and Lillian Archer, married in the 1880s

They had five children, one of whom did in infancy. For this purpose, I’ll mention only two:
Gertrude Yates married Clarence Williams.
Ernie Yates married Charlotte Berman

Gertrude had one daughter, Trudy Williams
Ernie had four children, Raymond, Frances, Donald, and Robert
As Edward and Lillian’s grandchildren, Trudy is first cousins with Ernie’s four. She’s a decade to the day older than Raymond, but they are the closest thing to siblings she had.

Trudy married Les Green and had three children, Roger, Leslie, and Marcia.
Frances married Jimmy Beal and had two daughters, Anne and Lisa. (Donald and Robert also had kids.)
As Edward and Lillian’s great-grandchildren, the Green kids are second cousins to the Beal girls. The Greens are also about ten years older than the Beals but considered them their closest relatives outside their nuclear family.

Roger married Carol and had one daughter, Lydia.
Leslie married Eric and had one daughter, Rebecca, who married Rico.
(Marcia also has a daughter, Alexandria.)
Anne married Brahm and had three daughters.
As Les and Trudy’s grandchildren, Lydia and Rebecca are first cousins, though 25 years apart.
As Edward and Lillian’s great-great-grandchildren, Anne’s daughters are third cousins with both Rebecca and Lydia.

That “once removed” stuff involves people of different generations. Donald and Robert, my mother’s first cousins, are my first cousins once removed, for instance.

And all of the people noted in italics were at Anne’s house outside New York City for Thanksgiving dinner last month, three generations of descendants of Lillian and Edward, along with a couple of spouses, not to mention some friends as well. Someone at the table, just before the meal, said that we individually may think of our immediate families as small – I know I do – but we really have a large family when we look at things differently.

The Vacation in Newport

He says, “My name is Peter.” I say, “Hi, Peter. Would you like me to call 9-1-1 for you?”

I recently mentioned visiting the mansions in Newport, Rhode Island, but not much else. It was school vacation week, and the Wife suggested that we could go to a timeshare of my parents-in-law there. The Wife, the Daughter, and I had been to visit a friend of mine in another part of the state some five years earlier, and we briefly visited Newport as well.

What she didn’t tell me until the morning we were leaving was that her brother, his wife, and their twin 11-year-old daughters were ALSO going on the trip, staying at a different resort. Not that I minded; I just didn’t know.

We got to Newport in reasonably short order. As you enter the city, the first major street is called Farewell Street. Can you guess what dominates the road?

That’s right, a cemetery; someone with a grim sense of humor. Then we found the wrong part of Thames Street. The street, BTW, is pronounced as though it rhymes with ‘tames’, not like the river in England. The part of Thames we lived on was very narrow, streets like one might find in older parts of Europe. We eventually found our way, via a street called America’s Cup. But it took a while because of the number of one-way streets.

This explains why we saw at least four of the scooters pictured here. We also saw EIGHT Segways in a row; I’d never seen more than two at a time.

On the second night, I was awakened at 12:34 a.m. by someone clearly trying the electronic key in the door at least a half dozen times; my wife, a much more sound sleeper, was oblivious to this. I looked out the peephole, and I see some guy in an orange jumpsuit – not prison garb, just loud colors – lying on the floor. I open the door tentatively, and he slowly staggers to his feet; even from a distance, I could tell he’s been drinking.

He sees me and says, “Is this your room?” I reply, “Yes. Would you like me to call 9-1-1 for you?” He says, “My name is Peter.” I say, “Hi, Peter. Would you like me to call 9-1-1 for you?” He says, “Nah. I must be in the next room.” I had the sense if I hadn’t spoken to him, he might have slept there all night since the resort desk was closed from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. I went back to sleep, but my wife, overhearing my conversation with Peter, was awake for the next several hours.

The great thing about the in-laws on the trip was that we were only about five minutes away from each other, by foot. One night, they watched The Daughter so that The Wife and I could go out to dinner. Another night, we watched the girls while their parents went out. And the final night, we made dinner together, at their place, since they had an oven (we had just a stovetop and a microwave). Their place also had a swimming pool, so the girls all swam together thrice. We also played a card game called Apples to Apples Junior, which was great fun. And we went to three mansions together, which made it easier for the grownups to switch off watching the three girls.

Of course, the worst part of vacation is coming back. This was literally true; we spent an hour stuck on the Berkshire spur portion of I-90, evidently as a result of an auto accident up ahead. But the vehicle looked awful, and sitting on an interstate is not the worst outcome at the end of a trip.

The Olin International Family Reunion

After a delicious lunch, the kids got to do face painting, hair coloring and horseback riding.

For over 75 years, various branches of my mother-in-law’s family have gotten together for family reunions. But at some point, the Olin Family Society, founded in 1992, decided to have an international reunion every five years. In 1996, it was in Fargo, ND; in 2001, in Binghamton, NY, which we attended; and in 2006, in Pasco, WA, which we did not attend, because we thought taking a two-year-old who didn’t travel well on a transcontinental flight as her first airline experience was a lousy idea for all concerned.

The Olins trace their lineage back to the late 17th century, when John Olin, a 14-year old cabin boy who was an indentured servant, forced into service on the British ship Man-O-War, jumped off the boat heading for Boston harbor. He swam ashore, stealthily traveled inland for about a week, and ended up in the care of the Narragansett Indians for eight years. He became an indentured servant to Samuel Gorton until 1700 when he became a free man. John married Susannah Spencer on October 4, 1708. She was believed to be an ancestor of Diana Spencer, who married Prince Charles of England, and had a couple of sons. John and Susannah had four known children, Joseph, John, Henry, and Eleanor.

The drive from Toronto to Peterborough, once we got out of Toronto traffic, was uneventful. Stayed at a functional but unremarkable Best Western; 2nd floor again, no elevator. We attended the ice cream social Friday night at the church where the event was held, just past the Quaker Oats plant; a decent number of folks turned out, but Saturday was the main event.

Someone at the reunion made nametags for everyone who had preregistered that listed, not only the Olin family member but also their spouse, all the generations back to John and Susannah. My wife, and therefore my daughter, are in the John-Joseph-Joseph-Reuben-John-Earl-Orva Lee-George Omar line. George married Leona G. Ruland, and they had 8 children (all of whom were still alive six years ago, though a few have passed since), the sixth of whom was my mother-in-law. So my wife’s name tag and mine showed 10 generations, and my daughter’s, 11.

A meeting was held in the morning, during which the daughter and I played Uno, with info of genealogical finds. After a delicious lunch, the kids got to do face painting, hair coloring, and horseback riding. I too got my hair sprayed, and I’m sure there’s photographic proof somewhere, but not here.

There was an auction in the afternoon, during which I purchased the 1893 tome cited above, then a great dinner, with lots of homemade pies for dessert. Then Sunday morning, a great brunch before people took off on the road, in our case, back to the USA.

Lots of great people at this event.


Who ARE all of these people I’m apparently related to?

My wife’s mother’s family, the Olins, have been doing family reunions for decades. As I first mention a lustrum ago, one can trace my wife’s ancestors nine generations back; unfortunately, a couple of my mother-in-law’s siblings have passed since then.

Whereas, on my side, there have been these intermittent attempts to gather Yates (mother’s mother) and Walker (father’s mother) families together, with no real sustainability. My mother’s father’s people, the Williamses, have been doing a gig in recent years; these are people even my mother hasn’t gotten to know until fairly recently.

1. Have you ever gone to a family reunion? Is it a regular event or a one-off? If you haven’t, would you? Why or why not?
2. How far can you get in your own genealogy? I can find my mother’s ancestor five generations back, but am still unclear as to my father’s father’s side.

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