Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Genealogical Serendipity


Wikipedia, the online collaborative encyclopedia, defines serendipity as the "effect by which one accidentally discovers something fortunate, especially while looking for something entirely unrelated." Such was my experience this past week.

I have commented previously on the great benefits that can be achieved using Google searches for family names. It struck me that a similar benefit might likely be achieved in searching for information about the streets and neighbourhoods that our 'ancestors' lived in. While conducting a search for historical information about the street on which my parents were raised, and for that matter, the street on which I spent my early years, I came across an article that confirmed part of the family story about an embarrassing moment for my father taking his little sister to get the autographs of his boyhood friends, John and Ray Perkins, two members of The Crew Cuts (pictured right and see Embarrassing Moments, September 24th). Through a series of events I will not detail to protect his privacy, I came upon John Perkins' phone number.

For some context, John Perkins and his younger brother, Ray, lived about half way between my parents' childhood homes on Pickering Street in Toronto's east end. Both brothers attended Toronto's St. Michael's Choir School following which they eventually formed a vocal quartet with choir school alumnae, Pat Barrett and Rudi Maugeri. In 1954, they recorded Sh-Boom which charted at #1. Other hits followed including Earth Angel which hit #2 in the charts. In 1984, the group was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.

As genealogists starting out, we learn that speaking with older family members is one key to effectively beginning the search into our ancestral roots. Finding a contact point that was a childhood friend of my parents with whom to talk about my parents and their neighbourhood and environment, it seemed to me would add a whole new enriching element to the image I have of my parents as they grew up. While I must frankly admit to being extremely reluctant about 'cold' calling a complete stranger, I finally mustered up the courage and called John Perkins.

John Perkins was gracious enough to speak with me about the 'old' neighbourhood and the Pickering Street environment of the 1930's and 40's, providing me with a more complete picture of the lifestyle and activities that my parents as children and teens experienced. Thanks to John Perkins, I have found a whole new collateral approach to discovering the experiences of my family.




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