During the summer and fall of 2007 I was corresponding with a new-online-cousin. (How I found her is for another blog post.) We were getting to know each other via email as we confirmed the relationship we believed existed. Coincidentally, she lived in my own hometown of Livermore, California. Shelley Parks Covey was the gr-granddaughter and I was the gr-gr-granddaughter of Mary Ann Adams Brown Parks, (1849-1940). We shared only the Mary Ann half of the married couple, as I was from the line of Mary Ann's first husband and Shelley from the line of her second husband. I won’t muddy those waters or tell that story here, the one I want to share is about Shelley’s mother, Betty.
As Shelley & I were getting to know each other, I'd told her I’d been researching the Brown & Parks family connections since my first research trip to Tehama County, California, in 1995. I knew all the names of this family from the cemetery visits and then documents research in the county courthouse.
Shelley too lived in the Tehama County area where these families had lived, and yet here she was in my own backyard, in Livermore, California.
I’d been telling her my father, Norman Brown, was born and raised in Red Bluff, California. Shelley said “so was my mother Betty Hunter, later Betty Parks. Knowing Red Bluff was and is still a small town, I said “Dad lived on Jefferson St.” she said “so did my Mom!” (Coincidental as it was our father's lines who we had in common not her mother....)
Betty was living in a retirement home in Livermore, Shelley called her Mom and asked if she remembered Norman Brown as a childhood neighbor. We already knew Betty was 9 years older than Norman, but they may've been neighbors.Shelley found out that Betty had moved right about the time Norman was born, but did remember “old lady Hillhouse and her daughter” who lived in the same house.
Turns out “old lady Hillhouse” was my gr-grandmother Susan Hillhouse, she and her daughter Dene Hillhouse lived in the house on Jefferson Street for a number of years before Dene married my grandfather, Norman Brown Sr. Time frame is about 1922 when Betty was born, Dene and Norman married 1929, and Norman Jr. was born 1931.
So now as “Paul Harvey” would say, the rest of the story. Betty told Shelley she had a photograph of Dene Hillhouse holding her as a baby! I was floored and yet I had a niggling in the back of my mind that I’d seen that photograph.
Our face to face gathering was a few weeks later. Shelley and I were there in her home, along with Betty, another cousin of Shelley’s, Susan Levine, and John Moller. John goes with the rest of the story for another blog post. What a delightful time we had, Betty sharing with me her memories of my gr-grandmother Susan and my Nana, Dene Hillhouse, and growing up in Red Bluff, and listening to the other cousins chatter about their lives in common. We shared the photograph, yes indeed I’d seen it before, not knowing who the baby was at the time.
Just a little more here, the serendipity factor, Betty later married Frank Russell Parks, also from the area, and Dene married Norman Brown Sr. Frank and Norman were first cousins…about 20 years difference in age…and here we were in 2007, the descendants of each of these men, and the photograph. Betty is related by marriage in to the family, and yet my Nana was holding her as a baby before she ever met and married my grandfather….
Small town and a little serendipity … love the search and the results …