Grumpyology
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the grumpy genealogist


Stanley Young III got a visit from his ancestors earlier this month.

Bundled in a parcel that arrived on his doorstep was an old photo album that depicted his great-grandmother and great-granduncle, along with various other relatives, in all their finery.

The family album, portions of which dated to the late 1800s, was accompanied by a family tree put together by a total stranger, a Maryland genealogist who researched the photo album as a side venture to her business.

"Of course it was a surprise," Young said.

The photographic family reunion across the generations was made possible by Melissa "Missy" Corley, a tenacious researcher who loves to delve into historical mysteries.

When she came across the old album in an Easton, Md., antiques shop, Corley was smitten. She spent $75 to buy the book in March, then devoted dozens of hours of her own time -- which could cost several thousands of dollars if she had been billing for the job -- to put the puzzle together in a kind of historical treasure hunt.

"It was a lot of fun," said Corley, 34. "I'm a genealogist, so I'm drawn to old photos and documents. Usually they're associated with people who have a story to go with them. It's a fun puzzle to solve."

She also assumed someone would love to have the old book in their family's possession. She was right.

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"If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance." - George Bernard Shaw