Finding Cousin Richard

Sometimes hard work and perseverance set the stage for genealogical success. Other times, serendipity and chance set that stage. Finding Cousin Richard was one of those endeavors which relied more upon providence and chance than upon skilled genealogical research. Here is the story.

On December 4, 1951, Jean Frank, then known as Mrs. Richard Edward Raybold III, gave birth to a boy and he was named Richard Raybold. Richard’s father was also named Richard Raybold as was his deceased great uncle, Richard Edward Raybold, Jr. Additionally, his great grandfather was named Richard Edward Raybold, Sr. This Richard, Jean Frank’s little boy, was the fourth in a proud line of men with the name Richard Raybold.

Sadly, the marriage between Richard III and Jean Frank ended in divorce. Like many divorces, this separation included heartache and loss. Young Richard, you see, and his mother remained in Ohio where she eventually remarried. As the story unfolds, the younger Richard’s step-father understandably wanted to cut ties with the past and establish a new family with a bright future. In light of this fact, Richard, at 12 years old, was renamed Jonathan Jenson.

As the years went by and the distance increased, various Raybold family members unsuccessfully attempted to locate and communicate with Richard Raybold. His own biological father tried to contact him early on in the separation but met with resistance. Interestingly, when the younger Richard, now known as Jonathan, came to adulthood his own attempts to contact his father, Richard III, were complicated because in the 1970’s Richard Edward Raybold III legally changed his name to Marshall Blake.

Eventually Jonathan Jenson’s curiosity about his Raybold roots led him to research his family through ancestry.com. Remember, Jonathan was called Richard Raybold, Dick to his friends, for the first twelve years of his life. His Raybold awareness was keen. While he appreciated his new family, he always identified as and felt like a Raybold.

Jonathan’s search throughout the years paralleled searches being carried out by no less than three members of his extended Raybold family. Jonathan Jenson was considered by some to be “The Lost Raybold.” While he was searching for his roots, members of his Raybold family were also searching for him. It was in this context that Richard Raybold/Jonathan Jenson was found.

One of the reasons it was difficult to find Jonathan was the fact that the people looking for him used the wrong spelling of his name. They all thought his name was spelled “John Jensen” and they used this name in their searches. It’s no wonder they kept coming up short.

In early 2016, Jonathan Jenson established an ancestry.com account and began populating his family tree with the information he had about his Raybold family. He entered about ten Raybold names into his family database and then backed off from using his account any further.

About six months later, I, his cousin, was doing research on our shared great grandfather, Richard Edward Raybold, Sr. using ancestry.com to do my research. As providence, or luck would have it, my ancestry.com account displayed Jonathan’s data as a possible hint (or a possible lead) for corroborating information about Richard Raybold.

I was stunned when I saw the name “Jonathan Jenson” on my computer screen. “Could this be ‘The Lost Raybold’ for whom I had been searching for over 15 years,” I thought to myself? Thinking his name was “John Jensen,” I still wasn’t sure this was the former Richard Raybold for whom I searched.

I decided trying to contact him through ancestry.com was my next step. As Jonathan was no longer actively using his account, I didn’t expect my message would receive a prompt reply. Because of this, I decided using Facebook for a search of Jonathan Jenson might be helpful.

I had searched on Facebook for him previously but as I was using the wrong spelling of his name I came up empty-handed. This time, I had a different spelling of his name and clearly, based on his ancestry.com activity, Jonathan Jenson was a person looking for information on the Raybold family. Perhaps he was my man! Hope springs eternal.

With some excitement, I typed in “Jonathan Jenson” into the search field on my Facebook page and within a few moments 100s of Jonathan Jensons filled my screen. I was discouraged by the volume of names. How would I ever find “my” Jonathan Jenson in this list? Whispering a little prayer, I started to contact the lengthy list of Jensons by sending them private messages.

Interestingly enough, my first inquiry, to a “Jon Jenson,” was returned with a somewhat cryptic yet intriguing message. I had written, “Hi Jon, Does the name Raybold mean anything to you?” His response was, “It might, how did you come across me?” His “It might” gave me hope but it also fueled my concerns that possibly Jonathan Jenson, the former Richard Raybold, did not want to be contacted. This, actually, was a concern that was greatly on my heart. I was, however, undaunted.

I decided to contact other people with the last name Jenson connected to the Jon Jenson on this Facebook account. My next inquiry was sent to a “Kathy Jenson.” Again, the same question. This time the return message was much more definitive. She responded, “Yes, this was my husband’s last name before he was adopted as a young child.” I was both amazed and thrilled to have actually found a real connection to “The Lost Raybold.” Moreover, I was shocked to have found him through the first person named Jonathan Jenson I contacted on Facebook! It turns out, the Jon Jesnson I initially contacted on Facebook was actually the son of “The Lost Raybold,” Jonathan Jenson, Sr.

Now, many questions ran through my mind about Jonathan Jenson. Was he alive? Did he want to reconnect with his Raybold family? Would he be upset with me for bringing up a possibly tender subject about his earlier life? I proceeded with some care.

As it turned out, Jonathan’s wife was delightful and she contacted me from the hospital where her husband was recovering from a recent procedure. This Jonathan Jenson, Sr. was indeed “The Lost Raybold.” Moreover, Jonathan, as I was told through his wife, was eager to talk with me after he recovered from his hospital stay. I was elated!

Within five minutes of returning from the hospital, Jonathan Jenson sent me a message through Facebook indicating he was interested in talking. When we talked, Jonathan told me my reaching out to him was an answer to a prayer and a true blessing. I was greatly relieved and remembered the short prayer uttered some days earlier.

As our initial contact and communication unfolded, Jonathan was delighted to learn he descends from at least nine different Mayflower passengers. He was also eager to reconnect with more contemporary members of the Raybold family. The Waterman – Raybold Family holds a yearly luncheon in Sandwich, MA. Jonathan, and his wife Kathy, are eager to join the clan and take their seats at the Raybold table next year. I am eager, like many, to welcome them.

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4 Responses to Finding Cousin Richard

  1. Very nice, Andrew someday i might put you to work looking for my family! Jon is delghted you never gave up. No surprise you both have a “never quit”attitude!

  2. Well done Andrew, and well written! As I continue to recover from my recent hospital stay, I will communicate & follow up. What a great beginning…

  3. Andrew,

    I enjoyed reading your story, and I’m happy that your search ended with a positive outcome. What a blessing! ?