Finding distant relatives is an experience many dream of having. Vineyard Haven resident Doris Clark has made this dream a reality using Ancestry.com, and met her cousin on historic Juneteenth weekend.
In order to fully explain her family heritage, Clark started in 1866. She told The Times her grandfather was born on St. Kitts, and came to the U.S. at 15 years old. She never met him, as she was the youngest, but her older siblings knew him and remembered him fondly.
When Clark started working as a flight attendant, she had a flight to St. Kitts in the mid-1970s. While there, she decided to check the archives to find any records of her grandfather. The receptionist in charge of records said there was nothing she could do to help, because all of the records had been burned in a fire.
On the second visit in the early 1990s, however, she read that a new woman had been hired in the archives. So she decided to pay another visit. As it turns out, the new archivist opened up her computer and was able to find Clark’s grandfather. “Not only did I find my grandfather,” said Clark, “but I was also eligible for citizenship on St. Kitts, so now I am a dual citizen.”
After she found her grandfather’s information, she decided to join Ancestry to find more of her living relatives. As her chart started to populate with more cousins, she would send them an email to let them know. One of those cousins was Trecia Arthurton.
Clark and Arthurton spoke for more than two years before meeting in person on Martha’s Vineyard. Clark suggested that Arthurton and her seven friends stay at Narragansett House in Oak Bluffs, so they met there on the afternoon of June 18.
“As soon as I looked at her, we both started crying,” said Clark, “because this was a cousin I never would have met if it wasn’t for Ancestry putting us together.”
The Times also spoke with Arthurton about her experience meeting her cousin, and she shared a similar experience to Clark. “It was amazing. It’s almost like we met each other before,” Arthurton said.
On the day they met, the Narragansett House was having live music on the front porch for their Juneteenth jubilee celebration. Clark and Arthurton both shared the same sense of pride in meeting during this historic weekend. “To have a cousin that now we can celebrate Juneteenth with the world is surreal,” Clark said.
While on Island, the group went to the Sweet Life in Vineyard Haven, shared a chartered boat through Island Time with Captain Joe, and went on a historic tour through the Martha’s Vineyard African American Heritage Trail, led by Elaine Weintraub. Arthurton spoke about her experience sharing these moments with a relative she would not have met without Ancestry.
“It was amazing,” Arthurton said. “Martha’s Vineyard also has a lot of connections with the Black community, so learning about our ancestors on the Island with a relative was a real sense of pride,”
Arthurton and Clark both shared their gratitude for being able to have the opportunity to meet. “I’ve gained a new friend and a mentor, not just a cousin,” Arthurton said.