Sue Williams Hannibal High School 1950

Why We Do It

A renewal of old family relations came at exactly the right time and place, fueled by someone I’ve never met.

She had no way of knowing it, but you couldn’t ask for better timing. The end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 were not pleasant times for me. Aside from being in the middle of a pandemic and all that it encompassed, my father-in-law had become quite ill. I became the primary care-giver in terms of getting him back and forth between doctors and hospitals (a role I absolutely cherished) but on February 2, 2021 we lost Dennie Baugh to acute myeloid leukemia.

A few months prior, I had reached out to “lasuwill” on, believing her to be Sue Bousman Williams, my first cousin, once removed. The Bousman side of the family relates to Sue’s aunt, my paternal grandmother, Mabel Bernice Bousman. My grandmother died in 1982, almost forty years ago, long before I became interested in genealogy, family history or in understanding my roots, and most of my Bousman relatives were scattered around, in Northern California (before I moved there), in Texas, and in Missouri.

I didn’t receive a response right away but that was not unusual in genealogy circles and I thought nothing of it. After all, Sue Williams and I had never met (although I do vaguely recall answering the phone one time when I was a teenager and either Sue or her sister Judy was calling to speak to my dad). In fact, with everything else going on, I sort of forgot about it, but on February 3, not even a full day after Dennie left us, Sue responded. What followed has been nothing short of sheer joy, a source of renewal and rejuvenation in a world quickly growing stale.

The Bousmans have been around these parts for quite awhile. Lorentz Bousman left Germany and arrived in Philadelphia in 1746. Eventually, the Bousmans spread out through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, and Missouri. The public record in many areas are filled with stories of Bousman pioneers. One newspaper article about Samuel Mow Bousman, my 4th great uncle, particularly drew my attention:

“Mr. Samuel Bousman celebrated his 73rd birthday, Saturday. A few of his friends gathered in the evening, and made a very enjoyable affair. Mr. Bousman is the father of seventeen children, and has about seventy-five descendants living in this and Johnson county, nearly all of whom are Democrats.”

The Wyandott Herald, Kansas City, Kansas, November 5, 1885, page 3

If you think there are other family stories of interest about the Bousmans, you would be correct and they will be forthcoming down the road. One of them, William and Francis, about a prominent Pennsylvania family (the Shoemaker family) that married into the Bousman tree appeared last September.

Which brings me back to Sue, who is celebrating her 89th birthday today. (the featured image I am told was Sue’s high school graduation photo). Thank you for your kindness and your friendship, your willingness to answer my questions, to help identify people and places in old photographs, and your encouragement to reach out to the rest of the Bousman family, including those in Texas. We still have never met but that will hopefully change this summer with my journey to Hannibal to meet the gang and see the hot spots (which for a genealogist/family historian means visits to the local library and cemeteries). 

By the way, the Hannibal Bousmans didn’t exactly make organizing the family tree easy, for while I have Sue Williams to thank there is also her daughter Susan Williamson who is equally deserving (and who I should point out is exactly 17 minutes younger than me), but, as any good genealogist will attest, while people come and go in our lives, families are always a part of us. Reconnecting with the Bousmans this past year has been nothing short of a godsend.

P.S. — Today is also the eighth anniversary of my father Robert Hile’s passing, so I am feeling a bit melancholy but I still smile whenever I see Sue call my dad Bobby. Thank you also for that …

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January 20, 2022 8:26 am

Hugs to you and Grandpa! Glad you found Sue ❤️

Ashley Williamson
Ashley Williamson
January 21, 2022 12:48 pm

That’s my grandma and Susan is my mom ??