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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Show & Tell: The Power of the Internet

This is a totally non-book-related post, but it's really cool so I hope you keep reading.

Several months ago I started searching for the family of my Grandpa's friend, Joe Tofinchio (who was killed in WWII). Less than a month later I successfully found them, and spoke to his sister on the phone. Since then, I've exchanged emails with a few other members of the Tofinchio family. I was very pleased with the results; Joe's family was happy, my Grandpa was happy, I was happy.

But when you post something on the internet, it takes on a life of it's own. Info is out there for anyone to find ... and find it they do. Just this weekend I received an email from someone ELSE who was searching for Joe's family. I'm going to post the entire email exchange so you can share in my excitement:

Received on Sept. 6, 2008:
Heather, I am not sure if this will reach you or not. I can't tell you how excited I was to find your blog on Joseph Tofinchio! I do research for a group in Nomandy France called Les Fleurs de la Memoire. The members sponsor soldiers buried in the Normandy American Cemetery. One member, Monsieur Michel Drouel, sponsors Joseph. I have been trying to find information on Joseph and couldn't find anything beyond the information in the National Archives. He will be very happy to see the picture you posted as well as to know the little bit of information you provided.

Please let your Grandfather know that Monsieur Drouel takes flowers to his grave at least once a year, and cares very much about this man who gave his life for France's freedom. It would be also be great if you could let Mary and John know about him. Please email me if you have any questions or if John and Mary would like to get in contact with Michel.

My reply, on the same date:
Lynn - This is FABULOUS! Thank you so much for getting in touch with me. It is simply amazing how the internet can bring people together. I had no idead that there was an organization like Les Fleurs de la Memoire. It will mean so much to my family and Joe's family to know that someone is caring for his grave. Please let Monsieur Drouel know that we are very grateful for his sponsorship, and thank him sincerely for us.

I know Monsieur Drouel's efforts will be especially touching for Joe's sister, Mary; she is the one who has flowers sent to put on his tomb on the anniversary of his death each year.

I will forward this message to my grandparents and to Joe's nephew, John. I'll also print a copy and mail it to Mary and John. They will be amazed to hear about Monsieur Drouel.

Do you mind if I post a copy of your email on my blog? My readers have been so supportive of my search for Joe's family - I know they will share in my joy at hearing this news.

Thank you again.
- Heather
Reply, received same day:
Heather, This is fabulous! I just about fell over when I saw your blog! And please do share my email. I started searching for Joseph about a year ago, and of course all I could find was his record on the National Archive. I decided to give it one more shot and found you. And his PICTURE! I swear I had chills when I read your story about finding him.

The internet does bring people together. My Grandfather was killed in World War II and is buried in Normandy. Two other men were killed along side him. I wrote a story about my Grandfather that is on the internet, and a man in France found my sotry who just happens to sponsor those two men. I was so happy to be able to tell him everything I have learned about them.

Fleurs de Memoire is amazing. Their website is

I have met my Grandfathers sponsors, and they consider him to be their Grandfather now. They even have his picture in place in their front living room for everyone to see.

I will be sending along all of your thank yous and really do let me know if Mary or anyone else would like to contact him.

Thank you!
Lynn Taylor
Granddaugher of SGT Dallis Drake
KIA July 27, 1944
Isn't this just amazing?! I checked out the website for Fleur de Memoire and it really is unbeliveable. If you get a chance, go read this page and this page - if THAT doesn't touch you, you've got a heart of stone.

And here is a link to the story Lynn wrote about her grandfather. Again, very touching.

I hope my success inspires someone else to research their family history, or to connect in some way with the WWII generation. A large part of the world owes its freedom and lifestyle to those men and women who fought in the war. We should continue to remember and thank them every day ... especially since, in a few years, they will all be gone forever.

UPDATE (10/22/08): Thanks to DreamyBee, here's a link to a brief National Public Radio segment on Fleur de Memoire.


battynurse said...

Wow. That is amazing. What a great story.

Alyce said...

That is wonderful!

I searched on the internet for my mom's birth mother, and between requesting documents from city records (where my grandmother was born) and searching the internet I found everything I needed within a month. It was absolutely amazing!

My mom has recently contacted her half-brother and half-sister (her mother passed away years ago) and found out that there is at least one more adopted sibling.

I started blogging mainly to record the story of my search so that if her sibling ever googles their birth mother's name all of the information will be there waiting for him/her.

I'm so thankful for this wonderful resource! It encouraged me to read your story. I hope that someday we will find my mom's lost sibling.

Kristin said...

Wow...that is incredible. What a wonderful story and a great organization.

Cara said...

How inspiring! I have always said, "Someday I'll travel to Sicly since that is were my grandfather was last seen after puting his wife and kids on the boat", but maybe I don't have to go anywere, well not to find out about him anyway. I'd still LOVE to travel Italy, but YEAH INTERNET and all the connections it makes!

Sam said...

wow, you just never know what you're going to come across next do you!? What a lovely story and it is so nice to think of people like that out there.

? said...

hello there!
have you seen or read the master and margarita?
Until I hear from you...

Michelle said...

That gave me chills! That is a truly amazing story! Thanks for sharing it.

Confuzzled Shannon said...

So glad you had luck with your family tree. I am still stuck on my great grandfather on my dad's side. For some reason it is like he didn't exist but I have a picture so I can prove he did.

Anonymous said...

Oh Heather, listen...I found my father the very same way! I need to write a story about it for sure. A cousin was doing a geneology thingee on my father's side of the family and as it turns out, my name came up and I found family I never knew I had! Met an aunt who acted as a go-between but alas my father's wife didn't want us to meet because of his health. She did send me pictures of him, though, so I guess that's better than nothing. But I would so love to meet him in real life.

Jana said...

Wow! That's so great that you could make that connection for your granddad, and that there were connections of of it, too!!

Just reminds me to not put off those family history projects!

Photogrl said...

That is really cool!

Makes me want to do a little research into my own family tree...

Anonymous said...

This is a really cool story Heather! What fun!

avisannschild said...

Thanks for posting an update on this story, Heather. It gave me chills! The Internet really is a marvellous thing.

Anonymous said...

What an amazing gift you have given your entire family. Stories like this are the" flesh" on family skeletons. These are the types of stories that will give your son an insight into WWII, but more important, how HIS flesh and blood was affected by D DAY, how HIS family was part of the mosaic that is AMERICA. A priceless treasure.
Ophelia's Mom (another treasure hunter) get Ophelia to relate the story of the French cousins I discovered who turned out to be Champagne kings, and our visits back and forth.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story!

My dad discovered a branch of his family that he never knew about, because of the internet. Filled in a bunch of gaps in the family tree, in fact. Pretty amazing.

Anna said...

This is a great story, and I thank you for sharing it.

My great uncle died in Normandy and is buried in France. My grandmother has long sent money to someone, I have no idea who, to put flowers on his grave. And he/she sends her a picture of the grave every year. She's never been overseas to see his grave, so I know that's a comfort to her. I'll have to talk to her about it when I speak to her next.


Anonymous said...

Yay! I've been doing family history/genealogy research for about a dozen years (I sent letters thru USPS ... no Internet connection at the beginning!).

About 8 years ago I connected with the half-brother of my grandfather; they had never met, as my grandfather was estranged from his father and family. I was able to meet my "great-uncle" and his family and share pictures and stories of that side of the family.

How nice to know that there is this group in France that supports/sponsors/honors WWII vets in this way.

Susan said...

This is a cool post. Thanks for sharing it with us! I've started researching my family tree two years ago, and have discovered distant (and distantly related!) cousins in Virginia, California and Saskatchewan! I also have discovered we come from Wales and Ireland, and how long we've been in Ontario for. It's so good to know. Oh- my grandfather and great-uncle were in WW2; my grandfather didn't go overseas since my grandmother was ill, but my great-uncle flew with the RAF. he came back, and my mother remembers hearing him tell tales of the war. My father is adopted and we don't know much yet about that side of the family, so I have lots to do. It's fascinating, isn't it?

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