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Barbara Woodworth: Reunion restores family connections

I always marveled – and envied – the mega-family reunions attended by so many of our friends, and it’s long been my view that large, multigenerational family gatherings are something we, as a family, really missed. In fact, my husband and I often joked about holding a family reunion around our kitchen table. Truth be known, that’s all the space we would need to host both the paternal and maternal sides of the Buffalo Woodworths.

This year, however, things changed when we learned of a Woodworth genealogical family reunion to be held at Lake George in June. We signed up. Not knowing anyone, at first, seemed a bit awesome – but what the heck, nothing ventured, nothing gained. This was our time to be part of a mega-family reunion, even though we weren’t sure at first that we really were a part of this very extended family.

It turned out we were! My husband, Bill, we found out (validated by several knowledgeable and certified genealogists), is the 10th generation of the Woodworth family starting with Walter Woodworth, born in 1612, who arrived in America from England in 1633. That makes our children generation number 11.

Learning the intricacies of the Woodworth line was a fascinating experience as we sat in on a presentation by Diane Woodworth Liebert, a genealogist and distant cousin from Madison, Wis. There were good stories about many ancestors and some distant relatives who, presumably like many families, encountered various difficulties. Another evening we learned, from Sherrye Woodworth of Marquette, Mich., about a Woodworth DNA project and found that several of those seated around us – all wearing name tags bearing the surname Woodworth, claimed dual links to the Woodworth line. We learned of Bill’s line, beginning with Walter and followed by Joseph, Joseph, Jedediah, William, Alexander, George Washburn (Bill’s great-grandfather), Jerome Bonaparte (Bill’s grandfather), who served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and on to his dad, Clifford Jerome. It was truly a unique experience.

The approximately 40 Woodworths we met came from 15 states – from California to North Carolina – and from Canada as far north as Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It was almost prophetic that the first person my husband met turned out to be his namesake – Bill Woodworth from Oklahoma.

During this five-day reunion the mix of history and fun was perfect. The fun part started with breakfast each day at the Lake George Wingate Hotel, bus trip lunches, dinners out and educational programs in the evening. During the day we toured such historical sites as the Grant Cottage, where President Grant spent his final days, the Saratoga Battlefield, a Woodworth excavation site, the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs and some stops along the Underground Railroad. The grand finale was a dining and dancing boat trip along beautiful Lake George aboard the Mohegan.

Although we started out not knowing anyone, by the time we left five days later, we had made new friends, presumably found new relatives, established lasting memories and are seriously considering attending the next Woodworth Genealogical Family Reunion to be held in 2017 in Springfield, Ill.