My new sister-in-law never knew her grandmother. All she knew was a first name - Mabel. Mabel had a son (the father of my sister-in-law) who she gave up for adoption in 1914 and all the family knew was that she worked for a wealthy family in London England.
As a surprise for my sister-in-law I've been researching her family for the past year. I started with her dad's birth certificate from PRO, which didn't reveal his father's name but gave me more information about Mabel.
Using that plus a marriage record, I was able to trace Mabel and her family back several generations. But all I could find on Mabel was that she never married and died in 1977.
So I began tracing Mabel's siblings - one brother and one sister. The sister died young but her brother married, had one son and that son had four children. I told my sister-in-law that if she wanted I would try to find and contact the four children (they would be her cousins) but she should be prepared for reactions ranging from overjoyed to know of new family to refusal to acknowledge her.
Long story short, I follow various genealogy forums online. In order to know when new posts are made to certain forums, I make sure I post responses to others queries. That way I get an email when anyone posts on that topic. I also post queries.
Two days ago I received an email notification that a man had posted in a forum I watch where the topic is Mabel's surname.
I was blown away by this new post. Someone had posted looking for information on his grandfather - Mable's brother! I wrote to him privately and told him about Mabel and her son. I wasn't sure if he would respond or if the family knew about Mabel's son. But I got lucky. He responded with "this is a bombshell but I'm overjoyed"
In an exchange of emails I have learned that he knew his "Aunt Mabel" very well and that he visited her frequently until her death. He's now filled me in on many details of Mabel's life and personality. She was well-loved by her family but no one alive now knew of her son.
Ironically she lived less than 11 miles from her son when he was an adult. It is so sad that he never got to meet her but my sister-in-law is thrilled to find out about her mysterious grandmother.
Best of all, my new contact is in the process of asking his mother for photos of Mabel.
Had I not been watching this particular surname forum it's unlikely I'd have found Mable's nephew. Serendipity at work!