The thing about doing this research is, one doesn't exactly expect to have 400 years of history dumped in their laps all at once. Yet this is exactly what happened to me about 10 days ago.
My dad's paternal grandparents were named Arthur Tozer and Agnes Armstrong. Arthur died in some sort of tragic car accident on Hertel Ave in Buffalo about 10 years before my father was even born, so Dad never knew him. Agnes seems to have lived with her middle son in a Buffalo suburb for a while after that, but eventually relocated back to her native Ontario until her death in approx. 1958. All I really knew was that she had three sons; the youngest was my grandfather, who died suddenly when I was 8. I found it odd that the oldest was SO much older, and born in Canada rather than Buffalo like the younger two, but stranger things have happened, so I went with it.
About two weeks ago, I found a marriage license for her oldest son that pretty much had me panicking that I had the wrong Agnes. Why? Because this child, Richard Tozer, listed his father's first name as John (not Arthur), and Agnes' maiden name as Cavenagh. His DOB and POB matched up, his mother's first name was right, his wife's name was right. John? Maybe I could have gone with that, as Arthur occasionally used J as his middle initial. Maybe he went by John? But why hadn't I seen that anywhere else? The Cavenagh part as Agnes' maiden name is what really freaked me out, as I seriously deleted about 15-20 people from her family tree, convinced that I must have somehow severely messed up in my ignorance early on.
The next day, I found a post by utter chance that mentioned Arthur Tozer taking a train to Buffalo from Pennsylvania, to meet an Agnes Armstrong from Canada, where they had agreed to meet up and get married. This post was years old, like early-to-mid 2000s. I've posted, and responded to, other bulletin board postings before, but usually it's like a freaking message in a bottle: you hope someone, the right someone, sees it and responds with something useful. With that sort of mindset -- "this post is years old, who knows who this guy is, or if he's even using the same email account. But the names are right, there can't possibly be two Agnes Armstrongs and Arthur Tozers who lived in Buffalo at that time." So I responded, that I was pretty sure Agnes and Arthur were my paternal-paternal great-grandparents, and if he had anything useful on them, I'd be happy to trade what little information I'd been able to find.
Twenty-four hours later, the original poster responded. A few hours later, he'd given me enough information to trace Arthur's father and grandfather, back to a William H. Tozer who lived in the southern tier of New York, born in 1814. Wow, that's pretty cool, that's a whole century before my mom's family immigrated from Austria. Who knew the Tozers had been in the U.S. that long?
I had no idea.
(He also was able to clarify for me that Agnes' oldest son, Richard, had actually been the child of her first marriage -- to John Cavenagh. After they separated (divorced, I suspect, based on what I've found since then), and Agnes married Arthur, Richard started going by Richard J Tozer, rather than Richard Cavenagh. There may or may not have been a formal adoption, but as I understand from the bit of adoption history I've researched on my own, adoptions weren't always formal legal agreements until post-WWII.)
Within another 24 hours, , this individual had identified himself as a friend of Richard J Tozer's son, Dick, my father's...half-cousin? Basically, Dick and his sister are my dad's only actual cousins, so far as I am aware. The middle brother married but died childless, and as far as I know, my grandmother was an only child. Due to the age difference between Richard J and my grandfather, and the distances they ended up relocating over time, my dad never knew about Richard J's children, and Richard's children (now in their 70s) were only dimly aware of my grandfather when he and Richard attended a family funeral when they were young. They didn't know my grandmother; the person doing research for them had actually linked the middle son's wife with my grandfather, which of course led to a dead-end.
That's the cool current part.
The cool historical part? Dick's friend had traced the Tozers not 200 years back, but all the way to one James Tozer, gentleman, of London, England, b. 1544. James Tozer married a Johanna Ashpoole, and had one child, Thomas Tozer, b. 1580.
Thomas Tozer married Charity Tabb in Teignmouth, Devonshire, England. If you search for that in Google Maps, you know what's right next to the marker for the center of town? Zoom in close enough, and 100 feet from the red "A" is...Tozers LLP, a law firm. "The practice was started by John Chappell Tozer at Newton Bushell (now part of Newton Abbot) in 1785 during the reign of King George III and at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1817 the firm was transferred to the then highly fashionable Teignmouth by John Chappell Tozer's son of the same name."
Uh, yeah, this place is now on the list of "places I must visit and introduce myself should I ever actually make it across the Atlantic."
Anyway, Thomas and Charity Tozer also only had one child of note (there were probably others, but I don't know of them yet): Richard Tozer, or Tozier, born in Teignmouth around 1620. Known as "Richard Tozer, the immigrant ancestor", he came to Boston by 1650, then moved to Kittery, York County, ME. He married, he had eight children, and then was killed in an Indian attack with one of his sons, likely (another) Thomas Tozer.
As it would happen, this Thomas Tozer is my dad's ancestor; he only lived long enough to have one son, (another) Richard Tozer b. 1675 or 1680. (There are a ridiculous number of Richard and Thomas Tozers!) Richard married Mercy Mary Beebe, who apparently has quite the illustrious pre-Revolutionary War credentials herself. Child number seven was Samuel Tozer, who was the father of a (young) Revolutionary War soldier, later known as Col. Julius Tozer.
Richard's first son was named Thomas. Thomas' oldest child is another Revolutionary War soldier, one Elishama Tozer, b. 3 July 1741. (Holy crap, my family has people with Wikipedia articles?!)
Thanks to Elishama, my dad, uncle, brother, and cousin all qualify for SAR, and my sister qualifies for DAR. (They'd only take me if my biological parents could be traced back so far; to which I say FEH, your loss that I'm the one most interested in this stuff!)
From there, if you follow any of the descendants of pretty much anyone named above, you see how I suddenly realized that yes, my family probably is actually, really truly related to EVERY SINGLE TOZER in the United States. Or at least the grand majority of them. This includes Mr. A. W. Tozer, though so distantly it's not something I really care to lay claim to.
As you can probably imagine, I am STILL processing through the details of what landed in my lap. But suddenly, I have a very rooted sense of my dad's side of the family, something I never really had before. I am SO glad I was able to get in touch with my dad's cousins, and through them finally be able to figure out how we fit into things.