When I was a sophomore in high school, my family went to visit my paternal grandparents. It was a three-day car trip and it had been seven years since our last visit. I had just been learning about writing my personal history in my Sunday School class and I had a hundred questions for my grandparents. I spent a lot of time getting to know my grandparents during that trip. I didn't realize then that it would be the last time I would ever see either of them.
My grandparents both spent time telling me about their early lives and their marriage. My grandfather told me about his father, who had immigrated from England, about how he had originally come to Kansas and later to Arkansas. He told me about his brother who had died when he was just 21, after he was kicked in the head by a horse. My father was named for that brother. My grandmother told me about how they had paid for stamps during the depression by putting an egg in the mailbox for each letter. They told me about how they had built the stone house where they lived with the help of their children.
The morning we were leaving for home my grandfather called me into the living room and said, "I have something I want to give you." He handed me a photo album with a mother of pearl cover and about 50 pictures inside. My grandfather explained that his father (William Allen) had brought the photo album with him when he came to the United States from England in about 1870. He also gave me a stack of letters that his father had received from his sister Lucy over a period of about 40 years. During this entire time, my grandmother was standing off to the side scowling. Finally she said, "Ernest, you shouldn't give those to her - she is too young and she won't even be an Allen." But my grandfather had decided he wanted me to have the album and letters, and my grandmother couldn't talk him out of it.
When I got home I studied every picture and I read every letter. The names didn't mean anything to me, but I was able to piece a few things together. The return address was in Drayton Beauchamp, England, and it was the same on all of the letters, so I decided to write to that address and see if any Allens still lived there. (The last letter had been dated 34 years earlier.) If I had been older or more sophisticated, I am sure I never would have written that letter. But I did, and I got an answer. A Mrs. Dixon wrote me back and said that she had bought the cottage from Lucy over 30 years earlier but that there were no longer any Allens in the area. She was glad I had written her because she had found a sampler in a caravan out behind the cottage and she felt it should go to someone in the family. Did I want it? She said it listed the names and birth dates of 9 children, and underneath that it said, "Sons and Daughters of William and Eliza Allen." One of those children was my great grandfather, William, who came to the United States, and another one was his sister, Lucy. That was the beginning of my search for my Allen ancestry. Thank you, Grandpa.
I owe a great debt to my many Allen relatives who have helped me with information, documentation, and pictures, especially my cousins Mike Reeves and Dale Allen. I also appreciate the help I have received from my cousins I have met through the miracle of the internet, such as my 2nd cousin once removed, Don Smischny.