Olivia Newport great-niecesThe beaming woman in this picture is my sister. And what’s not to beam about? She is holding Eloise, her first grandchild, and Elsa, the second grandchild of our eldest brother. These two beauties were born about three weeks apart last summer. A few weeks later came Ella, the granddaughter of another brother. I got my great-aunt hands on all three little girls last Thanksgiving, I’m glad to say. They won’t remember the moment, but I will.

Ella lives in New York State, but Eloise and Elsa live close enough to each other in Illinois family stomping grounds that the last year has yielded a series of adorable photos and videos of the two of them together, sometimes in matching outfits.

Their mothers are cousins and richly fond of each other, which is beautiful in itself as they move into the busy lives of their thirties. For their children to know each other is astounding to me. I don’t have a flawless memory (Elsa’s grandpa does and may correct me) but I don’t remember being with any of my parents’ cousins’ kids while I was growing up. I have a pile of cousins of my own, and while some of us track each other on Facebook and have fond memories, we haven’t seen each other since we were kids, or since our mutual grandparents passed away decades ago. So of course our children haven’t met or worn adorable matching outfits.

I find myself wondering if Eloise and Elsa will know each other thirty years from now. Or will they separately look at the photos that charm me now and ask their mothers, “Who is that kid and why is she wearing my dress?”

I hope they know each other. That would be beyond cool.

In reality strands of extended family tend to go their separate ways. In a culture where people move thousands of miles apart for career opportunities or geographic preferences, it’s easy for the dilution of genetic bonds to begin without anyone considering what the end result will be. Another generation will become the grandparents, and another generation will become the future.

One of many reasons I think about these things at this stage in my life is a recent research foray into my own ancestry and the urge to write about it. In October, the first of my Valley of Choice series will release. It’s called Accidentally Amish.

These books have a contemporary setting, with an intertwining historical thread. I’ve loved writing them because reading backward through my family lines leads to a Jakob Beyeler who arrived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in 1737 with some of the earliest Amish settlers. Most likely he was Amish. You’ll have to read the first book in the series to see why I am not. Jakob’s story forms the backbone of the historical thread—or at least how I imagined the choices he made.

And now Elsa and Eloise and Ella are added to this family line, with their many other second cousins. I’m going to hang on to my hope that they will beat the odds and still know each other thirty years from now—perhaps even well—as they become the mothers of yet another generation.