‘Donna’ – An Admiring, Overdue Tribute to a Pioneering and Inexhaustible Genealogist

Donna (Younkin) Logan changed my life and my perception of how our Pennsylvania German pioneer families have grown to vast sizes and shaped Americana. She left us too soon. Sadly, it’s taken me a baker’s dozen years to complete writing this memoir which I began in 2007.

For more than 15 years, from the late 1980s to her death on Jan. 4, 2006, Donna was a pioneering researcher as well as organizer of the National Younkin Reunion and publisher of the “new” Younkin Family News Bulletin. She spent those years digging into old records, copying photos, visiting cemeteries and corresponding with Younkin descendants all over the United States and beyond. She freely shared her vast resource of research information, always with cheer and enthusiasm. As said her sister Jean, “Donna would do anything for a Younkin.”

I don’t know where she got her drive — or her energy.

Perhaps her greatest achievement and most enduring legacy was the lesson of inter-connectedness, that while we all share a DNA link, we also are part of the greater whole of our nation in its mainly good, sometimes bad and occasionally ugly.

Her last discoveries were of Younkin-Junghen connections in Germany, and also the launch of a Younkin DNA project utilizing technology to determine precise bloodlines. Her passing was a powerful shock, and she is still missed by many. Among veteran Younkin reunion-goers, she stands as a one-word name, simply “Donna.”

Donna’s Mind — Donna’s mind and motive always fascinated me. She had a deep belief that one of the greatest qualities of life was to have a history. And she seemed genuinely gratified when giving others the gift of their genealogy. I don’t kinow if this was the product of being the eldest child of divorced parents, or starting to face an empty nest once her children were in high school — or having her Younkin grandparents living so far away in later years after having grown up with them nearby. She considered the sharing of memories to be a “true gift.”

She definitely was blessed with a high curiosity drive from a young age. She once wrote that “As a child, I was forever asking my Dad why we were the only family with this name. A name, I might add, that my teachers always spelled and pronounced incorrectly! Each year the new phone book would come out. I would check to see if any new YOUNKIN’s had moved to town.”

After having not seen them for about a decade, Donna and her sister Jean and young nephew Derek flew to Arizona in about 1987 to see their grandparents Karst and Catherine (Brown) Younkin, of the family of Aaron Schrock and Sarah (Alton) Younkin. While there, Donna’s grandmother brought out “a huge box from storage filled with memories,” Donna later wrote. “This box contained an emormous collection of photographs, documents, hand-written memoirs and one very special item – an old (published 1938) issue of the Younkin Family News Bulletin.” She also saw a photograph of the Nebraska sod house where her grandparents had once lived.

These finds fueled her imagination and sense of purpose in going deep into her family’s past.

Her daughter Jennifer suggests that Donna’s personality type was as a “campaigner,” someone who is “extraverted, intuitive, feeling, and prospecting.” Some of the fruits of this type are a free spiritedness, charm, independence, energy and great joy in making emotional connections with others. These truly were her gifts.

Her First Call — Her first call came one Saturday afternoon in July 1989 as I was hurrying to get out the door. My brothers and I were about to embark on a road trip to Cleveland to see a ballgame between the Indians and Oakland A’s. I didn’t have much time, but once I knew why she was on the phone, delayed for just a bit and ended up talking for several minutes. more>>>

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