“History doesn’t move you more than when it’s in the iron of your own blood.” ~J.R. Tompkins~
When I first embarked upon my genealogy research in March 2011, I could not have imagined the journey that would eventually unfold, nor could I have predicted the intensity of my passion for the endeavor. It all began in such a simple, innocuous way, traveling along back country roads in a farming community that was still trying to shrug off the bleak remnants of a long winter.
In the spring of 2011, while spending a weekend decompressing in Indiana’s Amish hamlet (because I am quite the rebel), I drove past what appeared to be a very old cemetery and was inexplicably drawn to the rows of crooked, worn headstones that stretched up a small hill and tumbled down the backside. Walking through the cemetery I felt both a sense of profound sadness witnessing the graves of young children, taken from life within days of one another the victims of what I can only surmise to have been some sickness that decimated entire families, and a building inquisitiveness about how they lived.
What were their lives about before this ending point? Surely, even as we experience joy and heartbreak, laughter and anger, they too, in the time they inhabited earthly space, knew these very same emotions. They would have contemplated sunrises, gazed upward at fluffy clouds scuttling across blue skies, felt rain on their skin.
THEY WERE REAL.
And the only thing separating us from them was a point in time.
When I returned home I couldn’t dismiss the kernel of curiosity that had taken root. What about my people? Who were my people? Flash forward four plus years, hundreds if not thousands of hours on the caper, and I’ve now been able to construct my uniquely-own family tree of over 2,500 ancestors, supported by nearly 5,000 pieces of documentation.
IF ONLY YOU COULD SEE MY BEAMING FACE.
It is an indescribable feeling to build, piece by piece, clue by clue, the history of me. To crawl back in time from grandparents to great grandparents and finally to 8X great grandparents (oh yes I did) and to know that each of them, in some way, contributed to my very existence. Then to sit back and ponder the incredible complexity of DNA that flows through the cells of every human being.
Although the research is, in and of itself, soul satisfying, sharing the stories with my family (and anyone else who will listen, although that list is vastly smaller than the rapt audience of direct relatives), makes me happy.
PERHAPS EVEN A LITTLE GIDDY.
As I inspect my ever-growing tree, I am more convicted than ever that their stories must be told. That they are not forgotten, and that my efforts and research need to mean something. That all people should be recognized and validated for the legacy of merely being human and having existed.
My initial efforts at novel writing based on the life of a favorite ancestor are, unfortunately, bogged down in the minutiae of sussing out accurate historical details for which I do not, at this juncture, have the time to pursue. This problem, coupled with the vexing dilemma of a clear and concise vision for the story line, leads me to the conclusion that perhaps I should disseminate my family stories via a blog.
In my research, I have unearthed facts both uplifting and sobering. I have seen good people make bad (sometimes very bad) decisions and allegedly shifty ancestors utterly redeem themselves. In keeping with my intent to write a pure and fact-based account of my ancestor’s lives, I will detail facts gleaned from research without judgement or malice. It has been my experience in my researching efforts, both from a document-based standpoint and oral stories from those that may have known my ancestors, that any one person can be viewed a myriad of ways dependent on their interaction, experience, and relationship with the story teller.
And because I did not personally interact with any of my ancestors about whom I will blog, I do not pretend to know the wherefores and the whys of their actions or life choices. I can only retell their story from facts extracted from the vast amount of documentation, photos, newspaper archives, Google book archives, census records, Wills and a host of other sources that I’ve collected over the past four years.
I beg my family’s indulgence and perhaps at times, your forgiveness, as my only intent is to give voice to those who have passed before us and to introduce you to the fascinating forerunners of our lineage.