I’ve spent quite a bit of time today with my mom looking at family letters, journals, pictures and memorabilia. I am very confused and totally impressed with anyone who spends more than half an hour studying genealogy. Think of it this way – most of us know who our parents are. That’s two people. A lot of us know or have known one or both of our sets of grandparents. It’s not too hard yet – that’s just six people all together. A few of us knew great-grandparents, or heard about them from people who knew them. We’ve just added eight more people to the mix, fourteen to keep track of. Still with me? Now maybe you get married and have children. Those poor kids have double that number to figure out because you’ve just joined them to another line of your spouse’s ancestry. And that number doubles every time you go back another generation. We haven’t said anything about aunts, uncles or cousins yet either.
And ancestors can really confuse you if they happened to have more than one marriage. Also in the past, people didn’t have a lot of imagination in naming their kids, or they were too busy, or something. They just kept picking the same names that their father or uncle or sister or brother had. So every generation had repeats with a number behind the name. (If you care about genealogy, pick a unique name for your child, please.)
I’ve about decided that I’m not going to get it all straight. I’m just going to remember some of the neat stories. For instance, one of my ancestors (George Boone III, poor guy) came over from England and enjoyed dabbling in real estate. He was the original owner of the tract of land in Maryland that became Washington, D.C. and in fact, Georgetown is named after him. There is even a plaque in the city that says so. Pretty cool, huh? Yes, there was also a George IV,
Another of my ancestors named Squire Boone (and I have to hand it to his parents for thinking of a name I certainly wouldn’t have thought of) had two sons, Edward and Daniel. He lived in Kentucky and yes they did have coonskin caps. Edward was my ancestor, but he was killed by Indians and his brother Daniel helped raise his children. I haven’t figured out how many “greats” I have to attach to it, but Daniel Boone was some kind of an uncle of mine.
There’s lots more and the really great thing is that so many of my ancestors were the bloggers of their day. They wrote journals, they were newspaper reporters and writers of one sort or another. Many were school teachers or ministers which gave them a familiarity with writing and an appreciation of family histories. One of “my people” sat in a tent one night during the Civil War and put down his thoughts in a poem and we have it today.
My great aunt Esther was one of the historians for our family on my mother’s side. In spite of the fact that she wrote a lot of her notes on napkins, and lost pages of letters all the time, she did have a large collection of family history that she passed on to my mom. That’s the material we are sorting through. My mom has compiled a two volume history from most of the writings but what do we do with those precious originals? I want to thank my ancestors for writing about their ordinary lives, which, turns out for some of them, were pretty extraordinary. If this makes you want to start a journal, I’m sayin’ just do it!
Do you have an interesting story in your family history? Tell it to me, please.