Thursday, January 20, 2011

A full day of ancestors

I have been on the computer most of the day researching ancestors.  I started out trying to find my cousin Michael.  Sadly, he died in 1995.

From there, I began to construct a family tree for him so that at least there would be records of his mother and father and various aunts and uncles.  He would have a place in family history which only seemed right.  After forming his tree,  I expanded the data to include my mother and father's lineage.

I have to say that I never fully appreciated all the work that my mother did in the days before computers.   She went to archives, graveyards, and corresponded with relatives to trace our ancestors back to the 1600's.  She was tireless in her search for ancestral information.  I know that she would have been amazed at the resources on line today.  There are census records,  military records,  anecdotal stories, photos and much more available for downloading and adding to a family tree.

This evening we had dinner with my wife's parents.  I carried the laptop and even got them excited over tracing their lineage. Out came the family bibles and within an hour, I had built a lineage for both of them going back to the early 1800's.  Their family immigrated in the early 1800's from Germany and Ireland so I may have reached a dead end.  But I could tell that they were fascinated by what I did find.

What I plan to do next is to check the online data against my mother's written charts.  It is quite a bit like sleuthing.  In much of the family tree, there is less information on the women.  It appears that records for them were not as important as for the male lines.  I am once again reminded of the prejudice and indifference that women must have suffered.  Considering the number of children born, it is a wonder that more of my ancestors didn't die in childbirth. Every woman had at least 4 to 5 children, and some even had more.  We were a prolific group for a bunch of Episcopalians. "The birth of a nation" as my mother used to say.

At least I know that back in history, I had a huge family of relatives who were owners of plantations and much acreage. And yes, there were quite a few slaves listed which gave me a sad feeling. How could we as a society ever entertained the idea of owning another human being?  It makes me sick at heart.

Strange how all of that has winnowed down to just me as the survivor who leaves no children.  A veritable dead end of an entire line.  But I don't have any regrets.  Maybe some distant cousin five times removed will find the information useful.  And perhaps we may connect some day.


  1. Sometimes I think of family as a living breathing organism. It grows, branches out, dies off.

    I think what you're doing is very important and wise and neat. Sometimes people forget that history includes each of us, eventually, too.

  2. you are doing an amazing thing, tracing your ancestors. the task just seems so big, i give up before i even start. i have a family tree type book from my parents, which i've browsed through but that's how far i've gotten. plus we are the only generation in this country, so it's a tad more difficult. i don't even know most of my living relatives, never mind those who have passed on. but still, i'd love to have something like you are doing...

  3. It's a comforting thought that there are hundreds and hundreds of all these people we've never personally known, yet we are bonded by our bloodline. It's fascinating work tracing your ancestors and, for me, it's all about connection and continuity.

  4. That is my oldest sister's thing. she has compiled that ol' tree all the way back to France 1500 or something.

    Sorry about Micheal. That would have been a tale to tell had you been able to meet him now.

    You can't be held accountable for anything your forbears did. Slavery was wrong but it was also a different age. To me the true evil was the hundred years that followed the civil war.

    At least now you know Syd and I think that was what you wanted.

  5. i really find family history fascinating...its neat to be able to share with children as well...

  6. Oh Syd. Thank you for your everyday insights. Thank you for your kindnesses. I doubt you know how sweetly they are received.

  7. It's pretty fascinating stuff when you start digging into the past. My Mother, also, was very enamored with geneology and would be amazed at our resources today.
    Although my folks had 5 children they were all girls so I, as the youngest, was the last of the line and now our maiden name of Lee will be gone !

  8. Syd,
    Apologies for not being around this week. I have been away from the computer and sick with the flu. I am still recovering.

    I, too, have ancestors who owned a plantation (in Mississippi) and who possessed (shamefully) slaves. There was a little justice though. I understand that the family acreage now encompasses a black university.



  9. Wow - - Such an impressive history. You are right - occasionally - out of the woodwork one might say will come that missing relative!

    One of your comments re prolific Episcopalians brought a big smile in memory of having heard something similar years ago, as my Catholic family was also quite large - - - Big Catholic families were called 'good' Catholics; whereas non-Catholics with big families, were referred to as 'oversexed Protestants.' Just thought I'd interject another taste of prejudice. It comes from everywhere.

    Very interesting - - - you post - - - Syd. Once again, thanks for sharing.

    Anonymous #1

  10. what a beautiful day of history, i love tracing my lineage, my grandmother traced her lineage a few years back and we were direct decendants of king louie the 14th of france. my fathers people were from mexico of incan or mayan decent. my great grandmother they say was 115 when she died. there were no records of her birth as our people were not considered enough to keep borth records on way back then.

    they lived off the land and in tents, they were not white or black but still people an dthey should have been treated as such, so i doubt i will be able to trace much past her on my fathers side.

  11. Thanks for posting Syd. I just yesterday received an email with a picture of my great grandmother. I had never seen one of that particular grandmother before. It's fascinating to think of their lives, isn't it?

  12. I'm sorry to hear of your cousin passing. Your post is fascinating, however, and I commend you on your hard work. It will be appreciated, I'm sure.

  13. And you thought you were going to be bored in retirement!

  14. I am glad at least that you did find out what happened to Michael. I too wish to get into family history some day, my Uncle has done a lot of work and I know the resources on the computer are endless. I am glad you have no regrets, and as they say in our program "we will not wish to shut the door on it" so whatever we learn about our past is our past...

  15. Always love to find another kindred spirit in geneaology! Tracing the family history became my obsession after my beloved grandmother passed away. Even more than tracing the lineage, I have truly enjoyed investigating the stories that go along with the tree. Sleuthing, as you say, has provided us with a wealth of information to pass on to the next round of investigators. Good luck with your search!

  16. My family too had slaves, there is every indication that the slaves were treated well and were released upon fulfilling contracts and legal ties being broken.

    I'm glad we can focus not on the fact that there were slaves, because people can be enslaved to other people in so many ways, there is no monopoly on one group overpowering another and forcing them to submit to a life not of their own choosing or making.

    I used to look at things like that and not realize that it happens still today, and I'm so focused on the history that I forget there's so much I can continue to be aware of in the present.

    I love history though! It's so revealing of life and patterns, and growth and ... well a spirit that endures through all the hardship! :)

  17. You are so fortunate to be able to trace your heritage. As an adopted child from the late 60's my birth certificate and any family history is hijacked and kept sealed by the state. I would give anything to have that connection to my past and to know who I am...

  18. all of this family research... is this safe ground to cover for an al-anon?

    ok, sorry the question BEGGED to be asked, I kid :-)

    be well Syd, enjoy your project, that's really interesting stuff!!


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