Life in the Box: Generations
I have recently been introduced to the Mormon (Latter-Day-Saints) website, “Family Search” which is a collection of data about a whole world of family trees. It’s free. It’s addictive if you know a little bit about your grandparents’ names and dates of birth and/or death.
Search their names and click, and all of a sudden, you have a family tree. When you keep clicking, you go back in time.
For Americans, white people especially, there is a paper trail of census data, birth, death and marriage certificates, and many cemetery listings (“Find a Grave” is popular.) If you’re lucky, someone, maybe a distant cousin you didn’t know you had, has probably already collected and shared many of these documents. For black Americans, the trail may slow down or dissolve in the 1800s if those relatives didn’t have last names. (That’s where DNA searches can come in handy.) Native Americans, when going back to European settlement times (at least in my family tree,) don’t have much information about the women, but there are some male names.
I found out so much!
Do I have links to the Puritans and the Mayflower? Yes, apparently so. John Rogers, (code name: 9H84-GBG) was “the last of the Pilgrim separatists” on the Mayflower about 1630. His dad was Thomas Rogers, a man who came over ten years earlier, on November 11, 1620. Those Europeans were big on writing lists of names.
Some of my predecessors were really mean tough guys in the early settlements, and during the building of the colonies. Darn Puritans thought they knew everything. Still do.
I also found out that Martha Washington is some sort of cousin of mine. When I searched for her, she was listed with a different husband than George. Apparently, Martha was married twice. She and George didn’t have any kids, but she had some from her previous marriage. Huh. The genealogy trees make the marriages with kids a priority, so you have to hunt for a while to find George.
Am I a “Daughter of the American Revolution?” Yep. Am I also a “Daughter of the other side?” Yep.
I also found out I have a tiny bit of African in me. A freed slave was my grandmother’s great-grandmother.
Unfortunately, her “common law husband” was the slave-owner. He freed her and their son in his will. Thanks, Granddad!
He also willed her some land, and some slaves of her own. Unfortunately, she had to actually sue the estate to get these “belongings.” Wouldn’t I like to know if she won that lawsuit? And if so, did she free her own slaves??
I found out she ended up in Missouri, and her son was a Judge, but he died of suicide, leaving six children for his grandmother to raise. Then came the Civil War. Did these kids fight for the South or the North? Missouri was split, and their family was near the border with a “Northern” state, Iowa.
More mysteries to solve!
This is how people get addicted to genealogy—the puzzles of “what happened next?” “What’s missing and how can I find it?” Note: Genealogy has that weird “ea” in it–not “eo.” This tip will help you in your searches!
Anyone who’s watched the TV series, “Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.” knows that family histories are mini-dramas framed in the larger histories of America. There is a weird sort of magic involved in finding out that real people that you have never met have stories in this amazing web of relationships we call life. And like they say in “Finding Your Roots,” it makes you realize that a whole lot of people made a whole lot of choices to get us to where we are today.
And, although I keep saying “American” roots, that’s not really the whole truth. It’s a world-wide roots-finder. If you want to trace relatives to anywhere, and anytime in the world, it’s all there. I actually traced one of my family lines back to Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and other biblical “begats” that someone patiently placed in an unverified time sequence. I guess the newspapers from back to 4,000 BC haven’t been digitized yet.
I have included a starter set of web services I have found useful. Be warned that some charge you a fee after the first week. They are not very expensive, but they can add up fast.
Nancy Heather Brown is a retired, Emmy Award-winning television producer whose career has included interviewing, writing, narrating and editing for a span of four decades. Today, she enjoys learning new things and reflecting upon the creative process and life issues, both inside and outside the box. Her opinions are her own, and are not necessarily those of this web site. She’s now showing photos on Smug Mug: https://nancybrown.smugmug.com/
Newspapers dot com — search for digitized newspaper articles
Genealogy Bank — another good place to search old newspapers
Roots Magic — An App for saving all your Family Tree research
Iowa Genealogical Society — Free Classes on Zoom and other helpful info (Don’t have to live in Iowa)
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