Friday, January 12, 2018

You can go home again, if only in your dreams

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks
Week 2 – Photo

The Photo

This photo, taken about 1910, tells me a lot about my family.  In the back row, with the farmer overalls is my second great
grandfather Levi Whitman, in front of him is Hester, his daughter.  The man in the black suit is Monroe David Whitman, Levi’s brother.  The lady behind him is my 2 great grandmother, Fanny Ella Martin Whitman.  The older lady in the end of that row is Anna Bryant Whitman, Monroe’s wife.  Monroe and his wife Anna lived in Owatonna Steele Minnesota.  The little impish girl on the end is Elfreda Josephine Whitman Ladd.  The older girl with the long braids is my grandmother, Ruth Elizabeth Whitman Emery.  The picture was taken at the family farm in Newbury, Vermont.  It appears to me that a reunion of sorts was coming to an end and this picture was taken for remembrance of the occasion.

The People

When I first saw this picture I was taken back at the smiles and the happy nature of the girls.  Hester, Ruth and Josephine were sisters.  I didn’t remember this happiness from them as I was growing up.  Those smiles seemed to have faded more and more as the years took their toll.  They and their brother Horace were the children of Levi and his second wife, Fanny Ella.  Levi’s previously wife was Fanny’s sister, Ann.  Ann and Levi had 4 children: Dora, David, Everett Eugene “Gene” and Fanny Rebecca.  When Ann had died of untreated diabetes, Levi had to have someone to care for his children and free him up to work the farm.  Who better to marry then someone he and his children already knew?  Monroe was a Civil War veteran serving at the Battle of Gettysburg.  He and his brother Shepard, who served at Antietam, moved west into the Minnesota, Nebraska area and raised their families. 

The Farm

For years, the farm was the center of the family’s gatherings no matter where they were going or coming from, they would stop at the farm.  Many times you could visit and cousins from ‘away’ would be there, perhaps some you never meet or ever will again had stopped off to see the grand or great grandparents.  After I was born, I was included in the annual pilgrimages as well.  Each generation, it seemed, had its own little ‘club’.  My grandmother and her brothers and sisters, naturally; my mother and her first cousins were all the same age. Then there was the children of the first cousins who were also very close in age as well.  The generational division was obvious as they naturally gravitated together.

Levi’s father David had moved from Lyme, Grafton, New Hampshire, to approximately 20 miles west on the other side of the Connecticut River with 7 of his 8 children to Newbury, Orange, Vermont.  The farm was 109 acres more or less for the total sum of $750.00 with the mortgage signed by David’s X on 13 May 1852.   It was a working farm from the beginning.  They raised corn to feed the cattle as well as the people.  Everyone had chores. In the summer days when we visited, one of the chores I still remember is gathering the corn for the evening meal.  The corn was sweet, fresh off the stalk and right into the pot! They had chickens, other small livestock and of course, a barn full of milking cows.

Time Changes Things

Time passed and I started hearing stories about the changes on the farm. The 4th generation and part of the 3rd worked outside of the farm to sustain it.  Little by little, the cows were sold.  When aunts and uncles died, land was sold to pay the funeral expenses.  The barn, which was built in 1895, was taken down piece by piece, each piece was numbered to be rebuilt in another location in the area.  Some of the memories I have of time spent on the farm will live with me forever.  Little things like visiting one Easter, going out to the barn to watch the milking in my finest clothes.  The calf I tried to feed decided she liked my dress better than what I was trying to feed her!  I never had a cow munch on my dress before that!  Watching the cows come back to the barn from the day out in the field, I was amazed at the uniform parade as they went into their stalls without any problems or effort.  How can I forget the early morning run to the woodshed in the winter to take care of nature!  I wouldn’t have missed this part of my childhood for anything.  I know I won’t go back to see it as it is now, I want to dream and remember it as it was.  For it is my connection to the generations past that I feel fortunate to be a part of.

Monday, January 8, 2018

#52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Week 1 – Start

I have committed to the challenge put forth by Amy Johnson Crow. Her first topic was “Start”. Let me start this challenge by telling you of my journey to becoming a genealogy researcher.

Where, oh where should I begin? In Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit is to testify at a trial. He asks the King, "Where should I begin?" The King responded, "Begin at the beginning and when you get to the end, Stop!" 

The beginning?  I knew very little of my family tree:  My grandfather had a brother who lived up the road. We saw him fairly often since my grandfather was sickly and needed help with mowing the lawn and other around the house things.  In my family, you had to pick up clues where you could.  Little by little I found out that he had several other siblings that were in various states of medical issues...Health was a big discussion point, at least other people’s. 

One thing that stood out was that my grandfather talked with his hands. It was so noticeable that one day I asked why.  The response I got was ethically based. I didn't take too much stock in it because since he lived in America, he didn't have any other ethnic background but American!  How is that for a 5 or 6 year old's mind?

For my grandmother's information, I knew she came from Vermont, we took the train every summer to visit all the cousins and aunts and uncles on the farm. 

Years passed and I became intrigued by the relationship of people's names with streets and places in my hometown.  One year, as my mother was in an assisted living facility, I couldn't think of anything to get her for Christmas, her wants and needs were so much different than when I was younger.  I found myself in the Clayton Library in Houston, Texas one Saturday.  As I wandered through the stacks I found a history of the town in Vermont where my grandmother grew up. AND it mentioned her father in as well!  That was the catalyst I needed to get me started.  I subscribed to NEHGS, ordered books for loan and got tons of information.  It seems that like other 19th century genealogists who published their research, there was a book published in 1898 for the immigrant ancestor that contained over 15,000 descendants.

WOW!  I never knew.  This ancestor was a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony – The first recording of his name was in 1638.  He had 9 children; they helped to populate many other areas of the young country.  His oldest daughter was the 7th great grandmother of Abraham Lincoln and his oldest son was the 7th great grandson of my grandmother.  From there, my research went full speed ahead.  I put my research together in a book, with the lineage on both sides of my mother’s family from her parents to the immigrants coming into the New England area in the early to mid-1600s. In among this research, I found several Mayflower passengers, but didn't take any mind of them at that time.  What a gift to give my mother!  But it was very superficial as I wanted to get this book to her for that year’s Christmas.

Today, I am working on all four ancestral lines.  My research has given me some very interesting information.  As an example, I have Scot-Irish from Ulster (Presbyterians), Scottish Prisoner of War (Battle of Worcester and Dunbar); and other Scottish immigrants who weren't involved in either.  I have found a total of seven Mayflower passengers with 13 lines; immigrants involved in the founding of Hartford, Norwich and several other towns in Connecticut, at least 2 families from Rhode Island, MANY families from both the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the Plymouth Colony as well as founding families on Cape Cod and the islands. Founders of Dover, NH; Kittery, and York, Maine as well as many gateway ancestors, 10 in one line!  When my grandmother’s family migrated from Connecticut to Vermont through Northern New Hampshire, it solidified my circle around New England. AND to top it off, I found that my parents are cousins several times over.

Now the question comes back to WHERE do I start with this banyan tree? With such eye-opening experiences for someone who didn't know anything about their family prior to 15 years ago, it’s hard to find a starting point.  It could be anywhere.

Oh and by the way, my grandfather's line does have the ethnic background that promoted my answer to talking with his hands.  Both his paternal and material lines as far as you can see were all of Huguenot descent. Tradition has it that his ancestors were involved in the St. Bartholomew Day Massacre.
The names of streets and places in my hometown?  Many streets and places are named after the people who owned the land.  I am related to more than half of the original founders of my hometown, the names match up to my family line very nicely. 

I haven't yet found the end to my research - my goal keeps shifting, but as the King told the White Rabbit, it is time to come to the end (of this narrative).