Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It is Time to Tell My Family's Story

          Have you heard the saying about the cobbler’s children always going barefoot? Have you noticed that it tends to be true? The guy down the street from us builds beautiful houses for a living, but his own house is half-finished. Another neighbor owns a landscaping business but their front yard is just a patch of grass.
          Sadly, the saying holds true for me. Like many other professional genealogists, I began as a hobbyist. My own family tree was all that I knew. Then I began creating others’ family trees for a living. I shored up wobbly foundations. I uncovered lost branches. I broke down brick walls. And I wrote highly researched and compelling stories of the lives of other people’s ancestors.
          All the while my family story sat languishing on a shelf.
          My family tree is one that many would be proud to claim. But it’s incomplete. There are odd brick walls much too early in its history. There are stories that I have noted in passing but have done nothing to flesh out. My family tree needs some work.
It might be an uphill battle, but I am determined to tell the story of my family this year.
          This year I have decided to dedicate some time to working on the story of my family. I spent the day yesterday pulling things together, looking over what I have done so far, and trying to get a to-do list to keep me on task.
          In the process I made several discoveries.
          As a Civil War aficionado I have been content with my two “Civil War grandpas” (I hate keeping track of all of the “greats” and call them all my grandpas and grandmas when I talk about them to others). One was John W. who served in a Pennsylvania cavalry unit, returned home, married, started a family, and then one day at lunch left home never to return again. The other was Big Tom, a giant of a man for the 1860s, who also suffered from what they called “Soldier’s Heart” and we call PTSD. Twenty years after the war he up and left his wife and children and moved from Pennsylvania to Los Angeles and spent the rest of his days in the California sun, fighting an ugly public battle with his wife over his pension.
          Yesterday I discovered three more Civil War grandpas. One who served his time and did NOT go bonkers. One who joined as a fifteen year old for the final six months of the war. And one who is listed as a deserter in June of 1865 in a book that contains his company roster. Clearly there are some stories here that need to be researched and told.
          I come from two large, sprawling families, with kinfolk all over the eastern seaboard and into the Ohio River Valley. I live on the west coast. Sharing information, photos, and memories with my sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles can be difficult. But I have members from both sides of my tree who are also interested in our family history. So this year I plan to create some lines of communication between us all to facilitate the exchange of information. Who knows what treasures are out there ready to be discovered?
          I’m not much of a New Year’s Resolution person. I forget about them and then they tend to make me feel guilty come April or May. But this year I have already blocked out a portion of my work week to devote to my family tree. Although no one will pay me to write these stories, they are my son’s inheritance. And that of my nieces and nephews. They tell us who we are and where we came from. They are worth the time and effort. And this year, the stories of my ancestors are going to be told.

No comments:

Post a Comment