Sunday, August 17, 2008
A long time ago, just the other day.
I have been back on my genealogy kick again, this time with a subscription to Ancestry.com. The work seems to be a lot easier this go around, since I actually have a decent start and a huge list of surnames to build off of. The great thing about Ancestry.com is that you put in some names, starting with yourself. You add your parents, then your parents parents. When you click the link to view your tree, it will have these little leaves beside some names. Ancestry continuously searches your surnames and then when it finds some matches within its vast database, a leaf will show up in your tree. These leaf hints can be in the form of a census, a military record, or perhaps the tree of another genealogy hobbyist. It really has been a great tool in growing my tree.
I also have been spending some time in the library. Oneonta Public Library has a great section for doing genealogy research. Another fun thing I have been doing is Graveyard Hopping. When I go graveyard hopping, I will load my camera up with fresh batteries and a clean memory card (and one to spare). I go to Cemeteries that I KNOW that I have some ancestors buried in. I take pictures of every headstone, footstone or marker with a surname that I know is in my tree. Even if I have never heard the first name, and even if I don't think they are related. The reason for this is that I can't stand to get home and months later find out that I should have taken a picture of that one doubtful stone.
One line in my family is particularly interesting to me. My maternal grandfather's side. There is a cemetery that bears that families name. There is also another cemetery in the same town that has a marker near the entrance with a family member's name on it. I really enjoy stuff like this, and I love to find when a great uncle served in one of the wars. Fun Stuff Indeed.
Not all of the research is fun, though. Thursday I stopped by the place where my daddy grew up. You see, I don't really have any memory of my dad, he died when I was 4. The property is owned by a very wealthy family in Blount County. Uncle Tom and Aunt Ruby (their aunt who raised my daddy and his brothers after their parents died) worked for this family. Uncle Tom was the single poorest person I have ever known in my entire life. I stopped at the office building (its in a very rural area) which looked similar to a regular house. I asked the lady at the front desk if I could drive down to the old homesite. She said she would have to ask Mr. C. I said ok, just knowing that he would say I couldn't go. Suprisingly, Mr. C came with an armload of books and lead me to his conference room. He introduced himself and asked me what he could show me about my family. I told him about my father, and the people who raised him. He knew Uncle Tom personally. He said that he didn't mind me going back there, but he would rather my kids and husband be with me and said that he would love to take all of us on a tour of the land. I was so happy. He also showed me a bunch of books that contained the payroll records and stuff of that nature.
Uncle Tom's shack was on the right side of the railroad. There were other houses on the left. In that room where I sat with all the books that was a goldmine of info about the man who raised my father was a picture of a locomotive in front of those houses on the left side of the tracks. I am sure my sister knows exactly what I am talking about.
That picture took me back.
I can remember those old houses...I used to play on those railroad tracks.
I 'visited' that outhouse.
I felt how cold I was on one of those winter nights me and my sister, Wendy huddled together under old quilts in the bed that was in the back bedroom of that house, only a thin wall between us and the cold.
I could hear my Momma telling me to always keep my shoes on in the house to keep the coal soot from staining my socks and feet.
I could smell Aunt Ruby and I could see old Uncle Tom shuffling to the well in his ragged overalls.
I could taste the water that he would carry back. I could see the water spill from the ladle in those tin buckets.
The flood of emotions. They were just too much for me.
I thanked Mr. C for his time, and was on my way. It was so nice to finally have somebody know my people and be willing to sit down and tell me about them and show me the things that he showed me. He really knew Uncle Tom. He described him to a T. He said he couldn't remember my daddy, but that he might be able to dig around and find some stuff that would be of interest to me. He also told me I could come back to the office again when I had more time and look at some of the books. I can't wait to hear and see what else he has for me.