In retrospect, of course I believe I could have done more in this class. But I don’t see the privilege of learning about my family history as something to be rushed. It is a never-ending process (unless I choose it to end) that I can continue for the rest of my life. Knowing how much I enjoy listening and learning from my grandparents about their lives, their relatives and their values, I can’t wait to assume the role of the storyteller. This honor that we have as human beings to pass on our history, both personal and non-personal, is not to be taking lightly. I believe that we were meant to know history further back in time than our own lives or our parents lives. The role of history is to teach us how to live by retelling and explaining the lives of others before us. I want to be the storyteller of my family. I want to be the records keeper. It’s a responsibility that I’m eager to undertake.
Yes, this post is a day late. But it’ll be worth it I promise. I went home this weekend and took a 4 hour family history seminar with my grandma. I learned more about my family’s history in the past 200 years than I have in my entire life. But it wasn’t the bulk of information that was presented to me that excited me. As Mr. Hodges told us in class on Friday: “It’s the stories.” I heard story upon story from my grandma about this relative and that relative, and with every story there was a picture or document, making the stories come to life. If I hadn’t consulted my grandparents, I wouldn’t have been able to share how my third great grandfather, Beauford Hervey Nealy Hurt, was a Lieutenant and a musician of the 5th Texas regiment during the American Civil War, was captured at Gettysburg, was forced to walk to Ohio, and held as a POW at Johnson’s Island POW Depot in Sandusky Bay, Lake Erie, Ohio.
I wouldn’t have known that my 3rd great grandmother (different side), Amarada Chandley Sprinkle, was a first grade school teacher in Madison County, NC, or that she invested in my grandmother’s future with her time and love til the day she died. My grandma told me, “She lived to be 92 years old, and she always encouraged me that I could do whatever and be whoever I wanted to in life.” She was awfully talented with her hands: she hand-quilted over a dozen quilts in her lifetime, giving many of them to friends and family, but leaving some to her posterity. My grandma has her old thimbles and two of her beautifully crafted quilts in her house.
These are just a few of the incredible stories I heard this afternoon, and to finish out the day, my grandparents and I went to the Vance Birthplace Cemetery, where many of their recent ancestors are buried. I have photos of more than 10 graves that I am happy to upload to findagrave.com if someone before me hasn’t already. This kind of interaction is the reason I was excited about taking this class, and will probably stick with me for many years to come.
This weekend I’ve been copying down manuscripts, finding graves, and adding a bunch of new relatives. It really is amazing how much research you can conduct with the most basic of information. Of course there have been many stumbling blocks. As I stated before, on my mother’s side, my 5th and 4th great grandfathers were both named Hiram McDevitt, but I hadn’t yet realized that they both married women named Elizabeth. One was named Elizabeth Gosnell, the other named Elizabeth Stewart. Elizabeth Gosnell’s mother was also named Elizabeth, and married into the Gosnell family. Simple problems really, usually nothing that a few more hours of research won’t solve.
I’ve also come across some interesting names in my ancestry. More recently, one of my 3rd great grandmothers was named Amarada Chandley, I still know very little about her, other than that Chandley (her maiden name) is derived from the old French word “Chandler” meaning candle-maker and Amarada is most-likely derived from the French word “amor” meaning love. In the distant past, one of my ancestors that traces my line back to Hugh Capet, the first King of the Franks, was a woman named Honor Clayton, from Chinchester in Sussex, England. I consider names like that (or Prudence, another of my ancestors) as very distinctive and noteworthy, and I think it’s a shame that most parents don’t consider names like that for their children; instilling (or at least teaching) them the importance of family values.
I was fortunate enough for my parents and grandparents to get in on the research this week. My grandparents on my mom’s side of the family have family trees of their own and of many of their relatives, and they were gracious enough to copy them down (either photo-copy or by hand for some) and give them to me. I now have the names of most of my 5th great grandparents and a paternal line dating back to Hugh Capet, considered the first “King of the Franks”. I have also found that I am related to John de Lacie and Roger de Clare, two of the signers of the Magna Carta in 1215. Finding out or speculating something like that through the internet wouldn’t mean as much as actually knowing that your ancestors have kept family trees from long before they were born and passed them down to you. I hope to soon have success with the temporarily shrouded part of my family tree soon.
I would love some advice on how some people have researched beyond just dates and places, i.e. deeds to land, photos etc.
Hugh Capet, King of the Franks
I have been doing the majority of my research on Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org. Ancestry.com gives helpful hints most of the time, but FamilySearch.org allows you to look up so many records concerning births, marriages, deaths and censuses with more specificity. I didn’t even know some of the first names on my tree and I was able to find my ancestors full names (maiden names included). I have not spent that much time on findagrave.com other than researching on the Williams family, and I think that will be my next biggest resource. I also recently visited the Spartanburg County Library and attempted to look up census records for my 4th great- and 5th great-grandfathers, Hiram McDevitt (Jr/Sr), because I knew they were both born in Spartanburg County. Surprisingly, I couldn’t either one of them. The librarian told me that up to the mid-to-late 1800’s, only the head of the household’s name was recorded in the census, so I most-likely couldn’t find Hiram McDevitt Jr. However I thought I might be able to find Hiram McDevitt Sr in the 1920/1930 censuses. Still no luck. Spartanburg County may have spanned across a larger area of land in the early 1800’s and that was the nearest county from where my ancestors lived. Or, in 1820 Hiram Sr. was not the head of a household (est birth 1799) and in 1930 he may have already moved to North Carolina, where he is buried.
Hello fellow bloggers,
I have always enjoyed hearing relatives tell stories of “the old days”, back when the people I love most were my age or even younger, but recently I’ve realized that those stories themselves are precious and fleeting. My father’s father passed away over four years ago, and my mother’s father is on the verge of losing his memory. Of course, each of my grandmothers has accumulated a vast knowledge of her spouse’s life and family history, but one day their memories will fade as well. This fact dawning upon my mind makes me extremely grateful that my family history is preserved in part and is accessible to me here and now. But at the same time, I wonder about the things that even my wonderful relatives don’t remember or perhaps, never knew.
For instance, my father’s mother, Barbara Camacho, knows much about her husband’s life and family history and some about her own family history, but most of the Camacho surname is shrouded by distance from older Camacho relatives and a lack of personal records. You see, my grandfather, Salvador Camacho, was born on the Pacific island of Guam in 1932, a decade before the Japanese occupation during WWII. I know very little about his life personally and already I’ve been able to connect through Ancestry.com with people living on Guam with their own extensive family trees! It’s exciting simply to access information outside the reach of memory and learn more about my family’s past.