HomeFamilyClimbing Family Trees

I haven’t posted in awhile for a couple of reasons. The first one is that we have endured a brutally hot couple of weeks here in South Florida that just drained me of any energy I had left after working all day. Call me foolish, but I’m probably one of the very few in this part of the country who doesn’t have air conditioning. I grew up without it and only had it in my bedroom in my previous house because my neighbor had dogs that barked at all hours of the day and night. When I moved here, in the middle of the woods, it was almost always cool – the rare days when it was muggy and miserable were few and far between. But this summer has been just miserable and I am inclined to believe that it has to do with global warming. When I was in Fort Wayne, they were having the coolest summer in 112 years and folks in the Floyd, VA area have said that their summer has been cool and wet, which is rather unusual. In the last week, the temperatures have moderated somewhat and I have more energy. I find myself wishing that October was here – it cools off somewhat by then!

The second reason I haven’t posted is because I joined Ancestry.com and disappeared down a “genealogy hole”! I’ve always been interested in genealogy – I remember drawing family trees when I was a pre-teen on 8.5″ x 11″ paper until I ran out of room. Starting in the early 1980s, I did a lot of work on the family trees – lots and lots of work. I spent the better part of three years working on the project. I then put it aside and got on with my life but since I’ve returned from Fort Wayne, my interest in family history has been rekindled.

What a difference computers have made!!! Where I once ordered a roll of microfilm from the Latter Day Saints in Utah, waited three weeks for it to arrive and then stared at a microfilm reader for hours on end, I now can find the same data on-line at Ancestry. There are even rudimentary indexes that shorten the search. Needless to say, this has been a huge boon and I have found some very interesting information, even finding the World War I draft registration documents for some of my ancestors. How cool is that? Expensive long-distance phone calls and exchanging letters via U.S. Mail have been replaced by e-mail.

I’ve been working on my father’s line, which proved to be remarkably difficult to trace back in the 1980s and not a whole lot easier now, even with computers. For the most part, my father’s ancestors were quite poor and rarely owned any land, making tracing their paths difficult. Because they rented, they moved around a lot, so that has complicated my research efforts. But a general outline has emerged: the earliest ancestor I have found was in Augusta County, VA in the 1770s and the family moved down the Shenandoah Valley into Kentucky, ending up in Mason County by 1835 in a little town then called Limestone and now called Maysville. From there, they moved to Bloomington, IN and then they scattered all over the place. Most went to the northeast corner of Illinois by the 1860s, close to the Indiana border, but some went to Iowa and others went to Kansas and Nebraska. It has been an interesting journey trying to track them down.

What has been most interesting (and I found this back in the 1980s, also), is to see how family groups moved together. Often, the boys from one family married the girls from another family and they moved as a unit to new parts of the country.

One family legend that I have been able to disprove is that my father was somehow related to Sam Houston, of Alamo fame. It is often the case in genealogy that people leap to conclusions because of a shared surname. Not having any information to work with, they “attach” themselves to famous families, perhaps in a desire to add importance to themselves. I am sorry to report to any family members reading this that we are not related to General Sam Houston (1793-1863). Our Samuel Houston was born in North Carolina in 1790 and died in 1837 in Kentucky. My mother’s family had a similar legend: they claimed that they were related to Chief Joseph Brant, of the Mohawk tribe, who fought on the side of the British in the French and Indian War. Didn’t happen. There was, indeed a Brant in the line, but she may have been of Delaware Indian descent – she lived in New Jersey in the mid-1780s.

One fact that I was able to establish was to prove where my father was born: Guthrie, OK. He always said that was where he was born, but he was unable to find proof of that fact when he applied for Social Security in 1975. He had no birth certificate as he was born at home and his birth was not registered. Because his father was a paving contractor, the family moved around a lot and he had no school records from Guthrie that might have proven where he was born. But looking at the 1910 census (census records are not released until 75 years after the fact) showed that his mother and father lived in a rooming house in Guthrie in April of 1910. My father was born in July, 1910. Proof enough for me. Now, I’ll have to see if I can amend the death certificate to show that information.

For now, I’m taking a break, but I’m sure I’ll dive back into it again, now that it is so easy to do research online!


Climbing Family Trees — 3 Comments

  1. I like the family histories that include things other than birth, death and marriage dates. Things like careers, avocations, illegitimate children, travels, really spice up a genealogy. Maybe yours can include some of the information you gathered from the reunion. 😉

  2. So glad to see you back in the blogosphere, Jeff. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to find so much information about your family, even if the relation to Sam Houston and Chief Brant didn’t work out. I seem to recall a similar legend in our family—that we were descendants of some famous Irish person. But I don’t think anyone ever proved it. Quite likely our relatives were simply poor Irish potato farmers. 🙂

  3. Oh, how interesting. My cousins also did a family tree recently and traced back our relatives to Scotland. Then they went out there and visited. They saw our family name carved into cornerstones.

    I don’t use air conditioning either. I have it but never turn it on. First, I think it costs too much money. Second, I wait all year to be able to open the windows and feel the breeze, hear the birds and crickets, especially at night. I love those summer night noises. I can’t stand the sound of the air conditioner running and the pool filter running… We put it on once this year.


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