Monday, August 4, 2008

In the Beginning

I've often wondered how it is that some genealogists decide to focus on one line almost exclusively. I've benefited from the research of these devotees of "one name studies", but I don't understand them.

How does one decide to concentrate on half of their family and ignore the other half? Well, maybe there are reasons sometimes. Maybe you have a bad relationship with your mother's family and a good relationship with your father's. Maybe your parents split up when you were young and nothing is known about your father's family. There are all sorts of personal reasons that might lead you to have an aversion to a particular branch of your family.

But it would never have worked for me. Every time I capture a previously unknown ancestor, there is a thrill of victory. Aha, I have you!

Every time I slam into a brick wall, there is a momentary flash of defeat, followed by an increased determination to keep digging until I find them.

I've captured a lot. I use Family Tree Maker software to keep track of all the extended family I've laid claim to. At present I have more than 11,000 individuals in my database that are related to me. I continually seek to add more, beating myself against those brick walls until I feel something start to give and then throwing myself at them again and again until I break through.

I've been at it some 40 years and the brick walls are getting harder. But I'm getting better and better at turning the right corners and opening the right books and phrasing the right Google search.

There are some really interesting characters in my family. I'm a little unsure where to start. I will be posting small items, like obituaries. I will be posting large items, like detailed time lines. I will post anecdotes passed on by great aunts and uncles. I will share items that have been shared with me by cousins I know only by email. I will post puzzles I'm pondering. I will post lots of pictures.

New genealogists are urged to set a goal to find their "sixteen", meaning the names and vital statistics of their sixteen great-great-grandparents. It's a manageable goal and a good place to start. My sixteen are:

Parker Kelley Wilcoxen and Lucinda Ellen Niccum
Anderson Dunivan and Elizabeth Beauchamp
James Jefferson Frankum and Sarah Elizabeth Busby
Gabriel Moore Lentz and Amanda Horton Lentz (cousins)
Adolphus Lycurgus Henry Hodge and Mary Frances Huddleston
Joseph Sheppard Mobley and Mary Caroline Morgan
John Mason and Mary Harworth
Albert McAfee and Johney Elizabeth Underwood

In these sixteen individuals, we already have traveled north to Indiana and Illinois, east to Ohio and West Virginia, south to South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama and west to Texas and Kansas. They include preachers, teachers, weavers, farmers, and doctors. They are the generation who lived through the Civil War, with family members fighting for the Confederacy and for the Union and in the Indian Wars that followed shortly afterward. You will find both the righteous and the wicked here.

Their descendants are scattered coast to coast. And only my brother and I stand at the tip of the inverted pyramid and share the mingled blood of them all. Pretty awesome concept. We share each of them with hundreds of cousins. But only the two of us can claim them all.

They are mine. Allow me to introduce them to you. One by one.


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