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December 1, 2014

Thank You, Aunt Alouise

Back in elementary school, I was told that one of my ancestors signed the Declaration of Independence and that another one was on the Mayflower. I also learned that I'm part German and have a drop of Native American in me. (Shocking, I know.) It wasn't until we were in Webster Springs many years later going through my great-great Aunt Alouise's house after her death that we found all the notebooks of genealogy research she had done--before computers and ancestry.com were the way to do it.

Notebook after notebook of charts all penciled in, more folders and notebooks of correspondence with other relatives in attempts to track down info, hours upon hours of work were at that moment handed down to me. I spent the next year or so delving into as many branches of my tree as I could--with both the notebooks and the Internet, I quickly became my family's genealogy expert, particularly my maternal grandmother's side. (Who are tied to Webster Springs. See a pattern here?) And through that delving into my family history, I discovered a love, a passion really, for genealogy and my ancestors and their stories.

I know not everyone is "into" genealogy. Though thanks to "Who Do You Think You Are?" it's becoming more widely known to people. Genealogy is equated with history, which many find boring. And maybe it's just me, but I feel like it's really easy to view those times we can only see in black and white or sepia photographs as having been in those boring, un-lifelike colors at the time. But the real life behind those sepia photos was just as vivid, living color as life right now. The unsmiling people in those photos felt just as many emotions, just as much pain and desire and joy and fear and love as we do today. They were every bit as human as we are. And literally because of them, we are here, and, I strongly believe, who we are today.

And if you need another way to look at it, how would you feel if you knew that in 100 or 200 years, no one would remember you? How do you think they would have felt if they had known that? Don't let that happen to your ancestors.

3 generations of ancestors

I found out in time that while I did not have an ancestor who signed the Declaration of Independence, I did have one on the Mayflower. I also found out where that German and Indian blood came from. I learned that one ancestor nearly moved out West to start a new life when he found his future wife and stayed put, got married, and had around eleven children (one of which was my Gamma's father) instead. One lied about his age to fight in the Civil War, was captured, made it out alive, and went on to get married and have a family. Another was captured by Indians and supposedly escaped years later in a way that sounds exactly like something out of a movie. And another (pictured below), a particular favorite of mine (can you have favorite ancestors?) fought in the Civil War, was wounded in one of the last battles, and died as a result weeks later a little after the War ended, leaving behind a wife and ten children (at least one of whom also fought).

Those are just a few of the stories I've found and the discoveries I've made. Some have been thrilling, some have been tragic and brought me to tears, and some have just opened up new mysteries. And I feel like I've only just begun to dig into it all. To quote Kelsey Grammer on his WDYTYA genealogy journey, "I always thought I came from a small family. ...But now there's all of these names alive and sort of flickering in my imagination, and now in my being." It's all just names on paper until you find out more, and those names become a part of you that you realize were always there--you just had to meet them.

Those few stories I listed above and hundreds and hundreds more had to happen--people had to escape from Indians, survive wars, decide to not move across the country or around the world even--to have the stories they did that resulted in the next ancestors that finally resulted in me. When you really think about it, a lot had to go right for me, or any of us, to be here. Talk about the hand of God.

So today, I am grateful to my Aunt Alouise for the massive amount of work she put into our family's genealogy--if she hadn't I may never have discovered one of my deepest passions.

And I also have a wish: that if you have never explored your genealogy, you'll give it a chance. Your ancestors are waiting.

Ember Grey: Grateful Heart

Love the Here and Now

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  1. WOW. Kacie, this is so SO cool! Christian's dad has spent the last year and a half doing this and is saving all of the information to give to all of us (binder and all) and I'm so grateful for that. I need to do it on my side now! :)

  2. My husband's aunt had delved into their family's ancestry and found so many interesting things. My daughters were looking at it and found that an ancestor's homes about 40 min form where we live now. My inlaws took my daughters to see the house. My youngest even wrote a letter to the owners asking if they were relatives (no response yet). The only claim to fame that we have is that my husband is a descendant of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Pretty neat!

  3. So interesting!! My dad's mom was also into genealogy and did a ton of research back in the day. She had all of her findings bound in these big thick stacks and would give them to anyone interested at the family reunions. It's pretty wild to read. Amazing what can be found out if you dig enough!


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