My genealogy search actually began many years ago. It was my freshman year of college, and I had to write a paper about three generations of my family for my American History class. This meant that I had to leave my big city university and travel back, deep into the Ozark Mountains to interview my father and grandmother. I had a long list of questions prepared to ask them. I already knew what many of their answers would be, but some of them surprised me. We kept running into one road block though. There was one particular relative that no one knew much about. He was a tall, dark, handsome, quiet young man who just showed up in a rural Ozarks community one day. His surname was my maiden name. No one knew where he had come from originally or even who he really was. My father and I decided that we would make researching him our summer project. Unfortunately, that never happened. My father died just a few short weeks later. In my grief, I packed away my notes and forgot about them. It was just too painful to remember.
Time passed. I moved frequently. My boxes got moved thousands of miles. Some got lost. Eventually the notes disappeared.
Years later I attended a genealogy workshop at work. I discovered that the husband of another lady there had relatives from the same isolated Ozarks village who had the same last name as mine. We were long lost cousins! This was the catalyst I needed. The time had come for me to begin my genealogy search. I went home and looked for those notes. They were nowhere to be found. Eventually I gave up again.
Then when we moved the next time , I opened up a long ago packed box and guess what I saw. Inside was that old, tattered notebook filled with yellowing pages of genealogy information. I have no idea how it got in there. As I reread my hastily scribbled notes I saw my grandmother's sweet smile, and I heard the depth of my father's laughter. For that moment, they were with me again.
Their clues started me down a path of learning where I had come from. I soon realized that my ancestors were simply ordinary people living ordinary lives but with extraordinary courage and passion. I discovered my beautiful great-great aunt who died far too young while in childbirth, and her devoted husband who died shortly thereafter simply from grief. I found my great-great grandfathers who fought in the same Civil War battle, on opposite sides. And I learned about the widowed, middle aged great-great-great-grandmother of mine with a house full of kids, who pulled up stakes and settled land in her own name with nothing more than her two bare hands and her sharp wit. I saw how the threads of their individual lives had been woven together to create a family. My family.
Today their examples guide me. Their courage inspires me. And their love surrounds me. Their stories have become My story. In finding them, I am finding pieces of myself.
And there is still so much more to discover. I have yet to solve the mystery of who the tall, dark, handsome, quiet young man really was. So, if I go missing from blogland for awhile again, don't worry. I am probably just walking with my great-great grandfather down a "Trail of Tears". I will be listening and learning from his story of how a people can endure the unendurable and find life and joy on the other side. There is still so much for him to teach me.
If you have never looked for your story in the past before, I encourage you to begin today. Your ancestors have left you clues. Simply follow their trail.
(P.S. The photos are my parents.)
Blessings to you.