Monday, October 03, 2011

Searching Through the Past

I've sailed through past families in my journey through ancestry-land, but I've never been so stumped as I am with aspects of the Mitchell families of Louisiana and Mississippi. I've even encountered other "cousins" who send me information that still mystifies me. Why did these old folks make discovering their lives so difficult? Unlike the East and Southern states like Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, there was a time that family name meant something and their lineage was written down.

You can gag at the idea of families wanting to record their lineage for posterity, but it's greater than you think.  I am part of their posterity. But as many families journeyed southward to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee the importance of who they came from weakened. I recall my still-active aunt telling me that when she was attempting to write down her family's history the standard reply was, "We weren't important." Ah, but keeping the chain going is what 's important. They were thinking of the then--a time they weren't interested in knowing, not the now when one and two generations want to connect.

One of my Mitchell "cousins" is as mystified as I about the connections of this Mitchell with that Mitchell. Together we are trying to piece together other people's lines where dates and connections to people have taken a side road from ours. This is where we realize that we should have started this trip some 20 years ago, not wait until we retired and needed something to keep us busy as we age. No, we knew we could only scratch the surface, but a few generations back was better than none.

My plan was to find a few generations of relatives. I was pretty ignorant of family ties. I had in mind four families -- two from each of my and my husband's lineage. But those lines developed into additional lines--this person marrying into that family and having 15 kids (no fooling!) who bear the same surname as I and before I knew it the families were multiplying as fast as rabbits. There's no such thing as pulling out six people and their families. The number is more like  1,006 or 10,006.

One point about searching for your long, lost relative -- it is as exciting as a fox hunt. Only you as the hound is seeking anything hidden anywhere that verifies relationships.  the thousands of pieces of paper microfilmed of marriage and birth certificates, federal censuses, biographical listings, preserved family histories begun in the 1800's or earlier, DAR applications, countless lists of army enlistees of the various wars, to name a few. You have to know where to look.  What helps is finding photos, traipsing through old cemeteries to snap that particular headstone or the old home place and collecting from relatives their photos and sources like birth certificates to lend you for scanning. Then there are the endess number of people you meet who have seen your line and want to know if you have information about a similar relative 200 years back.

All of this makes for an exciting day when the temperature is too hot or too cold or too miserable. Searching can occur when you are bored with television, tired of cleaning house, or have finished the dinner dishes. I've been known to follow a line as late as 3 p.m. when I couldn't let go of the keys because I'd discovered a relative.

There's no way life gets weary for a family researcher. Trust me. I know from experience.


Anonymous said...

I just read this and it is written so well and really ties together the exciting nature of ancestry research with a "kill" at the end of the hunt when a particular person has been found. You are fantastic and I love you!! Your Cousin,

victim said...