Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A View Of The Past

Last week while on Facebook I found my high school best friend, Cindy. We spent the next hour IMing to catch up with each other since our marriages. I found it funny that our personal hobbies have gone along the same path. She was using her day off to research her family history.

About twenty years ago I began researching my family's history. I loved not just discovering the dates of my forefathers lives but also getting glimpses into their personal world. One of my great great grandfathers was a blacksmith. I found two ancestors that had been murdered.

My quest into my family's past brought me closer to my Great uncle Russ. Uncle Russ was the family keeper of history before me and he was very glad to be able to pass along the past into my hands. He wrote me letters that included names and dates but he also gave me a priceless gift of personal stories.

Rich and I took our video recorder and spent a week with Russ and his wonderful wife Nell. During this week Russ couldn't wait to tell his personal memories on tape for future generations. Russ knew that when he died all the stories would have gone with him if we hadn't begun this project.

My great-great grandfather, John Russell Hamilton
The stories were wonderful of days gone by, days of when coal was king and our family lived and worked in the Virginia coal mines. Russ even drove us through the mine town and showed us where my father lived and told us about how the miners lived.

He told of his grandfather's body being laid out in the livingroom with the bullet holes in his chest after he was murdered. Russ did not have vital records or documentation, but the information he passed along was very valuable. Russ had many dates that I have been able to document. I have even acquired a copy of the trial from the man that murdered my great-great grandfather. In 1996 Russ passed away and I am so thankful that my project brought me closer to this special man. Russ lived just long enough to meet our David that had been born just the month before Russ' death.

With David coming into our lives I placed my genealogy research away. I had reached a point that made it neccesaary to invest more time in order to dig deeper. But the time was no longer available with a baby, then active toddler, then child to raise.

My great grandmother, Lexie Hamilton

Over the last year I thought many times "I would love to pick my research back up again." After my conversation with Cindy I finally pulled out my research.

In the intervening years I had received some more information from my grandfather that I would love to delve into. I pulled out my research over the weekend and made my first foray into ancestry.com and usgenweb.org. Oh my, what a different world it has become! With just a little bit of work I was able to obtain information that years ago would have required a trip to the local courthouse at the other end of the state, then hours spent pouring over dusty old books.

One of the documents that I found this weekend gave me a bit of info that helps back up a family story. I had been told that one great grandfather died from drinking a Coke. The story goes that in the days when Coke contained cocaine my great grandfather worked in a grocery store and during a break drank a coke and died of a heartattack due to the cocaine. When I received his death certificate the cause of death was unknown. I was amazed that a healthy 34 year old man dying unexpectedly would not be a cause to investigate. But, I was able to locate his WW1 draft registration card listing his job as working at Harden grocery store.

Not evidence, but I thought it was interesting. I also found others working on the same branches of the family tree that I am. However, I have found that many don't use proper sources to back up their research. I also found several that have wrong dates because of their lack of sources. I know demanding documentation causes my work to take longer and makes it harder to do, but it also makes me happy to know that my work is accurate.

I look at this research for not just my own enjoyment, but as a legacy for future generations.

2 comments:

Mrs.RGS said...

Oh we have something more in common. I agree with you 100% about names and dates are important and need documentation. Even with docs I've found conflicting data but it's important to know where it came from.
And I agree with you that names and dates are not enough to keep me interested -- I want the stories. That is what makes these people jump off the pages and become real to me.
Your comment about washing the decorated car made me LOL. I didn't think about that.
Rita

Kim said...

Mrs RGS- I have received marriage documents this week and love to see my relatives handwriting leaping out from the past. I am finding it so much easier then it use to be to locate the documents I need.