Crossing Our Ancestors' Path
After our recent reunion at the McCrady Center on Ft. Jackson my thoughts turned to crossing our ancestors’ path that day. Perhaps many of our ancestors actually crossed the ground where the meeting room stands. They could have been on the way to a mill, store, or to Leesburg Road for a visit in town. Also this could have been a regular route to church, a neighbor‘s home, or to a field where a long day of plowing would be necessary. My grandparents lived nearby and I felt sure they were close by in their time.
I get the same feeling when I visit a grave marker. As I stand near the grave site I think of the people who attended the service. I would wonder if the women would have worn their large hooped skirts. Surely the men would be in their Sunday best. As the service ended these folks would return home to resume their normal duties to sustain their way of life.
There would be other passing of loved ones to come. There would also be happiness in their lives, the birth of children, marriages, good harvests, and Sunday gatherings. As time proceeded the children would become adults producing new life that would eventually evolve down to us as we gathered for this recent reunion.
Our descendants will surely become seekers as we are today when it comes our time to join our ancestors.
Why Didn't I Ask?
Recently in the quiet of the library looking through some old census records I found my self asking, “Why didn’t I ask?” If I only knew more about my ancestors, it wasn’t that I was never given the chance. I remember mother and other relatives talking about the old days and beyond. It seemed like there were more important things for me to do. Why didn’t I ask?"
The librarian seems to be in on this misery of mine and by her facial expressions she was asking, “Why didn’t you ask“. She obviously is enjoying my predicament as she stacks more records on my table. My questions to her seems to also result in a question, such as did you look at this or that. I swear I could see a smile of smirk on her face. I now realize why this librarian was acting this way. She could not be over forty years of age. I will give her another ten or fifteen years from now and then she will be somewhere researching and asking, “Why didn’t I ask?”
As I start to leave I pass this table where this lady is surrounded by stacks and stacks of records. She is sitting there with her hands over her eyes. I am now in a revengeful mood. With a smile loaded with smirk I ask if she had any luck? She stares at me and asks, “Why didn’t I ask?”
Fresh Plowed Ground
Recently I was driving through the countryside. I noticed a man on his tractor plowing his field. Memories came to me of years ago. We lived across the field from my uncle. He was the closest I had to a father since mine died when I was four months old. I would sit at the edge of the field and watch him turn a field of grass and weeds into fresh plowed ground.
He would work from sun up til dark plowing old Molly. I can see him today with his bib overalls on, his straw hat sitting high on his head. I swear it seems like Molly knew when to hee and when to haw. I never heard my uncle give these commands yet Molly always knew what to do. The results were always a fresh plowed ground.
Sometimes I would walk over the field feeling the soft soil between my toes. The sky always seemed to be cloud free and a breeze would be in the air. I would sometimes head across the field for my uncle’s house. My aunt would always save me one of her huge biscuits and a piece or two of bacon or streak of lean. Some would say I visited because of the food but looking back now I think it was the call of the fresh plowed ground.
They are all gone now and I’m in my latter years. I enjoy the rides through the countryside. I love to see the crows flying overhead, feel the wind in my face but most of all I love to see the fields and the fresh plowed ground.
Have you ever wondered whether you have crossed paths with your ancestors? Of course most of the time you can just wonder or guess. Tonight as I sat on my back porch I watched the moon rise over the trees. My thoughts were that my ancestors saw this same moon as well as the stars. Nothing has changed in the heavens unlike how the land constantly changes. Today we may live in a subdivision or in the country surrounded by plowed fields. We have no way of knowing how our land looked in the time of our ancestors. The creeks and rivers may have changed courses and mill ponds were built. Today fields were forests then and forests today could have been fields in long ago. However the heavens never change. They appear today the same as hundreds and thousands of years ago. A proud feeling comes over me when I gaze into the heavens knowing my folks of long ago also shared the same view.
Genealogy, A Gift Everlasting
I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give to our children and grand children is their family history. I was involved in financing in my working career. In taking credit applications I discovered that some applicants did not know their mother’s maiden name. One, a teacher, did not know the meaning of maiden. This is a tragic. Is it no wonder? We are graduating students from high school who can barely read and write not to mention that they are not taught anything about this great country we live in.
I believe that there is a movement in this country to destroy our once great educational system but that is a discussion for a later time. If we can leave our descendants our family history this will mean so much to them as they get older. It seems that one doesn’t get interested too much in their family of past until the age of fifty plus. I think it is important to leave a “path” to our ancestors. We do this by leaving names with dates so future research can be done when there are many more tools that will be available in the future.
It is almost impossible to research genealogy without seeing how our ancestors lived and died. This in itself is educational. The more we learn of their hardships the more likely we will appreciate our present life style. Show me someone who knows of the past and you will also see someone who will work hard for the future.
Our ancestors were self reliant. They only wanted a chance to work their land as they saw fit. They expected nothing from anyone. Today we are bombarded with so called entitlements. We have generations now who expect to be given what is owed to them. We have people who won’t work for minimum wage because they can get more from the government. They just have to fill out a weekly form lying about their attempt to get a job. I know of a relative of mine who was down on his luck. The welfare person came to see him and offered some kind of assistance. He quickly asked them to leave. He had his land and was growing enough to get by. I am sure some have lost this pride and have become robotic in our march to, “I want what I am entitled to get.”
While genealogy research may not solve problems mentioned I believe that it will sharpen our knowledge on what it means to be self reliant.
The Country Boy
How wonderful it was to have been born in the country. You could step out of your home in the morning and see the country side, the farm houses with the trickle of smoke spiraling from the chimneys and the aroma of fresh perked coffee in the air. An early winter rise sometimes meant a trip to the rabbit boxes to see if there was a future dinner waiting. Sometimes this resulted in an o’possom who decided he also liked the cabbage leaves.
Comic books and occasional movies on Saturday created a yearn for adventure. The big city was appealing at times with the tall buildings and the many types of entertainment that would be available for a young boy.
It was taken for granted the creeks that waited to be swam and fished, the open fields and forests that were loaded with game for hunting. A young boy with his .22 rifle could spend the afternoon if not hunting for squirrels at least shooting targets or exploring new territory with visions and imaginations of what our forefathers may have experienced.
The saddest news of my young life at that time came when I learned we would be moving to the big city of Columbia. I was fourteen and had lifelong friends I would be leaving behind. This move was considered to be the best for our economical situation. My two sisters and brother were already living and working in Columbia leaving myself and mother in the country.
We loaded up our belongings and headed for the big city. We moved into an upstairs apartment at 800 Henderson St. in Columbia. I suppose it didn’t matter that we had no front or back yard since regardless of the size it would not be the same as the open spaces of the country that I knew. I remember placing my rifle in the closet thinking I would never need or use it again. I was very sad. I had to attend a new school full of strangers and to make new friends. I walked to and from school with houses so close together it would be hard to walk between them without touching each.
The old saying time heals everything came into being. Going uptown and seeing all the stores and the different movie theatres did create a new interest. I also enjoyed my first hamburger, fries, and milk shake this first year in the big city. Drive in movies and drive in restaurants proved to fill some of the void in my young life. As time passed and new friends emerging, working part time and actually earning money to spend proved to be taking place and a worthy substitute for the yearning I had for the country and my old home.
There would be times of visiting the old home place and old friends and relatives but it was not the same. The call of the city had now been accepted by me. However the old saying. “You can take a boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy” was proved once more with me as I am sure with many others who left the country. As years went by I never abandoned my country roots but now I had two sides in my life. I see now that this is a plus that many never witnessed. I hear that there are people in New York City who was born and died there never leaving. This is unimaginable. I have been so fortunate.
Yes, there were times that I did take that rifle out of the closet and head to the country. I was now working and would soon have a car to drive. I guess this is a good example of the boy who left the country but always one who never forgot where he came from.
Portrait On A Wall
Sometime, when I have become a quiet portrait on the wall,
Will you, my fair descendant, stop to think of me at all?
Suppose your hands are shaped like mine and you have my keen sense of fun.
Will there be one to tell you so...then...when my days are done?
If you love books and fires and songs, and silver moons in velvet skies,
Toss me a look of shared delight from those, my own dark eyes.
For there are kinships in a curl and namesakes in a spoken name;
The wine of life may yet be poured by faded hands within a frame.
Those Miserable Winters of Long Ago
Growing up in Lexington County during the 40s qnd 50s recently came to mind. We lived in a house that had no insulation. This was common practice in those days. Our only heat source was a “trash burner” stove. This was a stove designed to burn small pieces of wood. We burned coal most of the time. You had to stand by the stove to keep warm with one side getting too hot and the other too cold causing you to rotate every few minutes. Our cooking stove was wood burning which provided temporary heat while cooking. This is not an unusual situation. This describes many people of those days so long ago.
On unusual cold days mother would make us children go to bed to keep warm on those frigid afternoons. The quilts and bedding were so many you could barely turn over because of their weight. This was a depressing time for me. I felt like the day was being wasted. I could be out exploring or playing with friends. How welcome it was to see the spring approaching with warmer weather, the sun shinning, and hearing the birds singing their praise for a start of a sunny milder day.
Years pass and today we just merely pass our thermostat and increase the setting if we feel any discomfort from the cold. Today we sit in our living rooms with short sleeves while snow and ice lay on our lawn. So different in the old days when one had to be concerned over how much wood or coal to be stored to get through those cold months.
Today some look back and speak of the good old days. I suppose this is proper because there seemed to be more blessings and appreciations than set backs in those days. Those were the days when you didn’t worry so much about crime. It was common to leave your door unbolted. You knew your neighbors and everyone was always quick to come to respond to anyone needing help. Today, I cannot name all of the people who live on my block.
So the question could be. “Were those the good old days?” My answer is yes. Despite those cold winters there were three other seasons that were welcomed and appreciated. Three out of four is quite a majority.
Visiting Our Ancestors
Visiting Our Ancestors
We amateur genealogists have quite an advantage over non researchers. We can visit our ancestors through documents such as census records, death certificates, wills, and land acquirements. In the early censuses you can see an ancestor with a son or daughter who is your descending line. Ten years later the census shows a teenager getting ready to start out on his own. The next census may show a young married couple. I can imagine their dreams and hopes of having a large family and enjoying a life of well being on their own land.
Perhaps another document shows service in the great War. Northerners call it the Civil War while Southerners call it the War of Northern Aggression. Regardless of which side you are from these brave men are your ancestors. A later census shows once again of life post war and on the farm which in most cases down south were devastated by the Northern invasion.
As I “visit” my ancestors I feel as if I am living along side of them, seeing them aging, having children, and in latter years living with a son or daughter. An empty feeling follows as I look toward the next and last census. It is obvious this generational ancestor has gone on to eternity.
Sometimes later I visit this gravesite. An awareness comes over me as I find a time eroded hard to read gravestone in need of repair in a pasture surrounded by trees and growth. How could this be? It seems because of the census and other records as if this ancestor had just passed on. Realization comes over me as I accept that life is a continuous cycle. This ancestor has completed the cycle while I am somewhere at a point in mine.
I realize that our experience at this level will be one day an occurrence of our descendents as the search will be for all of us and the empathy felt then as we feel it now. However this wonderful travel will not take place unless our followers take it on themselves to keep family history alive by continuing to research so they can enjoy this walk along the path of life with their ancestors.JJH2/25/2012