Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Family History Mania Update

I just put in the mail the family history I threw together over five intense days; sent it to my Mom for her birthday. Now I feel like I finished exams, even more so than I do when finishing the draft of a book.

I worked on this little 30 page item like a madwoman. It's the story of my mother's father's family. It's no dissertation; I used mainly secondary sources and included stories that have been handed down, and a file of old clippings and notes that others had amassed, and internet sources, such as websites done by other people chasing Tuckers and Woffords, and ancestry archives.

I did write one email to someone who'd done a Tucker site, asking him a question about a man named John Tucker who was in Virginia or Maryland in about 1750. Turned out the wife of the man at that website is my second cousin. Astounding to all concerned! She and I are both descended from the son of a Civil War captain who died at the Battle of Second Manassas at the time that his son, our most recent ancestor, was two years old.

The impact of this frenzied chronology exercise on me is that I learned in a gut way how hard life used to be, how hard it was until fairly recent decades. I knew intellectually, of course. But now I feel it. I think it burned up more boldness just to live daily life not so very long ago.

For one thing, I discovered that my generation is the first in this side of my family not to go to war. For hundreds of years on end, the men fought and the women usually had six or nine babies. A lot of those babies died. And the men so often died early, leaving the women with all those kids.

This is such old news. But it feels new whenever it strikes emotionally.

I'm glad I get to use my store of courage for edgy writing and such, not, as one of my foremothers did, by driving a covered wagon across three states with six small daughters in tow after her husband disappeared. This sort of thing can easily put problems that occur at a desk into perspective.

If you like this post, please bookmark it on, share it on StumbleUpon, vote for it on Digg. Thanks so much.


Debra W said...

Wow, Peggy! I am absolutely in awe of the idea that you know so much about your family history! Very impressive! Did you know of your second cousin before you began doing research? That is so interesting!

I wish that I could discover more about my family history, but most of them were Jewish immigrants from other countries who only came here two generations ago. Not a long US history like yours!

Great stuff, thanks for sharing and happy birthday to your Mother!

Peggy Payne said...

I've found it very exciting to dig into all this stuff, Debbie. There are probably groups and resources for helping families scattered by the Holocaust to trace their histories. I know that kind of thing exists for blacks doing genealogy research through the time of slavery.

I actually don't see why there's prestige attached to coming to this country early. A case could be made for staying in the more sophisticated Europe of the time rather than coming over here and chopping wood.