Monday, July 28, 2014

Filling In The Foliage In The Family Tree

The most recent addition to the family research...
the final resting place of Laura Belle Redcross and Marcellus Nickolas Love.
Over the weekend I spent some time talking with the other genealogist in the family, my aunt, about the impasse that we are now facing. We have both spent the last several years working on the family tree trying to fill in the leaves, trim the branches, and follow the roots as far as they will go. We are now at a point where all of the information that can be found online has been found, catalogued, and added to our tree. We are at a point when it is going to take a considerable increase in effort in order to achieve even the smallest of results…. traveling and physically searching for documents.

While that is a huge part of the ongoing work that we need to get done there is also a completely different task which we need to accomplish. For much of the family we have the documents, the lineage, the connections from A to B, and we know of events that occurred in their lives. However, there really is no narrative that has been written on each of the generations to give us some color and fill in what was happening not only in their lives but also what was happening in the world around them. Facts can only tell you so much. The story is what makes the person, for lack of an original term, come to life.

While you have all read about Jacob Wirth and his death aboard the USS Tecumseh which I wrote about back in November, I haven’t really done the work to tell some of the other interesting stories from the tree. Sure there have been plenty of lists like the ones I have compiled for the Sons of the American Revolution and outlining connections to the Monacan Indian Nation, I haven’t done my job as a story teller in recreating the lives, connections, and service in the family. And there are so many beyond those few that have previously been listed.

Sometimes it’s not about the events in their lives, sometimes it’s about the lives that they lived. While those lives may seem unremarkable to many, they are part of what made this family and guided us along the way. What if my grandfather never moved the family up to Pennsylvania from the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia? What if Samuel Ardis lived past 28 years old? What if my great grandparents never divorced? What if each of the immigrants just decided to stay put?

Obviously, we will ever know the real answers to the hypothetical questions. We will also never know if the stories we tell are completely accurate. But we can at least attempt to breathe life back into our ancestors and try to better understand the lives that they lived, the hardships they faced, and the decisions that they were forced to make. This should be interesting.