Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Family History....Mystery

I grew up surrounded by genealogy. 
Some of my earliest memories involve listening to my mother and grandmother chat about new 'finds' and family names.   I was familiar with pedigrees and terms like microfiche and microfilm, soundex, vital records, and census. 
I learned more about history through stories my mother told me than through my school texts.   

Stories about brothers who were on opposite sides of the law: one a train robber, the other a sheriff.
Stories of an ancient grandmother whose beauty and vivacity caused men to start wars out of love and jealousy. (I'm sure her royal birthright helped some.)

Stories of my great-great grandfather, the town sheriff, who had to take serious prisoners by horseback across the state of Oregon to the state penitentiary.  He also had the job of lighting the street lamps in town every night...on stilts.  

Stories from the Mayflower and pioneers who trekked across this nation.  

So many stories!  My mother has a way of telling them that grabs your imagination and won't let go.  
She worked for years; writing letters to far away places, ordering library books on loan from other states, trying to find connections.  She did it the hard way.

Now, from the privacy of your own home, you can search family records online.  The amount of information out there is amazing!  I can easily find records that only twenty years ago, my mother was typing out letters on an old typewriter and mailing off for .

Mostly, I've worked on my husband's family history.  My own history had been uncovered pretty far back.  
Or so I thought.

When working on genealogy, sometimes amazing and miraculous things can happen.
For example; years ago, my grandmother was trying to find information on a family whose children had died from an epidemic.   She was recording the children and looking for more information on each of them.  However, she was having trouble finding a little girl named Francis.   
One night, she awoke to see a little boy sitting on the end of her bed, silently looking at her.   Somehow, by seeing him, it occurred to her that this little 'Francis' was not a girl, but a boy.  Sure enough, not long after, she found his records.

It's amazing when you work on family history and read census records and old newspaper articles; how you come to feel for their lives, their stories.    When you find a family and begin to find birth records for babies born...only to find death certificates for those same babies a year or two feel the sadness and wonder how they made it through such anguishing times.

I know, from my own personal experience, that there are moments when you are going about your busy life and suddenly you feel a sort of 'tapping' on your soul. 
Suddenly, out of the blue, you feel that you should do another search for a person you couldn't previously find.   And, although you may have searched for them regularly over the years without any luck, suddenly there they are.

Recently, something of this nature happened to my mother and I.
For years, I've known the history of my father's side.  In fact, a couple of years ago, my mom gave me the records she had worked so hard on for that line.  We were pretty much done.

However, one night, while up late and not able to sleep, it occurred to Mom that she had never followed one of the women's lines.   She got on and thought she'd do a little research.  What she found completely changed what we thought we knew.

She found an error- and easy one to make based on the name, birthdate and general area of birth of my great-grandfather.
We found that the man we had long thought was my great-grandfather as a child, wasn't.  Mom found an article stating that he had died in a plane crash.  
So the entire line of family was the wrong line!
We went back to the drawing board and began searching for him anew.

What we found was rather astonishing.   We found him, found his family line, found his father and mother.  We also found that he had a brother and that his father had abandoned them as young children.  
His father not only left his wife and two sons, but later remarried and left another wife with two daughters.  He also changed his first name and quite possibly used other aliases.

We found newspaper articles; one of them stating that his wife was looking for him.  Apparently he came from a great family who had settled in Pennsylvania very early.  He was referred to in the newspaper article as being the 'Black Sheep' of the family.

His grandfather, Leonard Spaulding,  was a veteran of the French and Indian War as well as the Revolutionary War.  A Captain who was also his town's representative for the legislature in Vermont.   He was the first in his county to shoulder his gun and head for the battles.

He was there when Cornwallis surrendered and it is said he was able to shake the hand of General George Washington.

His father , Russell Temple, was a captain in the military and later served as a Major in the Militia.  He settled in Pennsylvania.

This man, my great-great grandfather, was the youngest in his family.  He also served in the Civil War before he married and had children.   I have to wonder; did the horrors of war change him?   I've read some about his regiment, about the loss of life and the numbers of wounded.  It must have been terrible. 

  As the youngest in his family, was he trying to live up to the family name by serving his country?  Was he, as the baby of the family,  brought up in such a way that the horrors of war scarred him for life?
I've read about his regiment.  There are quite a few listed as deserters.  Could he have been one of them and, if so, did this mark his character for life?

As we search for his history, I wonder about him a lot.  Perhaps there is more to his tale than a man who left his family (ies) to fend for themselves. 
The articles and clues we have found all make me feel that he wants us to find him.
That it is he who is 'tapping' on our hearts.

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