Monday, October 10, 2011

Conversations With My Ancestors

Last night I had a dream. I'm sure it's a common one among genealogists and family historians. Even if they haven't dreamed it, they've thought about it. I dreamed I was talking to my ancestors, asking all the questions that go through my mind while I'm researching them.

To my 2nd great grandfather James Walter Sweat:
Exactly where the heck did you go between 1900 and 1920? I've searched census records using every possible variation I could think of. I couldn't find you in the WWI Draft Registrations even though you should have been there. It's like you, Addie and the kids fell off the face of the Earth and didn't find your way back until 1920.
And while I'm on the subject of things that baffle me, what's the big deal with moving all the time? You were born in Ware County, Georgia; showed up in Pierce County in 1880 and were still there when you married Addie in 1896; appeared in Appling County in 1900; disappeared for twenty years; reappeared in Atkinson County in 1920; popped up in Colquitt County in 1930 and your last appearance was Berrien County where you passed away in 1940.
To my 2nd great grandmother Addie Mae Deen Sweat:
Are my suspicions correct? Were Doley, John Wesley and Annie Deen your siblings? And what was your mother's name? Your death certificate says (blank) Jerdan. I've searched marriage records to try to determine her name and I've come up dry.
To my 3rd great grandfather Thomas Vanzandt:
Why are you listed as widowed in the 1910 census when your wife Ellen was alive and well living with her new husband and four of your children not even 100 miles away? Ellen even admits in the census that Frank Knipe is her second husband and your children are listed as his step-children.
To my 2nd great grandmother Eva Mae Sanders Boling Cooper:
Why is there a family legend that you were married eight times, outliving all your husbands? Were you a victim of genea-skankery or is there something else going on?
To Thomas Smith, father the man I suspect to be my 4th great grandfather, Thomas Smith:
Seriously? As a Thomas Smith yourself, you should realize how common that name is. Why not name your son something more unusual like Zachariah or Ezekiel? Finding the right Thomas Smith in census and other records is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Apparently pairing common given names with a common surname is a family trait seeing as some of your grandchildren were named James, William, Mary and George.
To my 4th great grandfather Oliver Perry Register:
Exactly what happened during the Civil War that led you to be accused of being a Confederate deserter? I've read your pension application and that of your wife Mary, studied your letters and brooded over the petition signed by other Confederate veterans. It must have been a real kick in the teeth to get called a deserter and denied a pension after serving faithfully.

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