Earlier in the week I watched a documentary about Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Without Einstein, there is no Hawking. Without Einstein, we may have never understood the concept of time and space. Without Hawking, we would not understand the Big Bang theory.
The TV show hosts used simple metaphors to explain the concepts of physics. Most of the concepts, and certainly the equations, stretched way beyond my comprehension. Einstein illustrated the speed of light by using a train metaphor. I’m pretty sure I’m still at the station. But I walked away with a new appreciation for the vastness of the universe, of creation, our relationships, and what a small role one person plays.
I’ve started working on my family history, particularly on my mother’s side. I completed a project with my father last year, so I’m setting that aside for now.
I joined Ancestry as soon as it was a thing, and have been a member on and off for years. My husband and I did the DNA tests about four or five years ago. Reading the tests and pondering the meaning and chasing down connections just was not a priority. Until now.
Now I’m plowing through Ancestry and through boxes and boxes of goodies left to me by my maternal grandmother, an aunt on my father’s side, and my mother’s sister. Access to the Internet databases allows me to compare and confirm information in the boxes. But there’s much more to it than court, census, and legal records.
It’s quite humbling to have all these items left to me. It’s very humbling to find my grandmother’s handwritten “Amy LeNore” on a 1958 document, when I was born the year before.
Here are a few of the other family treasures I’ve found:
- A letter from a Riley Children’s Hospital doctor to my paternal grandmother about “Billy.” Billy is my father, born with a club foot. Dad had multiple surgeries at Riley between 1930 and 1933 to fix the problem. (It wasn’t quite as easy as it is now.) The handwritten letter I have from the doctor to my grandmother affirms that my dad is doing well and improving.
- A newspaper notice about my great-great-grandfather returning from several winter months in Florida in the 1910s and 1920s. My maternal grandparents “wintered” in Florida, and I lived in the Tampa area for six years. My grandmother and I chased down her grandfather’s Twigg Street address in the 1980s. We found ourselves in the middle of city center Tampa looking at a skyscraper.
- Six tin types given to me by my father’s oldest sister, none of which are identified. I’ve learned from a helpful friend that Google has a reverse image search. I will be using it to see if I can find a match. One of the tintypes is of a Civil War soldier with a woman. The picture is similar to another photo I have of a Civil War gentleman who was my great-grand-grandfather and served in an Ohio infantry. He came home from war and was never the same. Today we would call it PTSD. An old family document notes, “(A man) was well acquainted with the said soldier, who became insane and was taken to the Asylum for the Insane at Athens, Ohio, where he died about 14 years later. His cause of death was listed as ‘the grippe’.”
- My ancestors did not fair well in the military. On my mother’s side, there is an ancestor who spent seven years as a Revolutionary War soldier, spending a winter at Valley Forge with General Washington. He died two years after returning from the war.
- On a more contemporary note, I discovered an un-cashed check for $84 from someone who had made me very angry. Apparently I was so angry, my punishment to them was not to cash the check which is on an account long closed.
- My grandmother nearly drowned while ice skating on Huffman Ditch near the family farm in her teenage years. In my childhood, the Huffman Ditch was merely a name where something once was. Hard to imagine enough water in it to nearly drown.
- Almost everyone on both sides of my family were in the agriculture business, one way or another, farming, buying, selling, or supporting it. One relative won a national vegetable judging contest (who knew?). The more interesting fact about this particular relative (a first cousin of my dad’s) is that he was on the USS Indianapolis when it was torpedoed in 1945. He spent several horrific days in the water, seeing things no man should ever see, and lived for many years. I did not know him, but knew his brother quite well as he lived until a few years ago.