The stories of my ancestors from my maternal grandmother piqued my interest. When she died in 1994, I became the keeper of the flame.
Family members gave me materials, adding to my collection my grandmother (Grammy) had given me. The family stories are compelling and have been waiting for me to propel them into the world. Many of my lines have dead ends; the Long line had too much information.
I couldn’t wrap my arms around the project. I couldn’t find a way to make sense of it. I had too much information and not enough connection. My grandmother, born in 1908, had access to most of the family documents and information through her DAR membership. But in the quarter-of-a-century since her death, the Internet has made family research easier. The Internet also offers many options and ways to connect with others who share interests or common ancestors.
Researching on the Internet is more my style than joining the DAR. I’m still not over the whole Marian Anderson thing from 1939. Thank you, Eleanor Roosevelt, for stepping up and arranging for Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial.
The Long lineage, my grandmother’s mother’s family, offered the most information. I can go back to Hanns Lung, born in 1520 in Baden-Baden, Germany. Hanns Lung is my 10th great-grandfather, and every single relative through the generations was a farmer until my generation. There are craftsmen, millers, coopers, blacksmiths, cabinet makers, and yes, farmers on my paternal grandfather’s side and my father’s parents’ lineage.
The Long family believed in tilling the soil and encouraged their children to do the same. The land seems the natural connection around which to shape a narrative. My book traces the story of four generations from 1837-1937. Reuben and Elizabeth Long, Washington and Jane Long, Henry Kellis Hoard and Anna Long Hoard, and Carl August Enz and LeNore Hoard Enz farmed the same farm these four generations.
I wanted to know why. Why did my ancestors love the land so much? I found out why, but I also discovered a treasure trove of stories that I had never heard before. You know the kind I’m speaking of–the kind that is “never to be discussed again.”
I found untimely deaths, suicide, diseases, isolation, despair, bigotry, hatred, unfathomable loss, destructive weather events, and addiction. I learned that the farm hung on by a thread several times. I learned that a relative of mine was killed in the Civil War, and I had never even heard his name. I learned that my great-grandmother Anna suffered more losses than anyone should in any lifetime. And she managed to survive, despite the early death of her mother, accidental loss of a brother, loss of a daughter, and an early and horrific accidental death of her husband.
I also found beauty, joy, happiness, contentment, jubilation, creativity, community, and faith. As you will learn when you read “Centennial Farm Family: Cultivating Land and Community 1837-1037,” The Long family was guided by their love and protection of the land.
Until my book is published this summer, I’ll be sharing little tidbits here on my Raven Lunatic blog. At left is one of my favorite pictures from the farm. I can’t use all of them, and frankly, I’m not sure who this is. It’s not my great-grandfather, but it might be his brother-in-law Calvin or the hired man. I suspect it was taken before the turn of the 20th century. I love the picture because the naive observer sees in this old picture what I saw as a child, a gravel lane leading to the woods in the northwest corner of the picture, a magical place with wildflowers and walnut trees. In theory, it was full of mushrooms in April and May, but I could never see them. My mother, as a child, loved going mushroom hunting with her father and was, apparently, a good little mushroom hunter. (For non-Hoosiers, this is an Indiana thing. We like to find a fungus among us in the woods, flour it, and then fry it in fat. Well, some of us do. I never could hunt them or acquired the taste. Which is fine because relatives who love them are only too happy to take your share.)