Monday, September 08, 2008

What If Someone Gave a Hurricane, and Nobody Came?

After being about 90% convinced we'd have to rush back home in a hurry for Ike, he's moved away and to the west. It looks like we're more or less in the clear.

I'm sorry to miss all the excitement. Sorry, too, that our good luck means someone else's bad luck. Unfortunately it looks like Nancy may be smack dab in his path. I don't want to wish a Cat 3 hurricane on anyone, especially not Nancy.

But, human that I am, I'll also look on what's the bright side for us. Missing Ike means we'll have at least another week or two in Missouri, and some interesting things have come up here.

When I told my dad the name of the town we're staying in, he said, --Did you know your grandmother Helen said she was born there? Her birth certificate lists a little place in Kansas, not far away from you, but she always said she was born in your Missouri town.--

Well. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I knew she was originally from Missouri, then as a child, moved with her family to Ft. Worth, Texas. I'd been wondering where in Missouri she lived...and now I know.

I've been on an Ancestor Chase ever since.

Our first American immigrant forebears arrived in 1635. They were among the group of 25 early settlers who bought the land for the town of Greenwich, CT from the Indians. If I remember right it cost 24 coats, and I think a few other things thrown in.

So we're listed in all these uber-fancy genealogy documents like "300 Colonial Ancestors and War Service", all over the "Index of the Rolls of Honor (Ancestor's Index) in the Lineage Books of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution," and pretty much every other such outfit there is. A large number of us fought in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, the Civil War - both sides - and so forth. We were among the original settlers of New York's Hudson and Mohawk Valleys, Long Island, Vermont, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Washington State, and California.

The thing is, though, I've always looked on people concerning themselves with most of this as a rather pitiful pursuit. To feel one's self-esteem or merit should be increased by membership in the DAR or a listing in the Blue Book, for instance, tells me something is fundamentally wrong with that person. They seem to me to completely miss the point of the value of each of us as human beings.

That's why, one fine day when my grandmother Helen was approached and courted by one or both of those organizations - in fact, as I heard it, simply listed in one without her application or permission - she told them, basically, to stuff it. In no uncertain terms, and possibly not in the most ladylike soft voice, either.

I've always been way proud of Helen for that one. And when I tell that story, sometimes I get a shocked reaction. --But why?-- people ask me, bewildered.

Because, essentially, it's tacky behavior. True ladies and gentlemen don't need some high-society patrons and matrons to tell them whether they're good and valuable people. That doesn't come from your ancestry. It comes from your character, what you do in your life and how you treat others.

I got one and only one thing of monetary value from that ancestry: the highest dollar scholarship I got in college was from the Colonial Dames of America. And if I'd needed more than two years to get my BSBA, or if I'd continued on in graduate school, it would have been renewed every single year until I was done. That is a very good scholarship.

Joining the DAR, which along with its *good works* has a rather vicious and nasty history of racism, doesn't make you a better person. If you embrace the sort of snobbery that goes along with that mentality, if you think it makes you a Better or More Important Person than others, I'd argue you probably weren't of good character to begin with, and tanked even more by seeking out acceptance by members of those groups. Have you ever known someone who sucked up to those folks, trying to get in their good graces? It's disgusting. Pathetic.

But the history of that ancestry is fascinating.

Grandmother Helen was a pistol. And in his way, her dad was even more so. I have a picture of him in his cowboy boots. I have the boots, too. So I'll call Great Grandad *Boots.*

Boots was born in Missouri. He ran away from home when he was in 4th grade. We don't know why, but his dad's experiences on the Confederate side of the Civil War may have some bearing on that. Veterans of bloody conflicts aren't always easy to live with, especially if they're on the losing side.

So ol' Boots, with a good dollop of the family wanderlust, worked in a coal mine for a while - and quit when he was the last one to leave a mine just before it exploded. He was in the Spanish-American War. He went on cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail to Dodge City.

He also apparently participated in something called the Cherokee Strip Land Run in 1893. This was a rather amazing and much-storied incident in American pioneer history. There's a wonderful little museum about it in Arkansas City, a couple hours' drive from our hotel.

We went there Saturday, and we had a blast. Took lots of nice pix. Talked to the genealogy researcher on staff about Boots.

I want to do more of that. I've been surfing and surfing, using places like, looking up our name in all the old US Federal Census rolls and so forth. Graveyard name lists. Marriage and birth records.

But some of these documents are best unearthed by visits to places like the county seat of wherever your relative or ancestor once lived.

So, since I'm finally up and about, I wanted to drive around and look, in person, at those places.

And walking where you know one of your ancestors walked 100 or 150 or 200 years ago is quite a feeling. I've always been interested in our historical family doings that way. I had no idea how moving it would be to walk in their footsteps.

I keep wondering: Did they see this old building, do business there? Even work there? Did they like the view from here? What would they think if they saw it now?

I'm glad we'll have a little more time here so I can do that. Join the DAR? Just like Helen I'd rather curl up and die. Walk and look around where those ancestors lived? Priceless.


Pretty Lady said...

Bless you and your unconquerable love for living.

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

What a great surprise, and a real gift was finding your ancestors!

Granny J said...

Woohoo! You're up and about and exploring. That's the best news I've heard from you in an absolute age. Have a wonderful, wonderful time.

Nancy said...

DANG! I wish this hurricane would make up its mind about where it's going!