Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sentimental Sunday: I Hardly Know Ya'

 But what were they like?

Was watching the live stream from RootsTech online and listening to Ron Tanner's presentation about FamilySearch Family Tree. He said a lot of fascinating things and one of them struck me hard. He said that after four generations no one knows us.

Oh sure, they can research the facts of us, but will they be able to answer that question we've all as family history buffs asked of living relatives: what was he or she like? "He was a tall bear of a man with big strong embracing arms." "She was a small woman who was the strongest person I ever met." "He was ill most of the time, but he had a wickedly good sense of humor. It kept him going." When it all boils down, that's the stuff we, or at least I, want most and is hardest to come by. I'll give up more than a couple of records to hear the answer to that one question: What was he or she like?

While watching RootsTech I was struck by how much emphasis there was on images (photos and video) as well as narrative, the stories. In the past I've heard a lot of folks be dismissive of "soft" information as compared to records. But now it seems the world is balancing out. We want those records but as human beings we need those photos and stories. They warm our hearts and sustain us.

Let's touch our collective toe in the water with my GGF, Daniel Williams (1852 - 1920). He was Mom's father's father and three generations back for me. He died a couple of years after Mom was born, and I'm guessing he held her in his arms. I can feel the soft information slipping away as I try to document his life. He's right there on the cusp and because of him, I get it how exactly people are forgotten by the fourth generation.

Now let's go just one more generation to that elusive and too easily forgotten fourth generation back and the 2nd great grandparents, another way to put it, my grandparent's grandparents. I'll list who is there and what I know about them in the way of soft info. Here's the line up, first with Mom's side and then with Dad's. Maybe some cousin out there will search and find me so we can connect. Maybe they will have a photo. Hey, a girl can hope:)

Here are Mom's people starting with her paternal grandfather, Daniel William's parents:

Thomas Williams (1815 - 1868)
He was a coal miner in Wales and lived in a small market town of Strata Florida, Cardiganshire. We think he died about 1868. He had seven children. What was he like? Probably strong and maybe big because all of his sons were large men. You'd have to be strong to work in a coal mine. No picture of him yet found.

Jane (James) Williams (1815 - ????)
Small, sturdy. Jane was the one who birthed those seven children, kept the house, made do when times were hard in the Welsh mine fields. After Thomas died she immigrated to the US and was in Upstate New York. Where she lived and died is still a mystery to us. But what was she like? In the one photo of her she looks delicate and frail but she's old.

Daniel William's wife was Jane Price and here are her parents:

William Price (1829 - 1872)
William Jr. was born in Bedfordshire, England, and died in Aux Sable Township, Grundy County, Illinois. Our working theory is that they went west, possibly mining, and to be with family. He's listed in the 1841 English Census living with his mother, Ann who is a lace maker. In both the 1850 and 1870 US Census he is listed as a miner and then more specifically, a coal miner.
Here's another coal miner who was likely strong and sturdy. But I still don't know what he was like.


Diane Thomas Price (1832 - 1871)
Diane was born in Wales. She died in Mount Savage, Allegany County, Maryland. Mom believes that she traveled back to where family was to have her last child and died in childbirth or shortly thereafter. That's very little to know about a person. And there's no photo of her in our possession so I can't look into her eyes and wish I knew her.

Mom's mother was Susan Whetstone Williams (1897 - 1965). Here are her grandparents.

Joseph Edward Whetstone (1816 - 1997)
We know quite a bit about my grandma Williams' grandparents by comparison to some of the others listed here. There are stories and some photos too. Here's Joseph E, Whatstone who started working as a blacksmith in conjunction with his father in law, Peter Yeast, who owned an roadhouse on the Old Pike going west near Grantsville, Garrett County, Maryland. He later became a stone mason and enjoyed a nice career in that work. Here's his photo. He looks strong and stone masonry was probably work for a very able-bodied man then. But look, he's holding a book. He was literate and my guess is that it's a bible. And look at those eyes!

Sarah Waggoner Whetstone (1825 - 1880)
Sarah was the step-daughter of the roadhouse and inn owner mentioned above, Peter Yeast. We have no photo of her but we do have an amazing letter written by Sarah to her daughter, so I'll post that instead. As you can see, she was literate and that was quite an accomplishment for the time - about 1869 - and place - extreme wilds of Western Maryland. Perhaps it was from her that Mom and I got our love of reading and writing.

Samuel Albert House (1832 - 1917)
We know a lot about Samuel Albert House and you can see it here. He's just that far out of immediate reach but somehow he imposed his presence down through four generations. Maybe you have to be quite the character in order to do that? I feel as though I'd know him if he walked into the room today, and that's saying something.

Mary Elizabeth Farrell (1835 - 1919)
We know about Mary Elizabeth by way of her husband and in many regards she has been defined by him. She had 16 children with him and that couldn't have been easy given his life. Well, at least we have a photo of her, for which I am very glad.

Here's Dad's line up starting with his father's grandparents.

John Kelly (1821 - 1891)
Born in Shannonbridge, Clonmacnoise Parrish, County Offlay, Ireland and died in Eckhart, Allegany County, Maryland. We have no idea why or when he came over . And the only photo we have for him is his grave marker, a lovely Irish cross, in St. Michaels Cemetery, in Frostburg, Allegany County, Maryland. I have no idea what he or his wife were like.

Bridget Cockrane (1830 - 1910)
Bridget married John Kelly on 21 June 1846 in Cumberland, Allegany County, Maryland. We know she was born in Ireland but don't know where. And we don't know when she died or where she's buried. It's a mess. And lastly, very sad, we have no picture of her even though she lived till 1910. Why?

John Eckhart (1831 - 1917)
Mary Myers Eckhart (1837 - 1909)
I think of these two as a couple because the visual I have for them is a couple graphic made by a cousin I found through facebook. I just did a post about them and you can see it here. I know where they lived and what work he did, but other than that, I don't know what they were like.

Dad's mother's grandparents were:

Charles William Zeller ( 1829 - 1901)
We have a nice portrait photo of Charles William and you see it below. There's a very recent post recapping all that's known about him and his wife Anna Mary. But it's not enough. I deduce that he was resourceful and ambitious having brought his candy making skills from Germany then moved his them from the little mountain town of Frostburg in Western Maryland and finally to the metropolis of Chicago where real money was to be made. He does look prosperous in this photo, don't you think?

Anna Mary (possibly Breuning/ Browning/ Bruning) Zeller (1834 - 1906)
Because of the comment to the post mentioned under Charles above, I now want and need to go research Anna Mary! She is probably not the woman I think and now I'm not sure what I think. But never mind because I love a mystery:) Do I know her and what she was like? No way.

When family stories were told, the exotic Zellers often took the spotlight and the couple below were left in the shadows.

Elijah Workman (1816 - 1864)
Nancy Ann Troutman (1826 - 1882)
I know very little about either person of this couple. Both families have long lines that go back to the earliest frontier days in the area now known as Allegany County, Maryland. But personal information that would help a descendant know what they were like? Forget it. A photo? No way. One tiny story? Forget it.

So there you have it. It's sad really, and that's why it's here on Sentimental Sunday. Four generations back and forgotten about. I can do better for them. How are you doing with your fourth generation back? Do you know what they were like?

NOTE: I finished this post Saturday late and checked it out later to edit. Blogger, it seems, had eaten the whole last half of my work here. So if you see something that needs a bit more polish, please have mercy. Sorry.

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1 comment:

  1. I loved this survey you did of your genealogical frontier.It's a great idea.