In awe of the past


I have been spending the past 10 days on a dream vacation…. a week of research at the world’s largest genealogical library – The Family History Library in Salt Lake City. It’s been a week with no children, no husband, no work (well, almost… I still wrote a couple of stories for this week’s Leader), and almost no school (online classes ;-))

And even with that little bit of work and school I had to do, I have had an AMAZING week! Ten to 12 hours a day of researching, give or take an hour depending on if I remembered to stop to eat. I have scoured through books written in the mid-1800s, examined Internet resources which made available documents and newspapers from all over the world from the past four centuries and my favorite – microfilms documenting marriages, births, deaths, military service and censuses, some as early as 1712! This trip I have visited Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, India, Switzerland and England, all without leaving the warmth of the library.

There is something about being able to view an original document which exists as testament to the life of your ancestors. On my last trip in July, I located the 1827 marriage certificate of my 4th great-grandparents, William and Celinda Court Brown and the 1844 marriage certificate of my 3rd great-grandparents, Francis and Celinda Brown Clough from BOMBAY, INDIA… Talk about an amazing feeling! This time, I found banns (wedding announcements) and death notices written in French from my PANCHAUD line in Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland from 1712… pouvez-vous dire merveilleux?

Death certificate of Jean Francois Panchaud

Death certificate of Mary Roberts

Death certificate of 11 month-old Mary Roberts

I also found the death records of my great-great-grandmother’s first husband and their daughter, my great-great-great-great auntie, who both died in Bombay, India in 1869, just five months apart from each other. Her husband of less than two years, Robert Clifton Roberts was 34 years old and died from an abscessed wound. He was thought of very highly in his community and the local newspaper, The Times of India, reported on Mar. 1, 1869 that his death was sincerely regretted. My 11-month-old auntie, Mary Roberts, died from convulsions. Finding their death notices helped explain why my great-great grandmother left her home and her family and traveled thousands of miles to England in the 1870s after spending her entire life in India. I can imagine how distraught she must have been to have lost her husband and baby within months of each other. She probably was trying to get away from the place that held so much pain for her, even though it was the place of her birth. But at the same time, even though I feel sadness at their passing and what could have been, when I look at those records I can’t help but think if they hadn’t died, I would not be here today. Because it was their deaths that drove my gggrandmother to England where she met my gggrandfather, and in turn, begat my line.

I also learned some American history this week. I located a census of the Indiana Territory for 1807 which listed every free white man living in the territory before it was a state. There was only 616 names on the list! I find that simply incredible that I have a document in my hands that list every single person living in the state of Indiana, before it was a state, and there’s just over 600 names on the list! My sixth-great grandfather, Alexander Guard and two of his sons, David (my 5th great grandfather) and Timothy were listed on the census. They had traveled from New Jersey with their families after the Revolutionary War by following the Ohio River, arriving at North Bend, Ohio in the spring of 1790 and moved to, what is now Dearborn County, Ind. in 1796.

There is so much history to be learned by digging up the past – The history of our ancestors and of our descendants. The reason we are here and the path we are taking. Genealogy is the map to discovering our history. Give it a try and learn the stories of your past.

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One response to “In awe of the past

  • Echo

    How exciting! I can’t wait to hear your stories. :) I have a couple to share, too, but none, I’m sure, are as exciting about what you have to share.

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