Why would normal people leave perfect weather in Sonoma County and head back to the Far East of states still in the grip of winter? One word: ancestry.com. Mr. T. got hooked several months ago and he is truly addicted. I didn’t quite understand the magnetic pull of searching for marriages of long-dead relatives(many he didn’t even know he had) or what great-great grandparent had which kids. He’s gotten so drawn into the Wisconsin branch of his family that he decided it would be a great idea to go look at graves of these dead kin.
Now I can understand family cemeteries and maintaining the war memorials in honor of the glorious war dead–especially those fallen soldiers in the War of Northern Aggression.
But these ancestors of Mr. T were Yankees and laid to rest in huge boneyards. Southern conversations about families generally start with the short version of the geneology such as, “Well, Ah believe it was your great-grandmother, you know, the one who married the boy from Columbia County back before The War, who then up and died leaving her with 6 youn’uns before she married your Mama’s 2nd cousin by Grandma’s half-sister.” Then you would get the actual story. “Who’re your people” was a question only asked of strangers–everyone in the family already knew the family line.
But Mr. T. did not have the advantage of a Southern upbringing so he had to hunt for last names and final resting places. While I would sleep in, he would be out visiting court houses and county offices looking for tidbits and locating graves. Then I would load up the camera gear and off we’d go to some remote boneyard in places like Superior or Duluth and we’d search for graves. Since no one had visited these graves in decades, he would bring along brushes and water and dig back the encroaching grass and clean up the stone. Then I would take photos. Pretty soon my interest lagged and I discovered even HDR photography can spiff up a neglected head stone.
The day Mr T signed up for ancestry.com was a turning point in addictions. He is fascinated. I am puzzled–Hello! They’re dead! You never knew them!
But he did get me probing into my own roots. All I’ve found out (so far) is none of my ancestors came to this country willingly. They were all thrown out or forced out of Scotland for various reasons. I guess the gene labeled “does not play well with others” still lives. But more on that later.