Saturday, July 04, 2015

Thoughts that go bump in the night

If you've followed this blog for any length of time you most certainly are deprived of any quality reading material, but you also know I have been an avid genealogist for over 40 years. 

My 4th g-grdmother Catherine Dorneberger
Genealogy is interesting for a variety of reasons, one of which is that it quickly teaches you that no one gets out of here alive. When 90% of your family photos are of tombstones, you soon understand that the Grim Reaper walks one step behind you, and that rustling you hear is his robe catching against his bony knees. 

Genealogy isn't a hobby with me, it's more like an obsession. Maybe I was called to it, because I was born what the Irish call "sensitive", not that I am an overly emotional person, in fact one of my doctors referred to me as "stoic" recently which made me laugh afterwards considering how much I moan and groan about my pain levels. But sensitive in the woo-woo sense.  

For example, my Dad was a rig supervisor in the oil fields of West Texas.  On any given day he could be on any one of half a dozen rigs, over a 200 mile area. There were no cell-phones or ways to communicate in the 40s and 50s. But several times, beginning when I was about two, when Mother needed to reach him in an emergency, she sat me on the front seat of the car, where I couldn't even see over the dashboard, and asked me to tell her where Daddy was. And I'd listen for him, or feel for him. It's hard to describe. I would open my heart, or that's how it felt, and I could feel where he was, and I'd tell her to go that direction. And we found him every time. 

But I had a coincidental and unrecognized at the time encounter with a family member long since in the spirit world in the late 1970s. We decided to return briefly to the US because my Mother was terminally ill and we wanted her to have some time with our two boys.  

We decided to buy property in Arkansas, a few hours drive from my parents, and build a small house. Land was very inexpensive, and we wanted to be out in the country. We drove through a tiny town in the northeast corner of the state called Berryville. We looked around a little, thought 'not for us' and drove on. But in the night I woke up and felt a strong compulsion to go back to Berryville. 

Long story short, we went back. A realtor drove us around and there was one piece of property that grabbed us, me especially. We bought it, built a tiny house and lived there for about a year. 

At the time I had no idea that my paternal grandmother and her mother had both been born in the next county. There's an excellent genealogy library in Berryville. I would go in there and literally ache, because I could feel family all around me, and all I could do was look at the files in frustration. I even walked the graveyard, with the same feeling of frustration.

Thirty-five years later the bird comes to the nest. With DNA testing I've made contact with a 3rd great-grandson of my 3rd great-grandfather's Lawson's brother Jacob. And with it his family tree.  

In 1850 both Lawson and Jacob and their families were living  side-by-side in Ripley Co Missouri. By 1853 both had moved south into Arkansas. Jacob's son George Washington Smith moved to Carroll Co, just outside of Berryville, next door to the Sisco family. And in 1883 George Smith's daughter Lucretia married William Emberson Sisco and produced eight little Sisco kids. No Lone Rangers apparently.  

On the way to our property, we left Berryville on Sisco Rd. The Sisco farmhouse stood at the junction where we turned to get to our property. in 1979 it was well-maintained and still lived in. 

George Washington Smith and wife Sarah Jane Frederick
The 20 acres we bought may well have been part of the property which belonged to my 4th cousin George Smith 100 years before us. We disassembled an old square-cut log house up the road from it. The logs were not milled, but cut with an adze. The nails were hand-forged. I still have one of them in  a drawer somewhere. Was it the home of George Smith?  I wish there was a better picture of him, this one is torn across his face and no amount of photoshopping will fill in the missing gap. 

But my 3rd great-grandmother Priscilla, and 4th great-grandmother Elizabeth both died between 1850 and 1853, the same time George Washington Smith moved down near the Siscos. Did Lawson and his family go with them? Did Priscilla and Elizabeth die in Carroll County? For the life of me I can't understand why a 4th great-uncle would exert such an emotional pull, while I have searched for the identities of these two women for three decades. 

You have to wonder what ghosts lead you back, but I've seen "coincidences" happen to genealogists I know too many times to discount them. Henry Jones, expert on the Palatine migrations, has written two books based on genealogists finding their ancestors through almost unbelievable "coincidences".
"They want to be found," he says.  



Deb said...


I clicked "publish" and your comment disappeared into thin air!

Post again, or if you're keen on researching your family history I'd be delighted to help.

Just say so and we'll talk off-list.


Deb said...


It was still in my e-mail, but wouldn't post again. I copied and will post again:

Wow, this is so interesting Deb. I've thought about trying to find out information about my father's family. His family is the one I know least about. I guess I don't know where to start. I have so little information. I never met my Grandfather and just don't know that much about him or his family.