Honey, WHO do you come from?

If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.

michael chrichton

I was in Atlanta recently, attending a dear friend’s daughter’s wedding and visiting with family. One day my sister and I took our mom on a family field trip. Actually, she took us. We wanted to see some of the old family graves and sites where our ancestors had lived, and Mom, of course, knows exactly where to find them.

Is it just me, or does this become way more interesting as we grow older? I find myself daydreaming about ancestors who have come alive for me through my mom’s research. Our family has our share of characters, some with incredible stories, some inspirational (and some embarrassing). Like any family. EVERY family.

Does anyone know the significance of the shells on top of the gravestone?

The cemetery we visited is a small, fenced in area in a rural residential neighborhood. It’s just there! What I’m always struck with as we tour one of these older cemeteries is how hard life was for many (most) of these people. Yet when Mom tells us stories of these individuals, it’s not all sadness. There’s great happiness and lovely times … stories that have passed from generation to generation. My mom has made it her business to know who these people were – what they did and where they lived. She now lives in the same small town where my grandmother (her mother) grew up. Remarkable. I saw homes where my great-greats lived. Trees they planted. Churches they built. We traced the tracks where they walked or rode their horses (most likely – we loved to imagine it). In the cemetery we visited, we saw graves of ancestors and their children – some of them so old we couldn’t read the engravings. (And, we had a hard time keeping our 85-year-old mom off the tops of gravestones – she’s quite naughty – we had to ply her with ice cream while cautioning her about snakes and critters to get her to come down). It’s hard to imagine our forebears’ lives, but there’s the evidence that they did, in fact, live, and it’s right there in front of us. The sorrow, the challenges, every life a story. And, despite incredible mountains to climb, these people kept going. Some of them lived very long lives, while navigating their journeys without antibiotics, Neosporin, or Merthiolate. It really makes you think. There was no 409 for cleaning counters or Shout! for laundry stains! I’m exhausted and in awe just thinking of it.

The area of the South River where my ancestor, Betsy Bryans, ran her own raft ferrying service, shuttling people across! Wow! Wouldn’t you want to be her friend?!

One of my favorite ancestors, Betsy Bryans, was a young widow and started her own rafting service taking people back and forth across the South River to support herself and her small children. She met her future second husband, my fifth or sixth Great-Grandfather, Patrick O’Bryans (he dropped the O’ shortly after coming to North America from Ireland in anticipation of fighting the British in what would become the Revolutionary War), while she was ferrying people across. This was in the late 1700’s. What!?!? Yes. What a trailblazer! Imagine the blog she could write!

I’d love to know if any of you have worked on your own family history. I’m incredibly interested (and intrigued) by our cast of characters. Feel free to message me here on the blog. Another upcoming blog post will cover some resources for genealogical research. I’ll warn you… it’s addictive!

Next time, on the blog, we will, indeed, talk about purses! (I get distracted sometimes!!!) Until then, my friends!

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