One of my mom's hobbies, if one can call it a hobby when it's really almost a full-time job, is researching, documenting and chronicling our family's genealogy. As her chicks have flown the nest and begun nests of their own, time on her hands was something that ate at her in a cruel way until she rediscovered an earlier interest she'd always had and turned it into a passion.
Fortunately for her, she had a host of relatives who'd also taken an interest in researching the origins of her side of the family and she began with a ton of information that had already been well-researched, double-checked and was authentic. Many of them gifted their research to her when they died or were simply all too delighted to share it with her. She took that and ran!
My mom and I have much in common - just one thing we share is a passion to dive into something fully, completely and thoroughly, and if not master it, come as close as we possibly can. She has taken this approach in her ancestry research.
The result is that she has followed the genealogical trail from her family (and as far back into my Dad's family as she can) all the way back to England, as well as pursued all the different avenues and branches that are relevant, driven to the hinterlands to interview as many of these relatives as possible, photographed tombstones and living individuals, restored weed-covered cemeteries hosting our distant relatives, and amassed a quantity of paper documenting these relatives, their relatives, their photographs, interviews, etc. into enough binders to fill a warehouse. She has filled rooms of her house with binders and plastic tubs filled with the obituaries and remnants of lives once lived.
The one thing that she hasn't done is transfer all this precious information into a database which will remain should her house catch on fire. Pondering this one day, she purchased a subscription to Ancestry.com (I was shocked to discover how much that actually costs) and began the laborious process of uploading all the information she has onto a family tree she put together on that site. The problem is that she isn't speedy on computers. And I happen to be speedy.
I made a comment in passing one day that she'd probably get further faster if she hired someone to enter the data for her. I jokingly said I'd do it. A week or so later she showed up at my doorstep with a few huge plastic tubs filled to the brim with ancestry information just ready to be entered and logged and scanned and asked if I was serious about that offer.
I was. We've since begun a partnership. In my free time, when I'm not building chicken coops, I plop down with a very large binder and lose myself in the past. And I love it.
My Dad fully expected this to become my next passion, and although I certainly have fallen in love with it, I'm also not at a point in my life to devote the time to traveling and interviewing that my Mom and Dad are. I initially viewed this merely as a business transaction. And it has paid off, but more so even than that, I have truly been fascinated to learn about my family's roots. It amazes me. I feel bonded to these people who lived so so long ago. I even get caught up on little research tangents of my own and quite unexpectedly, build onto my mom's research.
The bulk of material my Mom has is from her family's side. Her mother's mother's side, actually. The Sawyers. These were families who knew how to populate the earth. They started young and stopped at menopause, I'm assuming. They lost some babies and had plenty more to cover those losses. The worked farms, became landowners and plantation owners and politicians and moved around the South and somehow ended up with a large portion of them in Drew County which is where the Sawyers became the Hughs who then became the Flemings and there you have my mom.
One particular Sawyer is at the beginning of this all, and his name is one I won't soon forget.
He married four times, which was what you had to do when your wives died in childbirth or were just plain worn out from raising all your kids. Interestingly, as he got older, his wives got younger until the last was the same age as some of his existing children.
He had about a bazillion kids and they, in turn, had a bazillion more kids.
And I am taking each kid, tracing their lives and offspring from the 1700's to present day.
It is nothing short of fascinating.
I'm currently working on the enormous binder pictured above. That is the offspring of Mr. Sawyer that directly feeds into my mom's family.
Here's a sample of what a page looks like. The names of the husband and wife start at the top with their dates and places of birth, date of wedding and then the blocks in the center are their children complete with their births, deaths, marriages and at the bottom are the sources.
Each person has their own page for their own family and most have tombstone pictures, obituaries, and if I'm really lucky, old photographs. Those are what make these people real to me.
That and the personal anecdotes I stumble across. Like when someone divorces because their wife ran off in the middle of the night with her "new man", the two of them stopping by her mother-in-law's house (in the middle of the night, mind you) to ask her to please raise her two kids for her. And the MIL does it. That is, until the jilted husband remarries and reclaims his two kids.
Or mothers who have 12 children, but lose a baby at one year old and grieve the loss of that child so intensely that their dying request is that they not be buried next to their husband, but by that infant child. To watch over that one baby they didn't get to raise. And to the consternation and outrage of local society, her family honors her wish because they understand her heart.
People are just fascinating.
This past weekend, after finally finishing our chicken coop (minus some paint), I switched gears completely to dive into the life and progeny of Joseph Asberry Sawyer. I spent about 8 hours this past weekend in this spot. Ancestry.com pulled up, binder to my left, printer/scanner directly behind me, a hot cup of coffee or tea, and a blanket to keep my bum from going to sleep against the hardwood floors. It was rainy and perfect for this task. My kids watched Wreck It Ralph twice, Kyle worked on his laptop and I slipped back to the 1800's.
It might not sound like your idea of a good weekend, but it was awesome to me.
Hilariously, after all those hours, I only made it a few pages in to this binder. See how it can become lucrative? Not to mention addictive.
And lest I get cocky, thinking I'm moving right along, this big ole' plastic tub is right around the corner, chock-full of more stuff to enter, just taunting me with the sheer volume of facts I haven't reached.
It's not hard to see how this can become an obsession for some folks.
Not me. Ha! Ha!