Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Genealogist's Life

My wife, my sisters and my little brother got me into this. I spent most of my life going along, blithely unaware of who my ancestors were and that was fine at the time. My older sister though, nearly made a profession of it, at least it seemed that way to me. She was forever traveling to libraries, courthouses, the homes of relatives and such, endlessly copying old photographs, deeds, wills, and military records. Then she'd spend whatever time she had left meticulously entering everything by hand into her file system.

Me? Hey! I was a working stiff. I was busy on the job or I was even busier doing what guys do when they're not working. I was fishing, riding my motorcycles, or just getting together with the guys. You know....having fun. I had a great interest in the Civil War but it was nothing to do with my ancestors. I just loved to study that war and I loved visiting those old battlefields around Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. By the time I became interested in genealogy I was in my late fifties. I finally started noticing my wife's efforts to document her family and I took a closer look. My sister showed me some family photos and old records and that interested me even more. My kid brother showed me his computer database and that sealed it. I was hooked.

The thing that got me most interested though was when I learned that my grandfather, old Ben Barham himself, fought for the Confederacy in the War of Northern Aggression (I now use that term rather than Civil War.) It excited me that I was a Southerner. That's right! Almost a Virginian, since that's where Ben was born. Being born in Maryland I'd always assumed I was a Damned Yankee but, Thank the Lord!, turns out I'm not.

Now, not many people can say their grandfather fought in the Civil War, mostly it would have been their great-grandfather. I can say that because my dad was born in 1903 and his dad was born in 1844. That puts Benjamin Franklin Barham at 59, an offical old guy, when dad was born. When my sister showed me a photo of Ben in his Confederate uniform I was hooked. I wanted to learn all I could about him.

Well, that's where it started but not where it stopped. I've been chasing ancestors ever since. My wife and I now visit as many relatives, as many old towns and courthouses, as many old homeplaces as we can. I love walking where "they" walked, reading documents that "they" wrote or signed. And every time I find a new family member, living or dead, I get excited all over again. I even have a website dedicated to my ancestors, and it goes all the way back to the 11th century and my 23rd, great-grandfather. I love to communicate with cousins, no matter how distant, from all over the world (well, mostly in the USA, the UK or Canada.)

And, since we moved to Arkansas I've found a bunch more relatives, descendents of Barhams who migrated west long ago. We've met new relatives and made new friends, all because of our family connections.

My sister must look at me now and wonder why I wasted all those years ignoring my heritage. The truth is; I wonder the same thing. There's so many people I could have talked to who are gone now. when they passed away they took so much great family lore with them. God love them, I'm sorry I missed them.

Anyway, enough about genealogy. Gotta go. I think I'll take a break now. I'll close this journal and do something else for a while. You know what? I think I'll open my Legacy genealogy program and find me some new family members.

Talk to you later,


"He who has no fools, knaves, or beggars in his family was begot by a flash of lightning."

Old English proverb

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I started researching my Dad's family, I found out they had moved to Arkansas from Ohio in the late 1880s. I had assumed they were Southerners like the rest of the family - imagine my surprise to find out that my g-grandfather and his father fought for the North, were captured at Marks Mill and then came to Arkansas and homesteaded property later.

Maybe that also explains why one of my parents was a strong Democrat and the other Republican.