WEBSTER COUNTY, KY (11/14/12) - I’ve been spending my free time researching my family tree. I probably need to join the Webster County Historical and Genealogical Society, but I really don’t have the time to justify membership. Most of my research time is between midnight and two in the morning, when I don’t think I would be welcomed in the Webster County Library.
It really seems like a daunting task when you first get started. You have a blank page and thousands of years of history to dig trough one name at a time.
And I’ve really waited until it was too late to get started. My grandparents who could have shed so much light on the subject are all gone. I bore my mom and dad with questions about their grandparents, but there is only so much that they can tell me.
Dad on numerous occasions has warned me that when you go digging in the past you might find skeletons that you don’t want to find, but that’s never bothered me. I believe that to know who we are, we need to know where we came from.
In my search I’ve found numerous people that I just find interesting. The first one who comes to mind is my dad’s grandmother. Many of you probably remember her. Minnie Phelps was a Providence native. She lived here from 1894 to 1998.
I was lucky enough to know her, and I still think of her all of the time. She loved her family, and each of her children, great grandchildren and then great-great grandchildren. At a hundred years of age she was still raising her own garden and cooking breakfast every morning.
I’ve tried to trace the Hughes side of my family, but beyond my great grandfather Jim Hughes, who I never knew, things get a bit clouded. It appears that his father had the same name as my nephew, Joe Dan, but I really don’t know. That’s the difficulty you find in genealogical research.
Then there is my mother’s family. They’re actually the ones that got me started on this search in the first place, and it took me 15 years to find a break that has allowed me to go back more than five hundred years.
Elaine Price, who used to be the Providence Librarian, allowed me to read a book called The Devil’s Ferrymen one time. The book had been out of print for decades, so it was not a book that you got to see very easily. There were a number of stories in the book, but one of them was the historical account of the Harp Brothers, arguably America’s first serial killers.
A Union County native named Matthew Christian was present when the posse caught up to and killed Big Harp (whose head later hung on a stake in Dixon). Accounts of what happen vary, but this book said that Christian fired the shot that knocked Harp off of his horse.
Knowing that mom’s family had come from Union County, I was excited to find out if we were related! To me, being able to tie myself to a historical event was a big deal.
I could find nothing. I got to mom’s grandad, Sam, but we had nothing showing who his father was or where he had been born. For fifteen years I was stuck.
Then one night last week, while browsing Ancestry.com I found a 1940 census record that showed Sam living with mom’s dad, William. It also listed his birth date, 1865.
Using that I located a document that showed Sam’s father’s name and birth date.
To wrap all of this up, the one census allowed me to tie my family not only to Matthew Christian (Sam’s grandfather) who was one of the earliest settlers in Union County, but to the Christian family line that dates back at least to John MacChristen born in 1368. He was a Deemster on the Isle of Mann.
Between Matthew and John there are Indian fighters, Revolutionary war soldiers and Illiam Dhone, whose Celtic rebellion and subsequent trialless execution ranks right up there with that of William Wallace.
For all of you who find this stuff boring, think for a moment about who your family might have been. War heroes? Outlaws? Political leaders?
What I’m Reading
I’ve recently started reading Nightface by Lydia Peever, a fellow Post Mortem Press author.
After finishing three-fourths of the book, I’ve read enough to recommend it to anyone with an interest in horror fiction.
It's a dark take on vampire-esque fiction, that definitely is not Twighlight or the Vampire Diaries! The characters are well developed, and unlike the current generation of vampire novelist, she keeps in mind that although they might once have been human, vampires, werewolves and other monsters are monsters!
It's the story of Gunnar, a man who awakes from a coma not knowing who he is or where he came from. As the story develops we learn that someone is playing games with him. Someone knows who he is, and more importantly what he is...or was.
I actually got the story as a freebie for the Kindle, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from it. I was surprised. Nightface is a very good book, definitely worth looking into.
J-E News Editor
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