Today I am grateful for my heritage.
I am grateful for my Appalachian roots that take me to northeast Kentucky --> southeast Kentucky --> southwest Virginia --> tidewater Virginia -- the British Isles and Germany.
Some of that bypasses the tidewater regions, and comes down the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia --> the outskirts of Philadelphia --> the British Isles and Germany.
I have often remarked that some of my people are not real stellar. I have often wagged my head as I have discovered:
Slave owners (it took me awhile to find any)
There are many more examples I could give, but this gives you an idea.
The good thing is...many of these lead to good records.
But, I look beyond the statistical information you would put on a pedigree chart, and look at the stories. We don't always know the backstory in a person's life, but sometimes we can get an idea. The may be other factors going on in their lives and in the world that caused them to do what they did.
Or, maybe they're just rascals.
Let me give you a short example. I have a grandfather named John Goolman Davidson, who lived in southwest Virginia. He was a scout in the Revolutionary War.
A man by the name of Rice stole a hog from him, and in court was ordered to pay John a good sum of money, with the vow that this wouldn't be the end of things.
Awhile later, John and some others were on a scouting expedition. He thought he heard something, and took off on his own to see what it was.
First, they found his hat.
Next, they found his stirrup.
Then, they found him.
He had been killed and was laying at the base of a tree. Before he died, he had carved the word "Rice" into the tree.
I wanted to see the marker that was erected to him, but the only directions I had were written in 1933. I stopped at Wytheville College, and the director and I poured over maps where he thought it might be.
He finally said, "I think it you go up to this area, you'll find a general store. If there is a marker, they'll know where it is."
We found it, and I knew immediately I needed to leave Kerry and the kids in the van. I walked up, "twanged" a bit with them, and then finally asked about the marker. The owner told me, "Honey, my brother runs over it with his pickup truck every morning."
Good grief. First he gets murdered. Then, he gets run over by a truck every morning.
We found it. I took pictures. Then Kerry took the kids to the van and left me alone for a bit. The date on the marker said he was killed Mar. 8, 1793.
We were there on Mar. 8, 1993.
As I looked around, I don't believe I saw any tree that was 200 years old. But, the mountains would have been the same mountain that he saw when he died. The sky would have been the same. The concourse of the creek may have changed, but more than likely it was there, too.
I saw what he saw as he took his last breath.
None of my people are famous. They were generals in battle. They didn't arrive on the Mayflower. They won't be in any history books.
But, they're the bravest people I've ever run across. Every single one of my ancestors arrived during the mid-1700's, probably in one of the great migration waves of Germans and Scots-Irish that left their homelands for various reasons, hoping for a different life here in the colonies.
They blazed the trails that other people's ancestors would use for roads.
They fought in George Washington's army to help free this land for others to make their home.
They cleared the lands that were so thickly forested you couldn't reach out your arms without touching a tree.
They moved to the frontier, not knowing if they would ever see one of their parents or siblings again.
They gave birth to large families, seeing only part of their children live to adulthood.
They fought on both sides of the Civil War, with lines drawn within their own families.
They were given large land tracts for their service in the earlier wars, only to lose it because they couldn't pay the taxes.
They were real people who used to play as little children, who discovered the other sex, who fell in love and courted, who married and raised families, who experienced the hardships of life, and who became old and died.
I am grateful for them, and for the courage it took to even exist during times when there wasn't good medicines, antibiotics, good dental care, clean water, and food with certain standards of cleanliness.