CacheCrazy.Com: My Other Passion ~ by: smithie23

Friday, November 2, 2012

My Other Passion ~ by: smithie23

Contrary to popular belief, I'm not out caching every waking hour of the day.  Yes, I go through periods where I probably would if I could get away with it, but in all reality, I do other things from time to time.  All of our great authors here at seem to have something, outside of geocaching, for which they have a similar passion.  For example, we've read several mouth-watering recipes from the kitchen of Bloodhounded.  Dodger Lizard Crew has shared tales from his hunting experiences at Francis Walter Dam.  Then there's Big Al, and the stories he's been grateful to share from trips, from all over God's Creation, that he's been fortunate enough to make.  Today I'd like to share my OTHER passion: genealogy.

For those who are unfamiliar, genealogy is the study of families and the tracing of their lineages and history.  To be honest, I can't pinpoint when, or how, I became interested in genealogy.  My best guess would be I learned about it in Boy Scouts.  I do, however, know my inspiration.  Before she passed away in 1996, my Aunt Helen once told me a story of her (and my mother's) Uncle Pat.  Both Aunt Helen and my mother would tell tales of Uncle Pat visiting them as children, living in Taylor.  Being older, Aunt Helen was able to give a better overall description of the guy.  In a nutshell, he was a short, stocky Irishman who brandished a shillelagh, and as such, was quite the intimidating character.  More importantly, Aunt Helen claimed through Uncle Pat we were related to a family of notoriety in the Scranton area, which includes a former mayor and famous philanthropist.  Unfortunately, none of this was documented, and Uncle Pat passed away in the 1950's, so asking him about it was out of the question.  Also, we didn't know who his children were or what happened to his widow.  Sounds like a bona fide mystery to me.  I was hooked!

I went to the local bookstore, and purchased a book on how to start your family research.  I did the interviews they suggested with family members.  I quickly filled in the first few generations on the family tree, filling in the blanks with what I knew from the oral history I was able to pen.  It was there I realized the inevitable stone wall I was going to hit:  I have a very common last name, and most of my father's family history had been destroyed years ago.  For the first few years, I concentrated on my mother's side.  As a novice, I'd have better luck weeding out an uncommon Irish name.  Also, I could walk to the library which housed many of the records I needed.  To date, I've traced most of my mother's lineage back to either Ireland or Germany, within the last 200 years.

Almost ten years after I started my family history research, I was able to break through the stone wall which was my father's side.  A chance e-mail from a lady claiming to have knowledge of the family I was researching helped me fill in crucial gaps, and the research of my father's side really took off.  Today I probably have about 2,000 names listed on my family tree, some with a closer relationship than others.

Here's a few cool things I've learned about myself, and my family:

  • My father always claimed he was Pennsylvania Dutch.  I've never found any evidence to support this.
  • My paternal great-great grandfather was in the Civil War, and injured in the Battle of Spotsylvania, 21 May, 1864.
  • My father's grandfather's sister had a grandson who married Aunt Helen's husband's grandmother's sister.  My parents are 12 years apart, and grew up in different areas of the state.  Small world, huh?
  • Said relative in the point above married into the Kresge family of Albrightsville, PA.  A well-known descendant of that clan is Sebastian S. Kresge, who earned his fame by opening a chain of 5 and 10 stores, the S.S. Kresge 5 and 10.  Today we know that chain by a different name- Kmart.
  • The same relative had a daughter who married into a family who also has a well-known descendant, William Jennings Bryant.

Obligatory geocaching tie-in:
My great-grandfather's grave.  GC2HE38, The Book's Secret, is 20' from the grave.

In 2007, I located Uncle Pat.  He's buried in Seattle, Washington.  Someday, I hope to visit his grave and pay my respects.


Heather Cook (Lady-Magpie) said...

It's funny how alike we are Smithie, I also have been researching my family for some years and am back to 1623. It's was also a chance email that I located a cousin x 4 over there in The States and we have been sharing a great deal of information. Great posts and thanks for sharing.

Dave DeBaeremaeker said...

I have not done any genealogy digging, but some others in my family has. Apparently my line from my paternal grandmother came over on the mayflower, and my great great uncle is President Woodrow Wilson.

MY brief touches with history.

Kim@Snug Harbor said...

Really interesting little tidbits there. My mom is our family historian and has found out some great stuff, including the fact that we have 2 historic homes in our past - one in Joliet, Illinois and one in Philadelphia. Pretty cool stuff.

Ann said...

I am convinced I was found under a gooseberry bush! I have been trying for years to find out about my late mum's family online. All the information i have is through family papers. One day.


I would love to tell you guys all about my heritage but, well, then I'd have to kill you.

BigAl said...

Great story. We have an Indian Princess on my wife's side and also Rutherford B. Hayes (President) The "B" stands for Birchard; my wife's maiden name.

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