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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Celebration of Family History

Me, my aunt Louise, my Uncle Gene,
my cousin Worley, my husband, and my son.

Genealogy has never been an interest of mine. I don't find investigating the family tree the all consuming passion that my husband, my father, and so many others do. Honestly, I never understood the fascination with one's ancestors until recently. My change of heart began with a letter.

Last August I received an elegantly worded invitation to attend the 125th anniversary of a historical society my great great grandfather had started. The current membership had tracked down all the living descendants of the orginal thirty-three founders and requested the honor of their presence at this momentous occasion. As letters like that don't arrive in my mailbox everyday and I hadn't seen my relatives that lived in the area for two years, I chose to attend and make it a family event by bringing my husband and son along too.

Sons of the American Revolution

Due to our work schedules, we chose to fly in to a major eastern city late the night before and drive down to meet our family at the courthouse in time for the event. As I had just been there two years before, I didn't anticipate any travel problems. I was blissfully unaware that a complicated new highway system had been built in the meantime. Naturally we promptly got lost. The situation was more problematic because the one hour time difference between the Central and Eastern time zones had affected me more than I realized and we were running late. Fortunately, a quick cell phone call to my aunt got us on the right road once again. We arrived only minutes late. Luckily, someone at the local newspaper had misprinted the event's time by a half hour and the historical society chose to wait the additional thirty minutes before beginning. We were able to catch our breath, connect with our relatives, and be introuduced to the historical society director without missing a thing.

Me, Charlie, historical society members, and other descendants
gathered in front of the courthouse for a photo op.

Charlie cut the ribbon
(I was too slow on the draw to get the ribbon in the
photo, but you can see he still has the scissors in hand.)

Bringing a teenager to a historical society celebration seemed a bit risky to me. Although my son loves history I wasn't sure whether this event would hold his interest long. I needn't have worried. My son was treated like a celebrity by the historical society. All because he had the distinction of being the youngest descendant on hand. They asked him to cut a yellow ribbon to begin the event and later on asked him to start the food line at the reception. Before he could leave the table with his loaded down plate, someone snapped his photo saying, "We need to know what the younger generation is eating." Heh. As his mom, I was proud that he had dressed nice for the occasion with a tie.

Once inside the courthouse, we were treated to a history of the historical society. My ears perked up when I heard that one of the earlier members had been deaf. I was sad to learn that his hearing loss kept him from doing all he wanted to for the society. The good old days weren't always so good!

On a lighter note, the historical society had a funny story about a cannonball I found memorable. This cannonball was a relic from the war of 1812. It had been in the historical society office for as long as anyone could remember. Over time it had assumed the function of the society's doorstop, quietly propping the door open until the day in 1995 when someone took a second look and asked if the cannonball had ever been tested to see if it was 'live' or not. Well, no one had ever considered that possibility before so the local fire department was called. Turned out the society was using a live cannonball as their doorstop. The fire department took the cannonball to a field and safely detonated it. The remaining shards are on display in the society's museum.

After the society's 125 year history had been reviewed, the search for the descendants of the original founders was discussed. It had been quite an effort and the society membership were pleased at the number who were in attendance that day. Coming from Illinois, I think we had travelled the farthest to be there. They presented each of the descendants with a certificate and a piece of the ribbon which Charlie had cut earlier. Then it was on to the reception at the society headquarters.

As you can see from these photos, it was a lovely luncheon and we enjoyed it very much. It was wonderful to be a part of family history for a day. Maybe those genealogy buffs aren't so crazy after all.


Liz said...

Looks good Sarah and interesting. I'm glad you all had a good time. :)

Taylorstales-Genealogy said...

Baby steps friend, baby steps into the world of genealogy! I am proud of you!

Kym said...

That was such an interesting post Sarah. I've never heard of Sons of the American Revolution.
An old friend of mine from high school has always been heavily involved in DAR.

Anyway, what a wonderful way to get involved in genology and to learn about your family history, very cool!