Family Ties

Yesterday as I was walking in the neighborhood, I smelled someone’s dinner cooking, and it took me back to Mama’s candied sweet potatoes, and it hit me that I will never have those again. I certainly cannot make them, and even if I tried, they would not taste like hers.

I could hold fast to and dwell on all those things I won’t ever have again … and I tend to do that … but amidst all the regrets, I do have one sweet thing that I hold close.

As the old century turned into the new and the millennium changed over, too, I felt a need to connect to the past, to know my roots, from whence I came.  So I took up genealogy. Mama got right into it with me, and though we lived in separate states, we talked on the phone for hours every day and we e-mailed all day long. We started with the Hardy family, and with the Internet it was fairly easy to connect with “cousins” all over the country who were already networking and researching. We all put our heads and talents and knowledge together. It was a lot of work, but also a lot of fun.

My great grandmother was Nellie Abercrombie Hardy. Her tombstone and other documents listed my great grandfather’s wife as L.P. Hardy. I began to wonder if he had been married twice, and Mama and I set out on a search for just who the heck L.P. was. We turned up a Louisiana P. Hardy, and we were baffled, and we nicknamed her “Louisiana Purchase.” We spent hours and weeks laughing and looking, then Mama drove over to L.P.’s home county seat and discovered the middle name of Penelope, thus Nellie.

There were other things. Church minutes told us that Louisiana Penelope’s father, my great great grandfather Abercrombie, got “dog drunk” and kicked out of the church. My other great great grandfather, who founded the church, had a sister who got pregnant by a Choctaw Indian, and also got kicked out of the church — it took us a few years to prove that she had really been pregnant and had a child and that there was another branch of family we never knew anything about. Oddly enough, as each scandal unfolded, I would faintly remember that my grandmother had told me these things when I was a little girl, as we walked the family land and went to the family cemetery. I was searching weeks and months and years for things that were deep in my brain … if I had only listened more, appreciated more of the resource I had. At the end of 2000, I put together a 121-page Kinko’s bound book full of genealogy and family stories.

Then Mama and I moved on to her family, the Mahaffeys and Boones. We traced them back to our Revolutionary ancestors. We learned Moses Mahaffey was a Scots-Irish distiller and his sons were in the Whiskey Rebellion. My great great great grandfather fought on the Ohio frontier with Mad Anthony Wayne, then got a land grant and settled in Adams County, Ohio. We learned our connection to Daniel Boone, and how my 4th great grandfather went to Kentucky with his cousin Daniel and together they founded the town of Maysville, where my grandmother Anna Bell Boone was born one hundred years later. My mother ordered dozens of historical documents — even ordered and paid for same one twice, on occasion. We worked long and hard until Dad was upset at all the attention Mama was giving to this, and my sister was sick and tired of the Boones … because that’s all Mama and I talked about.

In July 2001, Mama, my sister, and I took a trip to Maysville and then across the river to Adams County, where we walked on old family earth and visited the church our ancestors built.  At the end of that year, I put together another 300-page book on the Boone/Mahaffey family, full of historical documents, pictures, and family stories.

I would not trade this experience and these years working so closely with Mama for anything in this whole wide world.

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One Comment on “Family Ties”

  1. Beth says:

    You’ve inspired me to get busy, Kathy. Since my brother’s been ill, I have been scanning old photos so my family can share, and talking a blue streak to my ten years’ older sister out in Arizona who has an excellent memory and has gotten enthused about helping me to fill in the gaps of our family history.

    All of our experiences are a reality that no one can take away. And once you have written them down, as you have, they exist in yet another dimension of precious time and space.

    I was jealous of some of your family scandals until I remembered we’ve got some pretty gooderns too!


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