I spent this summer posting transcriptions and photos. Quick and easy during a busy season. The posts prompted oohs and ahhs from family and kind bloggers, as well as contacts from cousins which is tremendously exciting (and yes, I'm getting back to you!). I haven't touched actual research in months, and haven't posted anything about my research (my ostensible goal) since June.
What I'm learning is that I'm as interested in what other bloggers are writing as in my own research. There are some wonderful minds, good writers and fascinating ideas in the blogosphere and it's downright exciting to read their blogs. My mind is spinning with a month's worth of thoughts, research successes, stories and pictures. I've missed the discussions on sources (gotta get the "Got Sources" badge onto here), discovered some blogs I adore and am suddenly puzzled about my purpose. I hadn't really expected this to be a dialog.
Let's see if I can trace my train of thought (often more a train wreck than actual progress) -
- Several bloggers I enjoy post family stories, some absorbing, some funny, some tragic. They fall far outside what I've ever done. Tipper blogged about her Uncle Frank recently on her Blind Pig & The Acorn posting "Sinners and Saints". By the comments it's clear I am not alone in being moved by her story. I wrote last week about the memories Sharing a Slice of Life's prompts provoked.
- James Tanner has been writing about the accuracy of family legends at Genealogy's Star. All the research I did for my first decade was verifying information handed down to me by my family. Not a source cited anywhere. Most has proved true - even information I seriously doubted. A few lines are clearly wrong. But my work focused on genealogy rather than family stories.
- My own family has been surprised by some of my postings - startled by something they either didn't know or had long ago forgotten.
It's a fun story, especially as told by my mother with flourishes and embellishments, but no more complete than the book or movie. It neglects the fact that Iva's father R.J. Williams, born in the mountains of southern Virginia, was from a staunchly Confederate family. That her husband's grandfather Porter Conway fought for the Confederacy and that his family had been slave owners for generations. That her Union soldier grandfather Samuel McAdams was from a slave owning family and his father, Thomas, was deemed a Confederate supporter by the Southern Claims Commission.
I admit to skepticism about that last fact. I wonder how much a Southern sympathizer a man could be whose four eldest sons volunteered in the Union Army and who maintained close ties with them. Perhaps a touch of local politics or neighbor's grudge? But even discarding the Southern Claims Commission, there's evidence of a family as divided as East Tennessee itself.
So, the story. Does it mean anything? Is it worth keeping in our family lore? When told properly it gives a clear picture of my aunt as a girl and illustrates more than a few family traits. It suggests Iva's family stories focused on the maternal rather than paternal lines and may point to a bias in her research.
It is probable that Iva did not know of her in-laws' involvement, though she should have known they were slave owners. Her sisters-in-law maintained complete ignorance about their family's Civil War experiences, suggesting no one had actually fought. At least they never heard tell of any such thing. No hint their grandfather had served in the Confederate Army. No war stories beyond what their father had seen as a child. Of course, there was no contact with one great-uncle's family.... some sort of falling out between the brothers when they were young men.
I learned that Porter Conway and his brother Joseph fought on opposing sides during the Civil War only after a cousin's persistent questions forced me to consider what might have caused the schism. It never occurred to me to look. Clearly I absorbed more of Iva's story and the aunts' wide-eyed ignorance than I realized.
So stories to come sometimes - along with whatever I have learned about them. They may point to blind spots. They may be true (not too likely in this crowd!). They probably will say quite a bit about who we think we are and more than I realize about who I want us to be. Maybe I'll tell you about my great-uncle Vasil who fire bombed the church.