Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CROOKED,KNOTTY,AND A LITTLE TWISTED( How's the branches on your Family Tree?)

I AM one of THOSE.... I confess... Lots of people laugh at us, they look at us with that smirk on their face and say," How in the world do you have time to do that?"; " I have better things to do with my time"; " Why do you wanna know about them folks that lived so long ago?"( Aunt Liza asked me that one... she did'nt wait for an answer- she quickly expectorated her gravy colored spittle of snuff ,slammed the door and walked away) I am proud to be ONE.. yep, you guessed it- I am a genealogy "nut".. thats really the best way to describe us. We are not "certified" genealogists... but we are certified crazy.. crazy about climbing our family trees.. and once we start climbin' , it's hard to come down out of that tree! We explore every branch and vine, and when we find a crooked, knotty, twisted branch.. we stop climbing... we sit THERE for a while.. and we listen...

we hear about the young boy who came to this continent as an indentured servant. He worked in the fields to pay for his passage to America... the details of his life are few and far between... but Court Records tell us that he fathered a child out of wedlock, He and the child's mother were charged with "Bastardry" and They were ordered to pay a fine of several pounds of Tobacco... their story made the branch crooked, knotty, and a little twisted... it caught our eye... and our imagination. In our mind's eye, we see them... maybe late at night, meeting in secret, plotting and planning their future??Fear of the unknown consumes them.. and yet they go on to marry, raise a family, and die at a ripe old age. I am so glad that I rested on their branch... and listened to their tale. It comforts me, it reminds me that my struggles are not mysterious and esoteric, "struggle" runs in the family....It's in my blood... it's in my DNA

Sometimes we look around while we are sitting on that crooked, knotty, twisted branch.. and we see that others have joined us. Like us, they were climbing around on the family tree, completely content exploring birth years, names, states, and surname spellings... then they heard a whisper... something deep inside told them to venture "over there" ... yes... to the branch that was shaped by fear, struggle, hardship,adventure, heartache.. and survival... all the emotions and obstacles that make up the human condition. Like us, they rejoice that our ancestors left us a record of their journey.. so we sit there together and listen...after all we are "kin"- we are kindred spirits

I met one of those kindred spirits the other day. She and I "found" each other as we were climbing - we discovered that we were both looking for that certain branch-, the one that was given a unique shape and feel -by a man who was a Lawyer, a preacher, a theologian, a philosopher, and a million other things all at the same time. When my new friend told me that she was indeed related to the eccentric and colorful character that I had been searching for, my words were," I finally found YOU, I have been searching for so long"! what a joy it was to know that she and I and the Lawyer/Preacher/Theologian all came from that same twig that grew into a fine strong tree.. Some of the branches are straight and true... some are crooked, knotty, and a little twisted... but they are all strong....

we experience so much joy and wonder as we sit together on that branch.. it's delightful when we discover that we share common traits and "quirks" in our respective families... it's exciting to share family stories- it reminds us that we are really all alike.. in so many ways... the Greeks had a word for FELLOWSHIP," KOINONIA"... the best way to describe it is "sharing with and sharing together" Thats what my newly discovered kindred spirit cousin and I are experiencing... the branches are not perfect... but they are strong....


  1. Clay, you brought tears to my eyes. As a result of our Sunday morning conversation about fathers, I have written a short piece about my daddy, Raymond Callaway Smith, giving me the leather briefcase. I'll send it to you when I've finished it. I have another one about his cats.

  2. you brought tears to MY eyes..I ca'nt wait to read your piece on your dad:)Thanks Alma Dell

  3. This is wonderful, Clayton! I love your allusion to climbing around in your tree, and our being "certified!"
    May I suggest you add some things to ask your living kin - favorite things to do for fun, occupations, musical or theatrical talents, favorite pets (or dislike thereof).
    I find fascination in ferreting out those qualities that I can infer from evidence. The super-taster gene in my 4th great-grandfather who was court-martialed for ordering his men (in the War of 1812) to throw the Army beef into the dirt, as it was unfit for human consumption, the predilection for a bad stomach in my Civil War doctor's dissertations "On Sympathies of the Stomach." My medieval cousin wrote and performed in plays (I minored in Theatre), and an ancestor who is considered the definitive chronicler of Joan of Arc because he wrote so many newsy letters home to his mother. He is quoted liberally in a scholarly biographer of The Maid.
    There are soldiers and statesmen on both sides of my children's tree, and my son is the latter-day embodiment of their DNA.
    Genealogy is SO much more than names and dates, as you know!
    Also, take an extreme close-up of everyone's eyes. In the 19th century, there were few photos of the whole body, or even any at all, but then there were facial portraits. Today we have plenty of face and physique, but no close-ups of hands and feet and eyes. I encourage you to document those, too.