In January I began researching my family tree. I started a three month subscription to Ancestry.com and began putting in names. For some people this would be a simple process of calling up relatives and gathering information. In my family everyone who might know something is dead. The opportunity to ask questions of who their parents were, what they did in the war, where they grew up is long gone. I have a step sister and step mother in Tasmania and a half brother in Texas. That’s it! I know a few details and so this is where I started.
Soon I was burning the midnight oil looking at census records, reading newspaper articles, recently visiting the local resources that specialize in genealogy with Christine Gray. Christine has helped me so much. Her long experience in genealogy research and her own skills in research have solved many a mystery for me.
One night I finally found the marriage record for my grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side. It listed both of their parents and noted where they were born and that they were deceased. I was so excited, a piece of information I would never have known. Then the hard work began. How to find these distant relatives. I knew on my grandmothers side she was from Denmark and that my grandfather had been in Indiana because both my dad and his brother were born there. Lot’s of looking, deciphering the names on documents, making guesses, and looking again. Census records are great and frustrating. The records were hand-written recordings by individuals who went house to house. They didn’t always spell things right or talk to someone who really knew all the correct information. Many individuals didn’t really know when they were born or even where (especially if they moved across a state line which might have moved itself as the county was forming). My great great great grandmother is said to be born in Indiana, Ohio and Scotland depending on which document I look at. I haven’t found a birth record for her in any of them – yet.
I was tracking my great grandfather Eugene Milton Logan for days, finding snip-its here and there which seemed right but couldn’t be verified without some doubt. One night Christine called and asked if I was sitting down. I was, on the hard chair I seem to live on in my dinning room. She said, “I found him! I found Eugene.” She sent me the newspaper article which told the sad tale of how he had shot himself in the reading room of a saloon in Waco Texas. He left notes about leaving his money to my grandfather and another son I had never known about; how he died of a broken heart; and to wire his brother in Dallas.
When I read the stories of my ancestors either in script or just through the census rolls I feel their lives. The history of this nation and the people who settled the towns and left their homelands to try their luck here is so moving. Reading the Dallas Morning News tells of horse rustlers, unknowns found by the railroad tracks, dear ones now passed on, and the social movements of the towns big wigs. My great, great uncle (Eugene’s younger brother) had a bio written about him because he started the first steam laundry in Dallas. Twelve years later he is out of business because the steam laundry business is now run by the immigrant Chinese population. When I did a goggle map of his home and business address there isn’t a house or a business – it is downtown Dallas. Did he know his real estate was his biggest asset?
There’s lot’s more I’ve learned about my direct family and my brother and sister’s families. Most is quite ordinary but some stuff is fairly sensational or infamous. There are lots of dead ends that will take much more research and help from others around the country to unravel. People want to help. It is interesting to find another genealogy tree with one’s relative. To contact the owner of that tree and share what each person knows. I don’t know much now so I’m usually on the receiving end. Six degrees of separation comes to mind.
So what about the garden of Eden? I spend most evenings doing some investigation so it is no surprise that this has seeped into my dreams. The other morning I awoke with a dream still fresh. I was standing somewhere where steel girders rose and crossed at random angles. The ones that are about 8 or more inches across with flanged edges. Along the one near me was a bright turquoise line with chartreuse near the ends in a putty like substance. I was peeling it off in an upwards direction. The voice over came in and said,”Life is infinite in all directions. What did you expect?” Next scene I’m standing outside with a person who tells me I was an insignificant player in the garden of Eden and therefore not important enough to contact. But since I’m here he’ll show me where it was. I’m shown a carved pole with writing that seems to mark the spot.
Upon waking I tell my husband, Neil my dream and say I have a new song title for him: bit player in the garden of Eden. We laugh and speculate that perhaps I was a leaf or a small pebble. I love this dream. I’m not a creationist so I take this as metaphor. We are all bit players in the drama of life. Each of us laying our lives along a continuum of life ever unfolding, intersecting, with more or less impact. I hope I’m doing a good job of playing my part.