I am a strong advocate of knowing one's historical, cultural and genetic background. History matters in spite of all the efforts to leave traditions behind. For me, understanding my ancestor's Irish background helps me understand our familial hatred of anything government. Our family descended from Irish immigrants who left Ireland in the 1840s because of the Irish famine. It was a political famine, caused by British landowners not allowing the Irish farmers access to the grains they grew and the British shipped to England to sell for profit on the world market. Wealthy Irish refused to feed or house the poor Irish farmers. The only food the Irish farmers had were potatoes, a food of the poor. A series of winter cold and rain destroyed the Irish food potato source with a terrible blight. Many Irish starved to death. Some immigrated, some to Oklahoma, where our ancestors settled. 

These families were caught up in the Civil War of the 1860s, fighting on the Southern side. After the war, they lost their farms, homes and livelihood as a penalty for participating on the side of the Confederates. More hatred of government grew. These angry young men and women became rebels and are known in history as bank robbers,, horse thieves and outlaws. 

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Comment by Joan Denoo on October 18, 2014 at 7:34pm

Yes, sadly, Ancestry.com is expensive and I keep saying I am not going to renew. But just when I get ready to unsubscribe, a whole batch of new names arrive and it takes months to go through to check for accuracy. 

I had one family in a small town, I think it was in Indiana. It turned out I thought it was in our tree and I was so happy. The woman was Black and had a very interesting history. I really was happy to find racial mixture in our line ... but alas, she was not in our line. We had a good time getting acquainted and became friends. 

I haven't kept up with it while I was playing kill the cancer. But this winter, I should be happily back searching. 

Comment by Randall Smith on October 18, 2014 at 7:19am
Fascinating stuff, Joan. I, too, have traveled to various ancestral stompin' grounds. I hate running into stone walls when investigating certain people. I have more to do this winter, including some road work. By the way, I'm too cheap to subscribe to Ancestry.com. I just use the free library's!
Comment by Joan Denoo on October 17, 2014 at 10:49am

In the 1980s I tracked down the routes taken by ancestors. One woman landed at Plymouth in 1632, I think it was. I tracked her descendants as they moved west across the northern tier of the U.S. Another branch from Ireland came to U.S. in the 1840s to Oklahoma and they moved across the southern tier. I identified towns in which they settled, mapped them out on my trusty AAA maps and then went on several hunts. 

When I arrived at a town marked on the maps, I checked the local libraries, city halls, churches, and phone books to find anything I could about the individuals who had lived there. 

In one southern town, I looked up the name "Whitehead" in the phone directory and called the number. I told the woman who answered who I was, and that I had ancestors that lived in that town and wondered if she knew them, or was we were a part of the same line. She started to swear a blue streak! She told me in no uncertain terms what a bunch of hoodlums they were and I got an earful. 

On another trip to New England, I went into a library and talked to a librarian and showed her my pedigree. She started at the recent names and worked down the list. Suddenly, her face lit up and she said the names on my list were her ancestors. She told me some wonderful stories that I would never have found if I had not found her. 

On a trip to the Salt Lake City Mormon Family Library I copied the ancestors of a family in our line. I ran across a woman who was married. I didn't pay any attention to his name, but I copied the names of his wives. It turned out he had 20+ wives. Oh! who could that character be? It was Brigham Young!

Another tip to New England I found the original documents from a town in which one of my ancestors was responsible for maintaining the road out of Boston before they had pavement. He had to go out and cut out trees that had fallen over the dirt road. 

In those days, I didn't have a computer program for genealogy. I just had to hunt down documents and learn what I could from them. My travels turned up all kinds of information I would not have found otherwise. 

I now have the Ancestry.com membership and have had it for several years. It is so easy to use. One problem I had with it, there is no way to get a GLBTQ family into the data base. I have a lovely lesbian couple and their children in my family. The only way I could enter them was to name one of the women as the husband. I wrote an article explaining my need for an inclusive family structure in the data base. I also wrote to the Family Library and never received an answer. 

I also tracked down ancestors' homes in Belgium, Ireland, England, and France. I followed the same procedures, church registries, city records, libraries, phone books. 

Comment by Randall Smith on October 17, 2014 at 7:02am
I've enjoyed doing all the genealogy of my family. Thank you internet! Unfortunately, I have learned little about the lives of my ancestors. Only one, my great grandmother, ever bothered to write an autobiography. That's why I've written mine. Descendents have a right to know about their past.

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