You die twice – once when the breath leaves the body, and the second time when your name isn’t spoken any more. My daughter brought this quote to my attention this weekend. In my search on the internet I could only find reference to the movie Stand Up Guys and Del Naja Banksy, a famous street artist. Honestly, it doesn’t matter where it came from, it’s a very strong statement that opened my eyes even further to the reason I do what I do. Why we all do what we do.
Yes, for almost 50 years I have researched my family and found numerous ancestors – little pieces of them made me into who I am today. Physical traits such as eye color, hair thickness, finger length, skin pigmentation, earlobe shape, etc., come from my ancestors – an amalgamation with bits and pieces from different great-greats. But in addition to our physical self we have our psychological makeup – those inner characteristics that also make us into the person we are. Our values, such as compassion, honesty, kindness, knowledge, learning, love, optimism, respect, responsibility, wisdom (among others) also make a picture of who we are. Our inner self. And these characteristics also come from our ancestors.
I always think of my paternal grandfather, Jessie Delbert Hill, when I think of familial love – as well as my great-grandmother Frances Barber Linton. I experienced my grandfather’s love first hand, sitting on the arm of his chair and soaking in every word he said. At the time I didn’t know the meaning of genealogy, but his love for the people he spoke of was evident to even a small child. I never knew Frances, but through the stories and descriptions my mother gave of her grandmother, that love came to me just as strong and secure although second-hand.
I think of the fortitude of my grandmother, Alice Montgomery, through dealing with the death of a nine-year-old child from appendicitis, the death of her first-born son during World War II and surviving without her husband for twenty-five years after his death.
Captain John Linton showed his courage and tenacity when he left the comforts of his Loudoun County, Virginia, home in 1818 at the age of 68 (then considered very old), and traveled the roughly 600 miles along the Wilderness Road to Washington County, Kentucky, where he and his sons built log cabins to house the families for his ten children, plowed fields and planted crops for food.
My great-grandfather, Robert E. Lee Montgomery, had the largest fingers and hands of any man I’ve known. My knowledge is through family photographs, showing all the Montgomery men with huge hands. Definitely a trait from their father, William, since their mother, Martha Ann Carrico, was very petite and tiny.
The three Edwards sisters, through their generosity, gave stability and love to several generations of nieces and nephews. Daughters of Edward Barbour Edwards and Nancy Linton, Catherine Kitural, Mary Jane and Sarah Barber Edwards took in the motherless children of their oldest sister Susan when she died, as well as other Edwards’ and Linton’s who needed a home throughout the years. These sisters lived in the same house that began as a log cabin for Captain John and his family. I could continue in this vein for several pages – and I know all of you have values and characteristics handed down from your ancestors.
But even those I write and study about that are not my ancestors make me proud to know them, and remember them, and bring their names back to the forefront where their names will be said, and their memories honored.
I feel sadness for young mothers that died during childbirth, or lived only a few days after the birth, giving life to their child, and a chance to live and produce children of their own. What an act of selfless love and devotion.
Some of the saddest accounts I’ve come across are babies that died within a year or so, perhaps not even long enough for their name to be on a census record. Sometimes only in church records or old papers will these names show up, forgotten for many, many years. Francis Polin Clarkson was born May 23, 1852 and died April 10, 1858. His younger sister, Annie Clarkson was born June 29, 1855, and died eight days after Francis. These wee ones were victims of scarlet fever. Born after the 1850 census and dying before the 1860, the only reason I have these names is having gone through the death records of Washington County. There are no gravestones for these babies in St. Rose Cemetery. Let us say those names loud and clear – you are remembered!
Whenever I write about a soldier it amazes me of the bravery and love of freedom he had to fight for his family and country. It doesn’t matter in which war he fought or which side. I think of ‘their all’ that some gave – laying down their lives to make a freer, better world for those they left behind. And am truly thankful to those who made it home to their families, to live their lives to the fullest and carry on the generations.
It makes me both happy and sad to walk through a cemetery. Happy to read the names of those buried, to think what their life may have been like, what they experienced and who they loved. I have their name and time on this earth in front of me. However long or short they lived I want to know about them, bring them back to life. It doesn’t matter if they were rich or poor, their life meant something – to them and those they loved. It makes me sad to think how many buried there have no one that remembers them. I want to bring them to the attention of the living today. I want to recreate those trees and charts, but most importantly I want you to know their stories. And I want them to have only died once – the second death can wait much longer. Let us joyfully speak those names of those who have gone ahead of us, keep their memories close and hope that those who follow us do the same.
Categories: Family Stories