Family Stories

You Die Twice

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.

12 replies »

  1. You have to be one of the kindest ,most thoughtful person that walks this planet. Your ancestors are looking down smiling at you with great pride. God bless you.

  2. Thank you for sharing. Very reflective thoughts. So many do not give an ancestor any thought, and yet, they made us!
    May God bless you!

  3. Very powerful and beautifully said. There is a small cemetery on Goshen Road in Todd County, Kentucky that is the final resting place for 5 generations in my Shanklin family and 4 generations in my Brumfield family. During my life I had visited a few times never realizing the family history that rested in this small 2 acre tract of ground. My dad knew his grandfather was there and maybe more but never spoke of them that I recall. His grave is unmarked as punishment for never placing a stone on his wife’s grave after she died at an early age in 1909 and the children were raised by other family members. Strange but the 4 children could have placed a stone for their mother and father but it never happened. Now the location is no longer certain but Richard died 1955 and is at rest there with his father Robert, grandfather Robert, great grandfather Edward and his great great grandfather “Old John”. During my research, I read notes from one of the locals of the community, that at one time, kept scant records on the cemetery. He referenced “Old John” as a Shanklin that was buried in the cemetery. Actually “Old John” was a Huston born:1741 and died:1831. He was the father of Edward’s wife Mary Elizabeth Huston and came to Kentucky in 1800 together with his daughter and sons. His marker proudly stands but the name is slowly losing its fight with the elements. Edward died in 1826 and his stone is having the same struggle as well his wife’s.
    Mary must have been an impressive woman. After her marriage in 1790 at the age of 23, she traveled from Rockingham, Virginia to Fairview, Kentucky with 5 children under 10 years of age. She buried her husband in 1826, her father in 1831 and three daughters and two sons but she also was the midwife for a baby boy for her neighbor in 1808. For 37 years after the death of her husband she protected the family wealth, sent her grandson to medical school in St. Louis and lived to the ripe old age of 96 in a pioneer setting on the edge of Keeling Hill with a Southern exposure. Maybe she was waiting for her neighbors baby boy, the President of the Confederacy to stop fighting with her sister-in-law Sarah Herring’s cousin Abe. How conflicted she must have been and how strong her instinct for survival.

  4. I always read the names from the headstones aloud, I do think that somehow it gives recognition to the person who passed. It’s sad to think of all the people no one remembers anymore.

  5. Thank you for putting it into words . Just to talk of our loved ones when we are together and say their names brings our memories to life again.

  6. Eloquently said, M’am. There is much more to tracing ones family than just reading a rock. I take a lesson from reading your writing. Thank you and please keep writing !

  7. Excellent way of expressing what many of us think but lack the ability to say. Very well written – keep up the good work.

  8. I love your site, and your ideas about dying only once. Interested to see Francis Ray’s tombstone, reminded me to look at my CD of the Stewart Creek Cemetery that I purchased at a MD to KY reunion a few years ago, I believe. Thank you for all your sharing!

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