In case you couldn’t tell from the title, I hail from Indiana. I lived there my whole life, well, until I was eight and my parents forced this cute country kid into the jungles of suburban Maryland. For 5 years I went home every summer and split time between my two grandmothers (shown here in May 1988). These summers were what it means to be a kid. There were afternoons of climbing trees, swimming in ponds, catching lightning bugs in jars, the quintessential Midwestern summer.
I have no siblings, so there was no competing for attention; I had their full focus, which could be good and bad. Many hot and sticky afternoons were spent with my grandmothers looking through old photographs from their closets and coffee tables. There were dozens of black and white stills of people I didn’t know, in places I had never seen, and sometimes in circumstances I couldn’t imagine. My grandmothers would tell me about our family with these pictures.
They shared the family’s stories freely with me. I heard stories of suspected Kentucky horse thievery, clandestine love affairs, ancestors in Jamestown (and the marriage of a Powhattan princess!), our links to the Mayflower, German and Irish immigrants, life on the railroad, and life at home while one of my grandfathers was in a Japanese POW camp. I was astonished…you mean we weren’t all from Indiana? Who knew we weren’t all born in Indiana?
When I began my journey through my family history I had a need to find these people, know them, and understand how I fit into that bigger puzzle. There are mysteries to be solved, you see, and each step I take in my research brings a little more of the picture into focus. I know those old stories have truths in them, I just need to use the clues I have been given to guide me. Now to turn off my “oh shiny” switch and get down to business by finding the truths, and half-truths, within those old stories.
Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Shannon Bennett of Locust Grove, VA. You can read previous posts at Family Tree University.
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