Friday, July 18, 2008

Threads of history..............

First of all, I must apologize to those who came here the last two days only to find that I had neglected to post again. I know there were tears of frustration and moans of "where is she?" (I can dream can't I?)

Truth is, for a few days there, I had this daily posting down.....I was ahead of the game using the scheduled post option provided by in the end, I still got behind!

If anyone actually did wonder where I've been, wonder no longer-I've been wearing my genealogist hat for the last few days. I've been busy untangling the threads of time to discover where my family history ends and a possible cousin's begins......

Because the blog has become such a part of my life lately, it is always in the back of my mind no matter what hat I'm wearing for the I research and study an article in the Clan MacLeod Magazine regarding our ongoing DNA Surname Project and try to determine relatedness to other MacLeods, I'm also wondering "how can I tie this into my blog posts?".

Part of the dream of owning and restoring an old house was tied up with my love of history as it pertains to the individuals living it; when I researched my family and the lands they originally owned here in the US, I imagined what the homes they built on those lands looked like. I mourned the fact that I would never set foot in the doors of those houses because in most cases, those houses were no longer standing. The small personal treasures of my ancestors had either become lost or were scattered throughout the homes of hundreds of their descendants.

When David and I were on our old house search this love of history and family had us day dreaming about the wonders of doing our own unofficial but very interesting archaeological digs in land that once held old barns, summer kitchens, and other fascinating out buildings; I dreamed of finding treasures in the attic and crawlspaces and in walls and floors. If I couldn't search out the treasures of my own family's land, I could still search out those things in another family's and preserve it for history. I could weave together the threads of their history and mine from the point that they became knitted together.

Because this is a rural farmland area, most of the houses and the lands were still in the ownership of family members. Normally, we found that when a house had remained in the family, we'd see treasures in the overflowing attics and peeking out from dirt floors of the outbuildings. We knew the family would not take everything because usually a death of an elderly parent or grandparent was the reason the home was on the market; in those cases, the heirs simply sell the house pretty much furnished and stuffed with years of what they consider "junk".

As we talked to owners about the history of the houses, my genealogist hat was always on..... I mean every genealogist dreams of being able to sit down and hear someone discuss memories that lead to clues that help us find the records that prove the memories............and here I was, able to talk to these folks while I stood within the walls where the story unfolded....dreaming about the treasures I'd find in those walls and in the attic and in the lands...........

In the end, the house we purchased had been partially renovated by the heirs (which was unusual to say the least in our particular experience of old house searching). Those heirs had found all the treasures in the walls and in the lands.....a peak into the eaves and attic of this house revealed miles of empty space.....the only thing I saw was one antique traveling trunk which was where any treasure worth keeping but not displayed were stored. I was able to view some of the treasures they found in shadow boxes and on bureaus displayed throughout the house....but I knew those would be taken with the heirs when they turned over the house to us.

Our previous owners, Nephew and Niece In Law, of the Wilton's, did however leave with us a folder full of deeds and other records up to 1909 that had been abstracted by a relative years earlier. This folder gave me a complete history of the land from the late 1800's (when it was owned by Railroad and Canal folks who drained the swamplands making it suitable for farming) to the raising of the house.

There was some question as to the actual age of the farmhouse, those records gave me a trail to follow to answer that question; over the next few months, I found Mr. Wilton's name on 1904 Passengers List and learned that he first went to Connecticut before heading on down to Florida; I found his wife, daughter and son on another Passengers List (1909) when they finally immigrated. I was able to narrow down the year in which the house was built by this paper search. And I also learned just why the original front of the house was now the side of the house (an eminent domain lawsuit filed against the owners and their neighbors; the county wanted the land for a road)!

Finding the family on this land in the 1910 census confirmed what the Deeds and Passenger's list had indicated.....the house was most likely built in 1909 prior to the arrival of the wife and kids. Using public tax records, I was able to piece together more of the family history and now have a pretty good picture in my mind of the life they lived.

Knowing the history of the house and some of the details of the life the family lived gives us a sense of pride that is separate from just the fact that we were blessed enough to purchase this beautiful old home. We take pride in the fact that the walls that surrounded a small immigrant family for so many years are strong in structure due to our work; we take pride in the fact that should time fold back on itself and somehow allow Mr. Wilton or his daughter Eleanor to walk back in, they would see that the home that sheltered them was loved and cared for and sheltered another family today.

As a genealogist, I would have loved to be able to purchase one of my ancestor's homes and restore it; besides the fact that to do so, I'd have to move to another state, reality is that only two of the old homesteads still exist. The fact that I can't live in an ancestor's home is softened though by the fact those two homesteads are owned by my distant cousins and are cared for and loved for their history already.

Since I couldn't live in a home that held my own family history, I instead live in one that has its own story quite separate from mine....that is separate until now...where the threads of my family history and the threads of this house's family history have become woven together for future generations!

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