New England Roots is a blog long overdue!
My name is Brenda J. Elliott and I have been a professional researcher, public historian, author, and (political) blogger for more than thirty years.
Like many, many others, I have been compiling bits and pieces of my family history since I was quite young.
My grandparents made visits to local cemeteries at least once or twice a year to visit family graves and took me along with them. I was perhaps a vexing child and could not refrain from wanting to know details about every grave stone and burial site. My grandparents were either related to many of the people or knew who they and/or their families were, where they had lived and worked, whom they had married, and who their children were.
Like many of her generation, my grandmother grew up socializing with her elders. Whether she should have been seen and not heard didn’t matter. Listen and remember she did. Fortunately, she had a keen ear for the odd story or bit of gossip.
One of her favorite stories was about how after she graduated high school she was awarded a teaching position in a nearby town. It was too far away for a commute in 1915, so she stayed at a boarding house. One day a man in that town informed her about a baseball game taking place a few miles away at her alma mater. As he was going that way, and knew she would be keen to go, he asked if she would like to ride along with him in his democrat wagon.
This was the glorious part of her story, as who in the mid-twentieth century had any idea what a democrat wagon was? It was nothing more than a light flatbed wagon with one or two seats, but to me and my children it always sounded like something out of a fairy tale.
Needless to say, my grandmother’s willingness to make this journey as an unchaparoned young woman was scandalous! Her ill-advised action was discovered and she was promptly dismissed from her position. Regardless, for decades, she delighted in the telling and retelling of this tale.
My grandmother’s impeccable memory came into play when one of my sons was in third or fourth grade. (Note that he informs me now that it was a few years later.) His class assignment was to create a family tree. We helped him to map out a sprawling family tree that covered the whole side of an opened brown paper grocery bag. His teacher was astounded as she had only expected a stick tree with mom, dad, and son, and perhaps a sibling or two, not a panorama of grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., complete with dates and other assorted details.
The rest, as they say, is history. That brown paper bag family tree–which still holds a place of honor among my other research papers–has grown beyond the imagination of forty years ago. Thanks to internet technology and searchable databases, the possibilities are now endless.
In 2004, I gifted each of my children with four two-inch thick binders of a neatly-printed family history for both my side of the family and their father’s. My husband and I are a bit unique in that we share dozens upon dozens of the same New England colonial immigrant ancestors.
(I am in the process of updating this material. As a lot of you will recognize from your own labors, the trust I placed in many of my “sources” has turned out to have been in error.)
Full Disclaimer: What I post will follow my own whim, always. I receive no funding or reimbursement for anything posted on my blog.