I have always tried to have a multi-faceted approach to doing family history. In my own discovery of the unexpected, I often try to look not only at the ancestors who have come and gone before me, but also at my living relatives. I read a blog earlier today that expressed concern that we, genealogists, often get too caught up in the details. We focus too much on abbreviations or small details in documents. I wonder if we sometimes don’t get too caught up in the dead. We find pictures or records or heirlooms from the people who came before us and it lights a fire underneath us. We crave MORE. These things are a way that we can connect to the departed. We can put faces on the lost, and by doing so we can preserve their legacy for the next generation. This is wonderful. How many people would be forgotten without us? But, this also leads me to question: what do I do NOW to preserve as much as I can about my living relatives so that the quest for the researchers after me will be different?
If you’ve been following this site - at any point - and have ready any of my previous posts, or even my about page, you know that my research was really started by my maternal grandmother. That woman was the backbone of my family. The matriarch. She connected everyone so deeply - her siblings, her children, their children...cousins, aunts, uncles...everyone. She remembered her own heritage and she preserved what she could because it was important to her. I began researching MY family when I realized that I knew basically nothing about this strong, caring woman. I started asking questions. I recorded her and my grandfather. I realized that not only did I want to know as much as she could tell me about her family (her memories and experiences), I also wanted to
The prompt this week is for “longevity.” As I work through my family tree I am surprised how many members of my family have lived into their 90s. My paternal grandparents both lived to be in their 90s and my maternal grandfather is 89 right now (he always felt that he would die when he was younger because his own father did). The ancestor that I’m focusing on for this posting is my great-aunt Kathryn. Kathryn was my paternal grandfather’’s sister. She was born in 1907, in Pennsylvania. Her parents, my great-grandparents were born in 1860 (Samuel) and 1883 (Clara). Her father was 47 when she was born. Her mother, 24. Kathryn was the second Wylie child. The first was James, born in 1901. Then came Kathryn in 1907, followed by Mary in 1909, and John (my grandfather) in 1914.
There are some family videos featuring my dad as a kid that show all of the living Wylie family members together - and in that video I can see my grandfather and Kathryn. They are easy to recognize. I remember my dad and my grandad talking about Kathryn. My grandfather wrote to her often. She would send my sister and I birthday cards every year. I didn’t meet her until I was a teenager. My grandfather died in 2004, and it wasn’t long after his death that my dad decided he wanted to visit with his last living aunt (James, his uncle died in 1962 and Mary had died in 1994). We began flying to Pennsylvania. We met Kathryn’s children and their families - and I know that my dad loved visiting with his aunt.
It’s hard for me to pick just one photograph as my favorite. Here’s the thing about my “favorite” family history picture: it changes constantly. I think it depends a lot on which lime I’m working on. Sometimes, if I make a new discovery, that becomes my new “favorite.” Which will it be? The Civil War era ancestor? Those are some of the oldest pictures that I have. Will it be, perhaps, the picture of my paternal great-grandfather Samuel Wylie? Identifying him was a challenge. I had stared and stared at some of the younger pictures that I had of him before I was able to connect who he was. That’s how brick walls work sometimes. Especially if they are pictures. Should I share the newest brick wall breakthrough? My current “favorite” picture? I suppose so.
I’ve had this photo for years. I can’t remember when I first saw it. My cousin, Mary, let me scan it. My great-grandparents are in the far right of the picture. That’s Mary Buckley Frantz kneeling in front of her husband Ezra. My grandmother and her sister are in the front row mixed in with the other children. I’ve loved this picture for a long time. The faces of my family staring back at me. But I’ve been blind to this picture too. I’ve only seen the faces that I wanted to see. I’ve only seen my great-grandparents and my grandmother and her sister. I’ve ignored everyone else. Their faces are slightly obscured. There’s not a lot of detail. Who is that woman staring at the child’s hand on her shoulder? Who is that woman holding an infant on her lap? Nameless people. Faces lost in the distance and lack of detail in this photo.
But then, when I pulled up this picture most recently, I saw a new face. He’s the old man sitting down. The oldest man in the picture. I know that face. I’ve seen it before. That’s William Buckley. That is my great-great grandfather. That’s Mary Buckley Frantz’s father. The woman sitting in front of him, with her hair parted in the center and her hands on her lap is my great-great grandmother, Mary Pigg Buckley. They’re at the center of this photo because the family around them are their children: The Buckley’s, and their spouses. For so long I had thought this was a picture of the Frantz family. I couldn’t see beyond Ezra and Mary. When I did, the pieces of this small puzzle started coming together. This is my “favorite” picture because of the discovery that I made when I let myself see the other pictures in the picture. This is my “favorite” picture because when I looked at it and saw William Buckley looking back it was so unexpected.
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. 2018 is a new year, and I’ve wanted to start writing again. 2017 ended up being a brutally exhausting year. I’m going to start writing again. I’m going to start researching again. This is the start.
I love family history and the various ways that it can be approached by researchers! I hope that this blog is interesting and inspiring!