From an early age, these were things I loved to do: read nonfiction history and historical fiction, solve puzzles and spend time with my family. When I was growing up, we always had a small bookshelf in the living room with my mom’s copy of Charles Ross Shultz’s The Descendants of Michael Shultz. Mom remembered that when the book was published, her parents received a post card offering the book for sale; since she expressed interest, they bought it for her.
Then, when I was in sixth grade, I received my class’s American History award from a DAR chapter. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as Daughters of the American Revolution. The very idea of knowing that someone could tell what her ancestors have done generations previously was thrilling to me.
I always was a little jealous of my classmates who would say with authority, “I’m Irish,” or “I’m half French,” or “I’m half Indian.” I knew two things only about my ancestry: Gramps’s family was probably part Indian, and my dad’s grandfather was a first cousin of Abraham Lincoln’s. So my interest was there; I just didn’t know how to go about finding my own ancestry. (By the way, no evidence of either tradition has ever shown up.)
When we were living in Buffalo, in the summer of 1966, I found a library book on genealogy. I read, followed the directions, wrote letters, starting with own four grandparents and my great-grandmother Pedigo. They gave me names and addresses to write more letters. At the end of that summer, as my parents were moving to Kansas City, we went to Oklahoma and drove around visiting aunts, cousins, and graveyards. Gramps answered with the famous-in-the-family letter about me being descended from a monkey. But by the start of college that fall, I had my five-generations chart full.
One memory in particular that stands out is Gramps saying, “You know, my grandparents are buried at Clinton.” Mom didn’t even know that.
It’s now over 40 years later, and this hobby has been a continuing challenge through all these years. I packed my genealogy away when we went to South America as Evangelical missionaries and didn’t do much for 15 years or so. This is the time when my aunt, Ramona Duff, and my parents found a great deal on their own. Mom especially made a great collection of family photos. In 1986, after my bout with the Mexico City earthquake, typhoid fever and hepatitis A, I spent most of my recovery time for two or three years writing genealogy letters.
And of course, after we bought our first Macintosh computer in 1988 and the Internet came along soon after, genealogy will never be the same.
Key dates, 1970: I joined the DAR.
1987: My mom and I went to the DAR Library in Washington DC; finds included Gilbert, Joy, Atwell (still not sure about this one), and James Alvis in Pike Co MO.
1989: On the same day, although residing in different countries and using different sources, Ramona and I found the identity of Nancy (Morris) Armstrong’s parents. I’m still looking for her grandparents though.
1992: On my only trip to Salt Lake City, with my mom and dad, I found my link to Ashley Alvis and Asa Brooks’s birth in Buffalo. Too bad I didn’t know that in 1966! We must have driven several times right past several ancestors’ graves near I-90 and in other places in western New York.
1993: I discovered the ancestors and helped my Dad join the Society of Mayflower Descendants. He was later the Oklahoma Governor of the Mayflower Society. That’s also the year I moved back to the United States after almost 17 years in Colombia and Mexico, specifically Mexico City. And I joined the Mayflower Society soon after.
1997: My mother and I joined the Associated Daughters of Early Americam Witches.
2004: After six weeks of study in the Dickinsons of New England, I deduced David Dickinson’s most likely ancestry.
2007: I finally found two more generations back of Armstrongs; I’d been hunting since 1966 in the right town, but this is when an index to land records became available on the Internet.
2008: I set up several web sites, including this blog.
2009: I researched Revolutionary War details for my patriot ancestors.
2010: I joined the Society of Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge.
2011: So far I am working on scanning and posting my parents’ remarkable photo collection on the Internet.