Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Clan Highlander Genealogy

Until a few years ago, if someone had suggested that I would become deeply interested in my family genealogy, I would have brushed them off. We 63 Highlanders are elders in the vaunted “Baby Boom” generation and are well educated, sophisticated, well read, well traveled, and widely experienced, or at least we have had remarkable opportunities to avail ourselves of all that.

Our parents, mostly members of the “Greatest Generation,” lacked many of the opportunities we had. From our presumed worldly and certainly adolescent perspectives, they often seemed embarrassingly unsophisticated, un-cool, and sometimes just plain difficult. We didn’t cut them much slack in our dismissive appraisals of them. Of course, their first 25-years of life was lived before we were born, and thus qualified as history. For many of us and for most people, anything that occurred before our time was history and thus, of limited interest to us. We had places to go, mountains to climb, and dragons to slay.

Before getting around to starting their lives in earnest, our parents first had to grow up during the Depression and then mature during the second World War. Many, if not most of our fathers served in the military during WWII. In that, we as a generation, have had a shared and unique experience—we were parented by the “Greatest Generation,” who had mashed Hitler and his Nazis, then decisively thumped Tojo.

I’m not going to beat this subject up too much because I know that for anyone not sharing the interest, there are few things that are more boring than to hear someone rattle on about their ancestors. However, as most of us lost our parents during the 1980’s and 1990’s, to some of us came the responsibility of keeping the family story together—the story that had been preserved by our parents after it had been entrusted to them by their parents when we were kids.

Most of my life, all I knew of my ancestors was that they were farmers from Arkansas, Texas, and Mississippi. What could possibly be interesting about a bunch of farmers? I can recall my grandmothers, a grandfather, a number of old great aunts, and few old friends of the family about whom I had no idea whatsoever how they fit into the group. For the most part, they left us during the 1950's and 1960's. Those great aunts and old friends were always a little too effusive for my taste. I would love to be able to talk to them now.

The rise of the Internet coincided with the decline and passing of my parents. Before they died, I made sure to learn as much as I could from them about my ancestors. I hope you have or will take time to do the same. Genealogists have been some of the earliest and most prolific users of the Internet. They have been posting their knowledge to the net for over 10-years now. I have seen a tremendous growth in the scope and depth of useful information they have been being posting during the 5 or 6 years I have had the interest.

The amazing thing about the Internet is that it can enable us to connect with those very few others that share a common interest in some specific something. A few distant cousins were very gracious in sharing their family information with me. With their help and the help of useful research information posted by others, I was able to make discoveries about those farmer ancestors of mine that no one in my immediate family had known for well over a century. Among those farmers were 2 Confederate soldiers, 2 War of 1812 soldiers, about 7 (so far) soldiers of the Revolution, and 1 very early Jamestown settler.

As Texans, many of us can trace our early ancestry back to Virginia and the Carolinas. Our immigrant ancestors entered the country mostly through Philadelphia and Charleston. And unless we are the offspring of more recent immigrants, most of us can likely find ancestors who served the country during the American Revolution.

What do you think? The tools are out there now. We don't have to crawl through old dusty courthouse records and I'll bet that Mr. Sills would have gotten a kick out it. That’s not a bad project to consider undertaking as we move on toward 70. Seventy, good grief.


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