Sunday, December 19, 2010

PCs & 63s - Part 8

About 1917, the local DAR erected these 3 markers in a small, very old country cemetery in southwestern Arkansas. One of them is my 3rd great grandfather. He and the other 2 gentlemen honored by the DAR were soldiers of the American Revolution. Years ago, dad purchased a couple of books and did some light research of that family line but had done little more than work out the vitals and draw a crude family tree. What he knew of our great grandfather’s service in the Revolution was limited to the markings on that old stone monument. When Dad died, the books and the project passed to me. It was about the beginning of popular use of the Internet…the late 1990s.

About the first substantial project I undertook online was to dig into my family history, starting with this line. Like most of us, I was a native Texan with early lineage going way back to southern places east of Texas. North Texas stock generally came from Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. Migration of that stock occurred over a period of a century or so and several generations.

Advanced genealogists were among the first groups to make good use of the Internet for communications and exchange of information. Working within that group I learned how to protect my privacy, get information I needed, and give others what I could without opening up to some of the lousy parts of dealing with the web.

Finding my roots was a useful and sobering exercise that really illustrated the potential of the web. Beyond dad’s rudimentary work, most of the knowledge I have came from making contacts over the web. There is little that is more boring than someone else’s family history and I won’t bore you with mine. However, I think it useful to show some of the amazing discoveries by way illustrating what is possible with the web.

Grandpa Jim Williams died in 1851 at age 87. On his DAR marker are 2 other names and it was those names that first opened up Jim’s story to me. Jim, himself, was an illiterate farmer who made his mark, an “X”, on legal documents. However, one of those documents was an application for a Revolutionary War pension made in the County Clerk’s office in 1833. The clerk wrote Jim’s words down and in them was Jim’s own statement of service during the Revolution. His words were not flowery, just a simple statement of facts that included several more names of men with whom he served. One of them was a regular correspondent with Thomas Jefferson and another was the first governor of Tennessee.

At age 15, Grandpa Jim was a junior member of the Overmountain Men; frontiersmen, who played an active part in settling early America and were living in settlements in the vicinity of today’s NE point of TN and SW point of VA. Daniel Boone was one of these Overmountain Men. Family lore has long had it that his branch of the Williams family came from Wales to Charleston about 1740. Finding specific Williams ancestors is about as tough as finding Johnson and Smith ancestors…and most males were named John or James in those days.

That Williams line goes kind of murky before about 1770 such that it has been impossible to firmly tie individuals to one another for a couple of generations. However, another bit of information learned in the study is that there is one of the earliest southern maps in a Carolina university that shows names of early settlers on the plantations lining rivers and tributaries…there were so few people on the land in those early days that it was the custom to name the plantation owners on the map itself.

A section of it shows 4 plantation owners named Williams located in the far NE corner of North Carolina, just inside the Outer Banks. Although it is likely that these Williams’ are not direct ancestors, they are most likely the first contingent of Welch Williams’ to immigrate to the New World. Where just 10-years ago I had to send off for a large copy of the map, it is now posted online in HD. A fifth plantation owner shown in the map is Boone.

Other interesting projects have been to flesh out my father’s WWII service in the Air Force and my great grandfather’s service in the Confederate Army. Both studies have led to some amazing discoveries and some wonderful connections with fine, knowledgeable people.

Quite aside from the armies of newly minted future business tycoons spouting CRM, ERP, Six Sigma, or errant daughters exposing themselves with cheap cell phone cameras, and all that other crap, the Web holds fantastic possibilities for anyone to learn just about anything he or she wants to learn.


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