“[You] are the sum total of [your] ancestors. You are not limited by their limitations, but you have the potential of their accumulated sense of possibilities. And, you are a product of their stories even though you don’t know it.” ~Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Like every family everywhere, our combined families (mine, my spouse’s, our stepfamilies’, and extended) are a blend of ups and downs, highs and lows.
Throughout the branches of our family trees, I have discovered abolitionists alongside slaveholders and freemen next to slaves. I hope that by telling each and every tale, no matter how distasteful, that I might help shine a light on one of the darkest times in American history.
It is because of our families’ connections to the many sides of slavery that I found Ancestry.com’s Railroad Ties both poignant and hopeful. I hope you find this short film as moving as I have.
Categories: Cole-Marriner Line, Spangler-Kenney Line, Taylor-Thomas Line, This Is My Life, Watts-Stark Line
Tags: American history, ancestry, family history, family tree, genealogy, lineage, slavery
When selecting a historical fiction or nonfiction book, I often will choose one “related” to my family, whether it is biographical in nature, is set somewhere our ancestors have resided, or is about a historical event in which our forebearers participated. Because of the setting and some of the characters’ surnames, I was eager to read The Light Before Day, written by Suzanne Woods Fisher.
The Light Before Day takes place on the island of Nantucket, home to a few of our families’ predecessors. In October 1641, the island of Nantucket was deeded to Thomas Mayhew, my 11th great-grandfather. Eighteen years later, Gov. Thomas Mayhew sold interests in the island to nine men, reserving 1/10th interest for himself. These investors included Tristram Coffin, my 11th great-granduncle and direct ancestor of the main characters, and Christopher Hussey, my spouse’s 10th great-grandfather.
That Churchill Woman, a novel written by Stephanie Barron, focuses on the life Jennie Jerome, a Brooklyn-born heiress whose world of wealth and privilege is filled with disillusionment and despair. Jennie’s parents, Leonard Jerome and Clarissa “Clara” Hall, had a marriage of convenience. Because of this, Leonard was occasionally absent from his daughters’ lives, devoting himself, instead, to his latest mistress. Then, when Jennie was nine-years-old, she and her favorite sister Camille were stricken with rheumatic fever. Jennie survived; Camille did not. To help Jennie cope with her sister’s loss, her father advised:
The only way to fight death…is to live. You’ve got to do it for two people now—yourself and Camille. Take every chance you get. Do everything she didn’t get to do. Live two lives in the space of one.
On this day, 22 November 1896, Rumsey Shuler Watts died. He was my 4th great-grandfather.
Rumsey Shuler Watts was born on 15 December 1810, in Bowling Green, Warren County, Kentucky to parents Charles Watts and Rebecca Boone. He joined older brothers Jesse Boggess Watts, born 6 February 1807, and John Boone Watts, born 15 November 1808. Brother Vincent Watts was born and died four years prior in 1806.
On this day, 7 November 1920, William L. Goss, my spouse’s 3rd great-grandfather, passed away in Cambria County, Pennsylvania.
William L. Goss was born on 13 October 1837, in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania to parents, John B. Goss and Rachel Smith, who were married in 1824, in Osceola, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania. William joined siblings Abraham John (born 23 June 1823), Amos E. (born 11 January 1827), and Rachel (born 2 July 1833).