The Tie That Binds
Elsewhere here on Hubpages I have written of my search for who I am, my digging into my family history. It can be a difficult yet rewarding job, this uncovering of the past. I have dug deep and am now in excess of forty generations in some branches and I am seeing a few repeating names appearing. I wonder at this, and it is a curious thing to realize how much smaller the population of the world was a thousand years ago. It is also curious and somewhat refreshing to come face to face with the reality that all people truly are related to one another the further one climbs in the family tree. Somewhere, at some distant past, we are all related. As I said, it is a curious and humbling thought.
Right Choices Corn Maze
This weekend my wife and I took our youngest to meet his past face to face. There is what has been called our "family farm" for most of my life not too far from where we live. Right Choices Corn Maze near Southwest City, Missouri has been a part of our family since the mid 1800's. I had been to the farm when I was around six or seven years old, to a family reunion. Thinking back, I believe it would have been on what I think was the hundred year anniversary of the farm. The cemetery was founded in 1866, so the farm must have come first.
My last trip is fuzzy due in no small part to the fact that I was so young and it was so very, very long ago but I do remember one aspect of it as clear as if it were yesterday. Some of my new-found relatives and I were chasing crawdads in the spring on the side of the hill. We didn't think anything about it; after all, that was what boys did. I remember hearing a woman yell at us and when I looked up I saw her coming over the hill from the house with a bucket in hand. She came down to the spring and ran us off when she saw the muddy water. It turned out that the family got their water from the spring! So everyone had to wait on the water to clear before they could have any more lemonade or tea, all because of us. We were all properly chastised, but that did not last too long; there were just too many other things to do
On this weekend, I was concerned whether I could assist my son in connecting to his past. My wife and I took the hour drive down to the farm. It has become in the recent past a Fall destination for many more than simply family members. Right Choices Corn Maze has something for everybody. A seven acre corn maze, corn and walnut air cannons, an open air market, a bouncing platform, slides, hay jump and more family friendly fun for all. We did it all, from the old fashioned hay ride to the maze. It was a day of first's for my son. His first hay ride, first hay jump, first maze, first walnut shoot. He had a blast! And, so did I. Watching him play on the same hillside I played on nearly fifty years ago brought on a nostalgia so strong it almost brought me to tears.
As we left he asked if we could come back again some day. That was an easy promise to make.
I also had the pleasure of meeting a long lost cousin several times removed. Galen Manning, current owner of the farm, is the seventh generation to live here. I saw him and for some reason just knew who he was. I introduced myself to both he and his wife and gave them the family history from his four times great grandfather to me. It was very satisfying to see him smile as he found we were related.
As we left with smiles on our faces, I stopped to take a look at the cemetery. Opening the gate and entering was like taking a step back in time, back 150 years. Wandering along between the headstones, straining to make out names and dates, I stood stunned as I saw a very familiar surname on one stone. It was the last name of my mother and her father. I knew he was born to a Manning who had married his father, but to see that name in the Manning family cemetery was something I did not expect. Another connection, another tie to bind me to my past, and to allow me to hand to my son for his future.
My trip down memory lane was a wonderful one and seeing my son light up the way he did on the hay ride, and bouncing bouncing bouncing on the corn jump was magical. My wife was happy for me and snapped several pictures of our son and I in special locations, the most special of which was that spring. She enjoyed the little open air market with its pumpkins for sale, and various homemade jams and such. But the best part of the day was watching our son enjoy these simple pleasures from the past. He wasn't in front of a television, wasn't playing video games and such. He was outside running, jumping, sliding, shooting and enjoying every single moment of it. As we were.
Southwest City, Missouri
I have uncovered more of my past history, and the more I dig, the more fascinated I am by those who came before me. When I first found an ancestor of mine which had their own Wikipedia page, I was floored. Then, as I kept searching more names, more pages appeared. Names I knew and not from family history; names associated with real world history. Names like Geoffery Chaucer, the author. Not familiar to you? Well, have you ever heard of a little book named The Canterbury Tales? That's his, among other classical works of literature. How about the saying "Time and tide wait for no man"? Another Chaucer quote.
Other names such as William the Conqueror and Charlemagne appeared in my past. Charlemagne? Are you kidding me? I know, I know: I said it first. "Why are all of those who research their past always related to someone famous? Never Uncle Bob who got hung for horse thievery?" Well, now I know. The famous ones maintain their place in history while those "thieves" get passed by when it comes to putting down on paper what and who they were.
I have bounced back and forth between various websites like Ancestry.com, Wikitree, Family Tree Maker, and Wikipedia tracking these bloodlines to and fro and it is truly fascinating. I love reading the facts about a person as I research them, and Wikipedia has some wonderful information.
One unusual fact I have come across is that various branches of my family crossed paths in the late 1200's and early 1300's. Names like Robert the Bruce, both Black and Red John Comyn, and King Edward "Longshanks" Plantagenet all appear on my tree, and when I read how Robert the Bruce actually killed John Comyn I had to laugh while being astonished. To think that two of my ancestors met and fought, and one was killed by the other is surreal to me. Who could have known that years later, their descendants would marry and eventually produce me!?! Kind of reminds me of a Hatfield / McCoy thing but many years earlier.
Another, darker segment of my history is that I found a man who was a slave owner. In this country in the 1700's. I located a will of his complete with dollar values attached. I am ashamed to say that one of the slaves was given a worth of zero. Nothing. In my ancestor's eyes as he made his will he attached a non-value to a person he owned. There were somewhere around a dozen slaves this man owned, and he gave a value to each of them but for some reason saw this person as worthless; beneath his need to value them at all. This is a black spot on my history, and one I am unbelievably ashamed of.
Due in no small part to my research, I am finding myself drawn to a particular period of time, the Medieval time frame. I have watched several movies which lend themselves to that time, and am currently reading a book entitled "The History of the Knights Templar". Believe it or not, I am finding names associated with my family in these pages. William de Warennes was an early Knights Templar and also appeared in my family tree.
On a side note, I again find it unbelievably strange that I was drawn into a shadowy group as a youth which had its beginnings in the distant path of the Templars. In Junior High School, a friend invited me to a secret meeting. I went, and eventually joined this group. The name? The DeMolay's. As in Jacques DeMolay, as in Knights Templar Grand Master who was executed in the 14th century by King Phillip IV of France. The ceremony to join this group was fascinating if unusual. Hoods, secret handshakes, ceremonial steps along a pathway. Still sends shivers down my spine forty years later! I became a life-long member of this group although I have not attended in many years. Oh, did I mention what other group they were affiliated with?
The Freemason's, which are descended from the Knights Templar. We met in the Scottish Rite Cathedral in town. Today, I am amazed that this group has persevered for approaching 1,000 years and is still strong today.
I have located the Immigrant portion of my lineage, down to even the ship they sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on. Master Richard Kimball (remember that name? The Fugitive?) born in 1590, married Ursala Scott. They traveled to the new world aboard The Elizabeth in 1634, arriving in April at Massachusetts Bay. Along for the ride was her Mother, Martha Whatlock, who died in Massachusetts about nine years later.
There was also a Thomas Painter who left from the Isle of Wight on the Winthrop Fleet in 1630 along with his wife Katherine. Altogether there were some 700 souls on board 11 ships in that fleet. 200 would die before the end of the year in the New World. That is almost one out of every three people on board these ships dead within mere months of landing. Katherine died in 1641 at a ripe old age of 30 years in the Boston area near Plymouth Rock. She did give birth in the new world, my earliest American ancestor I have found solid evidence of thus far. Shubael Painter, born in 1636 lived and died in what was known as the Westerly Settlement of Provident Plantation. Thomas lasted a bit longer than his wife Katherine did, finally passing in 1707 in Newport, Rhode Island.
I do have a notion of an ancestor of mine born earlier but have yet to substantiate it. Mary Ann Munson was said to be born in Massachusetts in 1626. One can only imagine the life of those some 400 years ago or so. I have watched documentaries and movies. I have read books and studied articles on the Internet. But nothing can make me fully understand the struggle and strife of those who have gone before me. Of literally never knowing if a storm would wipe out their crops; of whether an Indian would come along and kill them; of wondering how their families back in the Old Country were doing. And knowing they will never see them again. Of not having firewood in the winter, of bug infestations in the summer. Of building a nation with their own two hands and the sweat from their bodies. I cannot comprehend the loneliness, the work ethic, the drive to survive my ancestors had. Thank God for them.