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Heather Gates, Ep. HG 7, Heather Asked Paul About His Family History

Updated on April 24, 2018
Homeplace Series profile image

Dr. Bill's first passion is family history. His second is a passion for creating family saga, historical fiction stories that share it.

Paul Gates was born in Dayton, Ohio, near Wright-Patterson Air Force Base

National Park Service marker for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio
National Park Service marker for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, near Dayton, Ohio

Heather asked her father about his family history

Monday evening, Heather had been thinking about her brief conversation with Jennifer about her family history research. Heather realized that she had never really asked her father about his background. The subject had just not come up that she could remember. Strange.


So, at a quiet moment, she asked. Paul’s answer partially answered the question in Heather’s mind. “There really isn’t any family history, I guess.” He went on to explain that he was an only child, born to his parents late in life, and they had passed away before he was out of college. There had not been any other relatives around as he was growing up, that he recalled. His parents both worked, and it was just never a topic of discussion. He had been encouraged to work hard, to get his education and a job, which he had done.


Heather thought about that for a bit, then said, “So you didn’t have any cousins around? No aunts or uncles?”


“No, I guess not. Both of my parents were an ‘only child’ just like I was, as far as I know. It just wasn’t talked about. I guess that was unusual, now that you put it that way.” Paul seemed to be puzzled by this conversation. Heather knew this was unusual for her father. It made her want to know more. He was usually so clear about everything.


“Do you know how your parents met? Did you know your grandparents?” Heather hoped she could get her father to talk some more about what he did know.


“They both worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base during the war.” Paul was thinking hard as he spoke slowly. “I think they had both come from somewhere else to work there, after the war started. They were both in their thirties. They got married in, I think, 1943. I was born in 1945. I don’t recall ever knowing a grandparent, either side. It was just the three us, as I was growing up. We lived in a small house, a two-bedroom cottage, really. Haven’t thought about that for a long time.”


“Was that in Jackson?” Heather was trying to process what she heard her father say. She didn’t realize it would be a hard question for him.


“No. Dayton, Ohio. That is where I was born. I didn’t move to Jackson until a couple of years after college. I worked for the Bechtel Group, engineers; they transferred me to Jackson to work for them, there.” After a pause, “That seems like a very long time ago.”

Heather's stories continued

The iconic red barn image of "The Homeplace Saga" stories
The iconic red barn image of "The Homeplace Saga" stories

Heather talked to Jennifer, again, about her family history

The next morning, Tuesday, Heather and Jennifer were both at the stable early. Heather took a moment to share with Jennifer what she had learned from her father the night before about his unusual family history. Jennifer was very interested. “You started in exactly the right way with your father, Heather. We call this ‘family tradition’ information. Each family has a story to tell. Just remember that stories shared orally usual contain some errors. Each word that is passed down through the family is valuable, as a clue, however. The next step, assuming you are interested, is to verify each fact in the story from an independent source. This is an ongoing process, that, quite frankly, never ends. Each time a fact gets verified, or shown to be different than expected, it usually raises one or more additional questions. That is what makes the puzzle so much fun to work on.”


“That sounds like a lot of work.”


“Yes, it can be.” Jennifer replied. “It is why some folks never get around to doing it. Many just want to accept the story and stop there. Others never ask, of course. However, I find that checking out the stories is the best part. I enjoy solving puzzles, and mysteries. I make it a game that just keeps going and going.”

“If I want to keep at it, what do I do next?” Heather was not put off by Jennifer’s answer. She wanted to learn more.


“Full names, date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, date and place of death of each person: father, mother, children, grandparents, great-grandparents. Locating a document that has these bits of ‘vital records’ information is the goal. Birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, obituaries are key documents to search for and find.”


“What is an obituary?”


Jennifer smiled. “That is the story that is written when a person dies. It is often published in the newspaper where the person died or where they are buried, or both, if those are two different places. It is a rich source of information about a person’s family, because it is always written by an interested family member, or several of them.”


“I wonder if Dad has any of those things?” Heather asked.


“Ask him,” Jennifer said. “He’ll have some things and not others. We always start with what we have, what comes the easiest, then work towards getting those things that are unknown, and answer the next question…to be followed by more questions to answer, of course.”


“I’ll do that.”

The Bevins Trust was active across the rural countryside

An image of the rural countryside
An image of the rural countryside

That evening, after the monthly Bevins Trustee’s meeting

As usual after the monthly meeting, Paul had several things he wanted to share with Heather about the meeting. “In addition to the Ten-Year Report that Christopher is working on about our first ten years with The Bevins Trust, the Trustees are looking ahead to the next ten years. That will affect you and Scott, directly, so we will be talking about that a lot in the coming months. All afternoon we had a workshop with a consultant, Neil Harms, who helped us understand the importance of planning ahead to keep our business growing and healthy for future generations. One of the things I’ll be working on is writing down each of the steps of the things I have responsibility for, Responsibility Sets, he called them. I’ll work with you, Sheila, and the other employees to complete that task. I’m sure that Diane will be talking to you about the work you do at the stable, as well.” They continued to talk about that for a while. Heather was very interested and asked several questions.


After a while, Paul said, “This ‘intergenerational transfer’ discussion we’re talking about actually ties in, somewhat, with the family history stuff you were asking about last night. I kept thinking about that, from time to time, all day today.”


“Good,” Heather replied. “I had a nice chat with Jennifer, again, first thing this morning, as well. She told me some specific questions to ask you, that I was going to get to here pretty soon.”

“Like what?”


“She said to start with full name, date and place of birth, date and place of marriage, date and place of death for each person: father, mother, children, grandparents, great-grandparents. Then, do you have actual documents for those, like birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, obituaries?”


“Wow! That was quite a discussion.”


“Yes, she gets real excited when she talks about family history research. Now, I’m getting exciting.”


“Well,” Paul said, “You have first day of school tomorrow morning. Let me think about what you said and write some things down. This is something we should and will do. But not tonight. You need to get your things around and be ready for school in the morning.”


“Good idea. Night.”


[Continued in Episode HG 8]

Author’s Note

This series of stories in the life of Heather Gates, a fictional character in “The Homeplace Saga” series of family saga, historical fiction stories (home blog found at thehomeplaceseries dot blogspot dot com), is being created as a way to use a minor character in the early writings to expand those stories and share details omitted in those earlier writings within the original overarching themes. These newly included details may have been left out of the earlier stories through editing or they may have seemed unrelated to central themes at the time. With the expansion of the entire Saga, over the years, it has become obvious that filling in some of the gaps in the story for overall better understanding of the individuals, their families, and their interactions would be useful to “The Homeplace Saga” body of work in total. These episodes parallel the timeline of “The Homeplace Revisited” novel in this series.

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Video Book Trailer

Video Book Trailer

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    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Asking about family history often turns up interesting information...not always totally true, of course. Heather is warming up to asking these questions, it appears. It is so nice to have your comment, Dora! ;-)

    • CaribTales profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      15 months ago from The Caribbean

      I can relate to Paul being an only child, but I do have dozens of cousins. Heather is the perfect daughter for him, certainly filling the void.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you, Bill. So very nice of you to take the time from your busy schedule to make this visit and comment. A true friend and supporter. Wonderful! ;-)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      15 months ago from Olympia, WA

      This touches upon one of the more remarkable aspects of these stories of yours: the dedication you have to find out about your family....so many years went into this series...a family history....all because of your dedication.

    • Homeplace Series profile imageAUTHOR

      William Leverne Smith 

      15 months ago from Hollister, MO

      Thank you for your visit and comment, Nikki. Really appreciated!! ;-)

    • nikkikhan10 profile image

      Nikki Khan 

      15 months ago from London

      This is quite interesting William, great dialogues, enjoyed reading it.

      Would catch up with your family saga series,keep up your good work.

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