Friday, January 25, 2008

Dinner with my Elusive Ancestors' Children

The topic for the 41st Carnival of Genealogy is -- If you could have dinner with four of your ancestors who would they be and why?

Most genealogy researchers have "elusive ancestors" - the people that we can't find a name for, or determine where they lived, etc. We usually know the names of one or more of their children, but we are usually stymied by a lack of records that provide the parents names and/or the birthplace of the children.

I want so much to have a "meeting" with each of my ancestors because there is so much that I, and other descendants, don't know about their lives and personalities. Relationships are complicated sometimes, and it is often impossible to sort things out without some help from the non-living.

The task at hand is to name the four ancestors that I would like to have dinner with and to answer these questions -

* Would you have dinner in the present day or in one of their eras? I would choose to have dinner - separately - in each of their eras.

* Would you dine out or opt for a home cooked meal? I would choose to have a home cooked meal in each of their homes with their family, if possible. I would request that they include their son or daughter, and their spouse, from whom I'm descended, if possible.

* What would you discuss at the dinner table? At the dinner table, I would ask each person to share their lives to date - where they have lived, what work they perform, what education they have, who their closest friends and associates are, their religious beliefs, and their views on current events (in their era). I would hope that there would be time available to sit with each of them and hear their stories about their ancestry, and determine if there are family Bibles or papers that document their ancestry.

* What would you most like to share with them about your life? First off, I would tell them that they have descendants (well, at least one!) that honors their lives, and their hard work to create and support their family, community and nation. I would tell them about my life, and the times we live in.

I have selected four ancestors solely on the basis of their probable ability to tell me about their own ancestry - their parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, etc. They are --

1) Thomas J. Newton (born ca 1795 in Maine, died after 1836) who married Sophia (Buck) Brigham in about 1832. They had children Sophia Newton (born 1834 probably in Springfield, Windsor County, VT) and Thomas J. Newton (born 1833 probably in Cambridge, Lamoille County, VT). I would like to ask him his parents and grandparents names, birthdates, birthplaces and residences. I am sure that there is a fine New England ancestry in the generations before TJN. I would like to visit him and his wife Sophia in the mid-1830's, and hope that they would invite Sophia's parents, Isaac and Martha (Phillips) Buck to dinner also.

2) Elizabeth Horton (Dill) Smith (born in 1791-1794 in Eastham, Barnstable County, MA, died 1869 in Leominster, Worcester County, MA) who married Alpheus Smith in 1826 in Medfield, Norfolk County, MA. They had children Lucretia Townsend Smith and James A. Smith. I don't know Elizabeth's parents names for sure, although I suspect that they are Thomas and Hannah (Horton) Dill of Eastham, Barnstable County, MA. If so, there are several generations of Cape Cod and Plymouth Colony families in her ancestry. I would like to visit the young woman Elizabeth and her family in the mid-1810's in Eastham and hope that the attendees to the dinner would include her parents and siblings.

3) Ranslow Smith (born 1805 in Oneida County New York, died after 1870 in ???), who married Mary Bell in Henderson, Jefferson County, New York, moved to Dodge County, Wisconsin and then Bedford, Taylor County, Iowa. They had children Devier J. Smith and possibly Mary J. Smith. I now think that I know who Ranslow's father was - Russell Smith, but I don't know the maiden name of his mother, Esther - I hope Ranslow knows! I would ask him about Russell's and Esther's ancestors, their siblings and their families, and where they resided. I would ask him about his time in Jefferson county NY, Dodge County WI and Taylor county IA, and try to find out where and when he died. I suspect that the Smith's are from one of the John Smith's who were early in Providence RI, and there are probably some Plymouth colonists in this line as well. I would love to visit Ranslow and his family in the mid-1850's at his inn, the Four-Mile House, in Rolling Prairie, Dodge County, Wisconsin.

4) William Knapp (born about 1775 in New York, died in 1856 in Newton, Sussex County, New Jersey) who married Sarah Cutter in Woodbridge, Middlesex County, New Jersey. They resided in Newton for many years. I would ask him the names and residences of his parents and grandparnts, and the names and residences of his siblings, if any. I'm pretty sure that his ancestry is colonial New England. I would love to visit them in the mid-1840's after their daughter Sarah Knapp married David Auble, and would hope that David and Sarah would be invited to the dinner.

That's my four - two from my father's ancestry (Newton and Dill) and two from my Carringer ancestry (Smith and Knapp). They are all pretty much New England ancestry, but that's where many of my elusive ancestors are from!

I have a very long list of other ancestors that I would like to speak to or hear from - either in documents, in dreams or whatever. Most of them could provide answers to my ancestry questions, and most could provide answers to questions about their ancestral homes, their immigration or migration experience, their colonial or frontier lives and occupations, their military service to our country, and many more topics.

The big question I have is - what tools can I use to record this information that I obtain from these four ancestors? Do I have to use a quill pen? Do I have to rely on memory? Can I take a digital voice recorder and a digital camera, or even a laptop? Can I take my wife on this time travel, since she likes genealogy adventures, meeting new people, and loves to talk?


Renee Zamora said...

It's very possible that your William Knapp could be a Palatine Immigrant of 1710. I believe I have seen the Knapp's listed in "The Palatine Families of New York - 1710. by Henry Z. Jones." I don't have a copy with me but it might be worth checking out. He goes several generations into the descendants of the immigrants. So they might be listed. Sorry if I mislead you but the name sounds so familiar.

Teresa said...

I would rather they come here. That way they could see how their hard work and wisdom has lead their descendants to have a better way of life than they had.
We'd eat out, I rarely cook.
I'd want my dad, because I miss him.
My great great grandmother, Susan Markham because that girl has some explaining to do. Plus I would love to hear who the girl's fathers were, how did she meet them, why did she choose to not marry them.
My mother's father, who died before I was born.
And finally, my brother. He was born with cerebral palsy and never talked except to say my name. I would love to talk to him now that he can talk and has a perfect body.


Elusive ancestors is a great
idea for dinner, one could only
hope to find them and be able to invite them?! My spouse has
ancestors from Dodge Co., WI.