We are fine here, I’ve just been distracted. Yesterday morning I pulled out the genealogy software that Dottie gave me a couple of years ago. I started it in 2011 and then everything happened with Emma and I never picked it back up. Well, I’m back to it and it is consuming.
I’ve been able to track back to two sets of my 4 x great grandparents. In addition to this being a time consuming task, it is so exciting! Do I finish what I’m doing or move on to the lure of new information on other generations? I am, however, getting to the point with a few lines that ancestry.com has no hints for me. So far I’ve relied mainly on census records and the previous work of others. I’m not sure what to do when these simple resources run out, but I’ll worry about that when I get there.
Here’s what is really impacting me… babies. So many babies. It was so common for people to get married at 17, 18, 19 and that meant that babies came when God said so. I’ve been astonished over the fact that these women in my family started having babies when they were young newlyweds and seemingly didn’t stop until their mid/late 40’s (which I am assuming was thanks to menopause). 3 or 4 children was a small family. 5 or 10 children was quite common. More than 10 children was not unheard of… which meant children who were 10, 15, 20 or more years apart in age.
I am surprised at how deeply I feel for these women who came before me. How dare I even contemplate complaining about my life now! These women worked hard. They were married to their husbands until death parted them. They had as many babies as God said they would have and those babies lived exactly as long as God said they would live. These women took care of their families, kept house and very often worked on the farms with their husbands and older children. They were poor and lived very modest lives (all of which I can gather from amazing census records). How shallow I feel for never considering these things! Just over 100 years ago life was drastically different. I did not know these women, but I owe them much. They are my family and I wonder what characteristics that I may have inherited from them.
Now, just to be a little sassy… why were there so many babies? Well, you could say that they needed help on the farm, but that farm hand is also one more mouth to feed and back to clothe. It may be a justification of more children, but probably not the sole reason. Not to mention you have to raise that child to an age where working is even possible. I think the only rational reason is… what else was there to do? I mean, really. They didn’t come home from a long day in the fields, curl up on the couch and watch a movie. They didn’t lay in bed and play games on their iPhones before falling asleep. Nope. When the sun went down and the kids were asleep… there were pretty well only 2 options: sleep or make babies.
Another aspect to my interest in these families… some children did not live to adulthood. I am particularly curious to take a deeper look at the life span of each child in my family tree, looking for any trends or commonalities. I don’t know if I will ever be able to find information beyond census records (and those only go back so far), but the truth is that children died. Sickness was different then and medical help was limited (and for the poor often non existent). Heck, even if my family had been wealthy, there were diseases that were simply without recovery. There will likely be no way to know if PKAN occurred in our family history (after all, it wasn’t even recognized and named until the 1950’s), but I can’t help but wonder. Think about this… a child has PKAN when each of his/her parents carries the recessive gene. Alone, the recessive gene does nothing, but when both parents carry the gene then there is a 50% change of each child being a carrier and a 25% chance of each child receiving two genes and therefore having PKAN. This is how PKAN was originally diagnosed… because people had lots of babies. By the time mom & dad have 10 babies, maybe 5 or 6 of those children are showing strange symptoms of something awful. Can you imagine? I can and I don’t like it.
So, I’m very much enjoying learning more about my family history and there is so so so much more to learn. I’ll leave you with a fun fact that learned yesterday…
My Emma Paige was named after my grandma McCarty. My whole life I thought her name was Emma Jo. It wasn’t until she died and we found her birth certificate that I learned her name was Emma Josie. Yesterday I learned that my grandma Emma’s paternal grandmother was named Emma and her maternal grandmother was named Josie. I thought it was very cool to learn that she was named after her grandmothers and that my Emma was named after my grandmother. So, I guess we could say that my Emma not only shared her name with her great grandmother Emma Josie but also with her great great great grandmother Emma Davis Maddox. Pretty cool.