1. It's much easier to find information on people who had money and property.
2. Surprisingly enough, I have at least one line of ancestors that had enough money and influence to be in the history books. The Birdsong branch of the family (my Grandma McCarty's mother's maiden name was Birdsong) has been fairly easy to trace so far. I don't know why, but I had in my head that Birdsong was Native American. I was WAY off. When I got all the way back to the 1600 & 1700's I discovered John Birdsong (and his son John Birdsong II and his son John Birdsong III) that were majors and captains in the American Revolution, are in the history books as opposing England & fighting for the American Revolution, were members of the House of Commons, helped establish government in South Carolina, had lots of kids & property and... slaves. Y'all, I discovered wills that specified which children should receive which slaves upon their father's death. What in the actual hell? (excuse my language here, but we are talking about records that put a monetary value on another human being and who they- and their offspring- shall legally belong to. cursing seems appropriate.) I learned the same things about American history in school as the rest of you and I know that slavery was real. intellectually I understand that. I just found some sort of strange comfort in thinking that my ancestors were too poor (and maybe even moral) to actually own other human beings. I was wrong, at least about this branch. What a kick in the gut... and I'm just a middle class white girl in 2017.
So John Birdsong was my 8th great grandfather (which I feel pretty confident about given all the census records, property records, wills, etc. that list dates, relatives, locations, etc.), but after that I'm not 100% certain. One record says Heinrich Vogelsang Birdsong was his father and that he was born in Germany. Wait, what? That makes total sense. Vogel means bird in German. Duh. They moved here from Germany and "Americanized" their last name. My Ancestry subscription doesn't cover foreign records, so I'm not able to look further and verify that Heinrich was in fact the father of the John Birdsong that I'm related to (but my hunch is that there are records to discover). I may upgrade to access that information in the future, but for now I have plenty of other things to discover.
I have wondered how that line of the family went from a plantation with hundreds of acres of tobacco crops, cash, livestock, slaves, heirs, and political influence and wound up at my Great Grandma Belzoni Birdsong Stanfield- the wife of what most in my family assumes to be a moonshiner in the hills of Oklahoma (and later suddenly moved to Oregon). I can't say for sure (though maybe there is more to discover regarding this), but I have found that many years after the Revolution there was a legal petition by the widow of John Birdsong for compensation for revolutionary services that states (with witnesses) that she had nothing left, no means of supporting herself, and required the compensation that he never received as a Revolutionary soldier in order to survive. After that there are more and more relatives that show up in census records moving west to Tennessee and Arkansas. So interesting.
All of that information was really unexpected, so I found myself caught up in the legalities of who these people where. Even so, I can't help but take a step back and look at them (especially the women) through a more personal lens. Y'all, they were getting married at 13, 14, 15 years old and having babies for the next 30 years. It wasn't uncommon to see a child that was born and died in the same year. Or a child with a birth date, but who is not listed again in any records. Or a confirmed death of a child at 5 or 10 years old. I find that sometimes I just click away and gather information as quickly as I can, other times I stop and let it soak in. These women were my people and if the only way I can ever really know them is to stop and acknowledge the names of their children, well, then that's what I'm going to do.
Let's finish with some photos of our weekend.
Did you know you can buy wine at the ball park? You can. And hot dogs and brats and funnel cakes and lots of other stuff.
Drew played a round of golf Monday morning and I had visions of Eleanor and I enjoying another day in the back yard around the pool. She refused to get in, but wanted me to make the water "rain" so she could "lick" it. This kid.