For the past several weeks I have been compiling Genealogy research for various family members, including my late husband's family. It has been so interesting. Every time I find out something new, it opens up another path. I have to be careful, so I don't lose my way! I have discovered that it is not the politicians or the generals or even the Founding Fathers who built this country. Instead, it was built by the people whose names are mostly forgotten, perhaps scribbled in a Bible somewhere or carved in a fading tombstone. They are the footnotes to the story. The ones in the headlines had the vision, but the people whose names are unknown made that vision come true.
They came over to this country as indentured servants or escaping oppression in their homelands. They came to escape famine in Ireland and religious persecution. And they kept moving. Wherever there was an opportunity they would pick up and move on. In some cases. Not all.
In one family tree a father and his two sons go off to fight in the war, on the Confederate side.
In another family tree, a young teacher left to fight for the Union and barely survived his ordeal in a prison camp. Yet, in another family tree, a Confederate soldier from Alabama lost his life at Gettysburg and is buried there. Two were volunteer nurses on the Union side, who later applied for an old-age pension.
These ancestors were farmers and laborers, railroad men and bricklayers. The women, listed on the census reports as "Keeping House" often had a house full of children. One family were tenant farmers (or sharecroppers) in Alabama and were forced off of their prime land when TVA moved in. All the able-bodied adults in the household and children that were old enough, picked cotton to scratch out a living. But out of that poor sharecropper family came recognition when a son went off to World War II and came home to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Another family raised generations in a hollow named after them in the scenic landscape of southern Tennessee. They farmed the land, hunted in the gentle rolling hills and rarely left this beautiful piece of land, unless it was to serve in the military. They can trace their roots back to a Revolutionary War soldier who was an early settler and mentioned in the history of the county.
There are ancestors that were explorers, pioneers and settlers in a new country, often moving onto land grants given in return for military service by the federal government. Some emigrated west with the Gold Rush, settling in the Sierra Nevada region and yet others settled in the West Virginia hills and hollows, working on the railroad and farming the land. Many loved ones lost their lives to Tuberculosis, called Consumption in the Depression years.
Another family member counts among his ancestors a plantation owner in Alabama. An old-timer remembers the story told of the Indians, curious about the white children, and how the mother would be protective of the little ones, keeping them inside.
Every once in a while, a noted person shows up in the family tree, usually by marriage. There is the uncle several generations back who became a founding member of the Sierra Club, advocating for the forests and the environment long before it became popular to do so. There is the distant cousin that became the first President of the Sierra Pacific Power Company (after publishing a newspaper in Reno and Carson City), in the early 1900's. His son attended Harvard University and married a girl from Massachusetts. Another distant cousin in the family tree married a U.S. Congressman from Michigan, although he elected to only serve one term.
And soldiers. Every one of these family trees had men who signed their names on draft cards and many served in all the battles since the country was founded. I have found ancestors with military records from the Revolutionary War, up until the Vietnam War. I find it simply amazing.