HE WANTED A SURPRISE AND HE GOT IT!
October 10, 2010
I was delighted, although somewhat puzzled, as to how our 12 year-old grandson would write it, but he came to me when he was assigned to write on the Revolutionary War. The criteria must include people and their life and times. He told me he wanted to write something that would surprise his teacher and he thought using one of his ancestors who fought in that war would be a surprise.
We decided he would write about one of his grandfather’s Revolutionary War ancestors, Joseph Singletary of Thomas and Grady Counties, Georgia. I handed him a pedigree sheet and family group chart of the ancestor’s family, a book I had about the life and times of Thomas County, Georgia in the late 18th century, and asked him to study these to develop how he would proceed with the assignment.
Three days later, he asked me to read what he had written on the computer so far. I was not puzzled about his writing anymore. He had grasped the subject and his writing style was exceptional! He began by saying that his grandmother was a genealogist and he liked finding out about his ancestors. Here is an excerpt of it:
“The name of this man was Joseph E. Singletary, my (deep breath) great-great-great-great-great grandfather. The Singletary family is huge, consisting of possibly thousands of individuals. Joseph Singletary was born in 1761 and died in 1844, making him 14 when the war started and 22 when it ended. He died at a ripe old age of 83, 154 years before I was born. That long ago and I still have a copious amount of information about him!”
He continued with Singletary’s rank, pension application, location of the farm and tombstone, and told about the failing crops and the bad illness sweeping the county in 1844 when Singletary died. He described how Grady County was cut from Thomas County in 1905, which put the Singletary land in the newly created county. That is what led me to surprise my grandson with new information.
I recalled he had just finished studying Jamestown. I told him that Joseph Singletary descended from Stephen Hopkins who had briefly visited Jamestown before returning to England, and a few years later he returned to Massachusetts on the Mayflower. I showed him the diary written by Hopkins’ daughter Constance telling about how the colonists suffered. That diary was a real tearjerker. He was excited about the new information and wanted to include it also.
His closing sentence was, “The fact that I had a Jamestown and Plymouth ancestor was the real surprise!” He gave his paper the title, A Surprise in the Family Tree. Of course, this grandmother was thrilled with his skill and cleverness.
When you research your family tree, do you look for the social history of the area where your ancestors lived? I do. Families yearn to know these things. It gives them an additional perspective. The social history may not be the same county your ancestors live in, but it should be about that general area.
Finding agriculture information introduces the possible diet and income of the family. You can get an idea of their wealth when the estate is sold just by checking for the estate sales accounts. One researcher had a family who lived in the same county for three generations. She found a book on funeral customs of that era and included these findings in her story. Still another researcher found that her ancestors owned the funeral home. She was able to recover some accounts related to that particular business. In my research on the Masters and Drain families, I found that a great deal of their income came from logging on their land in Washington County, Arkansas. The federal issued land deed included a diagram and mentioned a vegetable garden, wheat field, and a large apple orchard. This led me to believe the family ate some the apples, baked apple pies, made fried apple pies, made apple cider, and possibly had apples in their salads. More income was from selling apples and wheat. They also had a couple of stills. Doesn’t that sound interesting?
Don’t forget to collect a little social history to spice up the family history reading material.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.