I hope she's looking over my shoulder every day.
Like many budding researchers, my first thought was to see how far back I could trace my ancestors. One cousin has set for himself the goal of finding and documenting the first immigrant to America in each of his lines - a challenging endeavor. He has been working on this project for about 30 years now. To anyone just beginning a search, let this be a cautionary tale: you may soon realize that the hunt is so absorbing, so interesting, that you have embarked on a journey that will pull you down dusty country roads in search of overgrown and all but forgotten cemeteries, into the quiet caverns of library research sections, and out onto the information superhighway called the Internet. Your work area may soon become a disaster area, overflowing with folders, binders, boxes, stacks and file cabinets - and still you will seek more.
This quest will pull you in, much like the huge catfish that locals used to catch from the banks of Crooked Creek. Unlike the catfish, however, you will be a willing participant in the drama. Finding information is rewarding and fuels one's excitement. What irretrievably sets the hook is the day you discover something that no other researcher has uncovered. You'll be bouncing up and down with joy and the grin on your face will be, well, like the old joke, it would take an undertaker a week to get that smile off your face.
For the forseeable future, I've decided to concentrate on finding out everything I can about family members who lived in Hancock County, Illinois. Since several of my lines have been there since the mid-1830s, there were inter-family marriages, each adding to the color and patchwork appearance of the family tree. It was the similar entertwining of so many families that compelled me to branch out, to collect data on the residents of, primarily, Fountain Green and Hancock Townships, and those who are buried in several small cemeteries. The goal for the latter is to preserve a remembrance of the person, to place in our hearts and minds some sense of each human being, rather than to have only a hunk of cold stone as a marker for his or her life.
I wish you good luck in your search and hope it will be as enjoyable and successful as mine has been.
When I'm not tracking down and documenting distant relatives, I've spent countless hours restoring old photos. It's lovely to be able to tell the family stories and bring them to life with these images. For the many people who've expressed an interest, I've placed some of my favorites on the following pages.