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Preaching from my soapbox
Preaching from my soapbox

It's been said that if you don't know where you are coming from, then you don't know where you are going. This is part of my inspiration for genealogy research. My families lived through rough times. My father lost his mother when he was only 3 years old, his oldest brother died under mysterious circumstances on his 7th birthday, and was orphaned at age 14 when his father died leaving 6 other siblings. He never talked about it, so I don't know what he knew. The younger children spent a year or so in the Catholic Charities orphanage. His stepmother has been described by an older brother as right out of Cinderella. He found my youngest uncle on his hands and knees scrubbing the wooden floor while the stepmothers daughters were sitting around doing nothing. My uncle then took his younger brother home to live with him in Columbus, Ohio. My dad worked in a grocery store, then bring home candy and pop, where his stepmother gave it to her daughters, then wouldn't let my dad have any. He joined the Air Force when he was just 17 years old leaving his unhappy childhood behind him. I doubt that my dad knew his grandfather also lost his mother at an early age after she had 14 children. He only lived 62 short years, and I don't think we let him know how much we really appreciated him. My mother's father was also an orphan before his teen years, yet went on to have 15 children, 13 who lived to marry and have children. He used to say he wouldn't trade them for a million dollars. He died in 1977 at age 90 when a million dollars was still a lot of money. In so many ways, I feel like an under achiever compared to my ancestors. They did so much, with so little.

Family History is essentially a study of those who succeed. They had a spouse, children, and for the most part were successful in keeping their families together. Today life seems to be about maintenance of life style choices. With the internet and social media we broadcast to the world whatever we are doing as it happens. We gotta have this, can't live without that, the new this is out and I need it yesterday. Never mind most of the wants are generated by big buck advertising for things we could easily live without. Our landfills are full of things people couldn't live without until the next thing came along.

Half of my ancestry is pacifist Quaker or Church of the Brethren religions opposed to government and military service, yet I have 8 ancestors considered Patriots during the Revolutionary War, at least one was a Brethren. My Eikenberry ancestors were and many still are Church of the Brethren. One of the prominent generals fighting the war on terror is General Karl Eikenberry. Surely our Eikenberry ancestors would be disturbed to know that based on their religious beliefs, yet most people today consider him a hero of our times. Some ancestor or descendant appears to belong to most major Christian religions of their time. The few histories available show ancestors were members of all political parties including republican, democrat, whigs, and probably every other party of the times. That is the key - of the time. We change with the times. That is how we survive.

The more I learn about my ancestry the more it reinforces my attitude to remain an Independent Conservative Christian Contrarian. I don't "belong" to any organized religion and I don't support any political party. I respect my ancestors and their Christian beliefs and agree with most of them. I support the people who support America and our ideals. Too many churches and political parties put the organization before the people. And people change their beliefs over time. Ronald Reagan the patriarch of the republican party was a democrat before he was a republican. Michael Bloomberg forced New York city to change their term limit law so he could run for a third term in 2009, spending $100 million of his own money for a job that pays $1 a year. Bloomberg was a republican before he became a democrat before he became an independent. I'm sure there are many more. This shows that what you believe today may change as circumstances change, mostly your own, but also the country, the world and most likely your immediate circle of friends and relatives.

Studying my ancestry since 1993, I can not help but wonder how my life would have been different if I had known growing up what I know now. What if I had known a Thomas FOLLIS was a burgess in 1642 Jamestown the first permanent English settlement in America founded May 14, 1607. How different it might have been in elementary school if I had known I had maternal ancestor THURSTON's arriving in Massachusetts in 1637 only 17 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in December 1620 aboard the Mayflower. Did they witness or at least know about the Salem Witch Trials? Did my WEBB families really arrive in 1620 from a long line of British Knights and connect us with President Lyndon Baines Johnson and the great playwright William Shakespeare?

Would I have paid more attention to our Colonial history if I had known that three-fourth's of my ancestors where in America during the Colonial period prior to the Revolutionary War in 1776? Would it have made a difference if I had known I was a descendant of at least seven ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War? Would I have been more observant and asked more questions in junior high school when we visited Washington D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg if I had known that Thomas FOLLIS the burgess was in 1642 James City? Or a Jacob FALLIS posted a found ad about a horse in the 1700's Williamsburg newspaper? Or that my FOLLIS ancestors had been in 1750's Virginia along with so many of my other families.

How different would my interest in American history be if I had known there is reliable evidence that my FOLLIS families were at least acquaintances of George WASHINGTON the father of our country. George Washington was a surveyor for Lord Fairfax in Frederick County, Virginia at age 16 from 1748-1752, his first occupation, at the same time my FOLLIS families were purchasing land in Frederick County. George Washington was then Burgess from Winchester, the county seat, from 1758-1765. It seems reasonable the FOLLIS family would know the county surveyor and burgess as all land had to be recorded at the county courthouse at the time when the population would have been very small. How different if I had known my fifth great-grandfather Simon ESSIG who served in the Revolutionary War may have served at the Battle of Trenton when George Washington crossed the Delaware River remembered in the famous painting. What would I have thought if I had known sixth great-grandfather Henry LANDIS built a house in 1750 Amwell, New Jersey that is the oldest house still standing in the township where Lafayette, who helped secure France's aid in helping the United States win its independence from Britain, had recuperated while recovering from Valley Forge the Winter of 1777.

How different the study of Native American Indian's would have seemed if I had known my fourth great-grandfather Benjamin FOREMAN's wife Nancy is thought of have been killed by Indian's in Virginia or Kentucky and his brother William was massacred in 1777 at Fort FORMAN in Frederick County, Virginia? My TIMMONS family married into the FOREMAN family and one of the sibling lines has an Indian tribe on their tombstone, whose mother is thought to be an Indian with a photograph that supports the idea.

Because my mother was raised on a farm I was always casually interested in the history of farming. I did not really appreciate the hard work my ancestors had to endure in removing the primeval forests that covered the land they pioneered as the Indians were driven further west.

How different it might have to been to realize that several distant cousins are known to have made the difficult travels from Indiana to California in 1849 during the gold rush in seeking their fortunes before returning to the farm life. Related by marriage, three CRABILL brother's in Whitley County joined the gold rush then returned to Indiana. Samuel EIKENBARY, a first cousin five times removed, moved to Iowa then Nebraska. He was a '49er, led the "Ikenberry Party" to California, made and lost $20,000 returned to Nebraska and was a member of the first Nebraska territorial Assembly and of the Constitutional Convention. Samuel's cousin's the Miller brothers stayed in California, opened a meat market, with William MILLER becoming a member of the first California Senate.

Would my interest in the Civil War have been different if I had known relative's names who fought in the Civil War? How different it would have been when teacher's talked about father's fighting against sons, and brothers against brother, or cousin against cousin been different if I had known about all of the FALLIS - FOLLIS lists of Union and Confederate soldiers.

Interesting to know that Samuel MILLER a "shirt tail" relative through marriages of distant cousin's in the Union County, Indiana Four Mile Church of the Brethren families designed and built some of the earliest buildings on Miami, Ohio University campus, was a trustee in the Village of Chicago and built the Lighthouse at Michigan City, Indiana now a state historical monument.

Would the disease discussions in biology been different had I known the names of ancestors who actually endured the long months and years suffering towards a slow death? This was the time before antibiotics that we now have that easily treat cholera, pneumonia, scarlet fever, smallpox, tetanus, typhoid, tuberculosis and other seemingly foreign diseases. These were probably considered just a part of life, like when I grew up with measles and mumps considered a part of a normal childhood, now treated as diseases to be avoided. We now worry about terrorist attacks, natural disasters, HIV AIDS and flu pandemic, yet I have only found one relative whose wife died in the 1918 flu pandemic and have not found any relatives who died in a flood, tornado or earthquake.

I grew up during the Cold War during the Communist Era in the 1950's and 1960's when the world feared a nuclear war with Communist Soviet Union or China. I barely remember the 1960's Bay of Pigs invasion with Communist Cuba when school children from Florida were sent to school in Indiana out of fear of an impending war which did not happen. I was too young to understand, but vaguely remember it.

I vaguely remember uncle's talking about the Korean War often called "the Forgotten War" in which the United States fought to stop Communist China from overtaking all of Korea at a cost of 54,000 American lives. I reached the age of majority during the Vietnam War and vividly remember the daily casualty counts on television which totaled over 58,000 American dead, the televised war protests highlighted by the 1968 Democratic Convention fiasco in Chicago and the Kent State Massacre in May 1970.

In 1969 America was trying again to stop the spread of Communist China into Vietnam as they had tried to do in Korea, but had to hold a lottery to select troops. In 1969 my birthdate was in the top 5, when I was eligible for the final draft my birthdate was in the bottom 5, I still don't know what I would have done if I was drafted. Now, knowing my Quaker and Church of the Brethren ancestry, it seems natural to be opposed to government and war. In 2006 we still had 35,000 troops in Korea, but none in Vietnam. I had a friend in college whose brother went to Vietnam where he was killed May 13, 1969 and never came home. America chose to forget the MIA's, Missing In Action soldiers who never came home from Vietnam. As of November 2001 there were still 1,948 missing soldiers from the War in Vietnam.

I was amazed in 1980 when spending a winter in Florida I encountered some "good old southern boys" who when they found out I was from Indiana began to call me a "Yankee". They proceeded on a daily basis to act as if the Civil War had ended last week. You would have thought they or their fathers had fought in a war that had actually ended over 100 years and 4 generations before they were born.

We often hear politicians talk about their Christian moral values, yet when they are caught doing something wrong their first comment is they did nothing illegal. Romans 13-15 discusses following the rules of government, paying your taxes to government because God created all governments. It further says not to criticize fellow Christian's if they worship and eat foods different from your beliefs and do as others request whether you believe as they do simply to promote harmony. Sure makes me wonder if those politicians and other Christian's who claim moral superiority ever read the Bible they claim to believe in.

Do genealogy long enough and you will realize we are related by blood and marriage to most of the people around us. Eventually DNA testing will shock some people when they find out who their DNA relatives are. A few years ago there was controversy over Sally Hemings slave descendants of third President Thomas Jefferson wanting recognition. Recently Civil Rights Activist the Reverend Al Sharpton found out his slave ancestors were owned by ancestors of deceased white segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina. This may only be the first of many high profile surprises.

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