Time travel as close as your local cemetery.

Learning about our ancestors is more than names and dates

May 14, 2014 / by davidwalton

Researching family roots can be overwhelming. But, over time, as you start connecting the dots, it becomes easier and very rewarding. I think sometimes the problem is researchers get caught up in trying to see how far back they can trace their family’s beginnings that we forget some very important steps.

Oh sure, names, dates and relationships are all important. But I think it’s just as important to know what everyday life was like for our relatives. Can you imagine what it would be like to have no indoor plumbing or electricity? Or even worse, no computer or internet? How would the iGeneration survive!?!!

I’d like to know more about my relatives as individuals: their personality, how they made a living, their daily struggles, did they exercise their right to vote, what they did for fun and entertainment.

For some relatives, my questions would be more direct:

Paternal grandmother: Who’s the true father of your eldest daughter?
Maternal grandmother: Why did you divorce grandpa?
Paternal grandfather: Is it true you had a son out of wedlock?
Maternal great-grandfather: What was it like fighting in World War I?
Paternal great-great grandmother: What was it like growing up in an orphanage?
Paternal great-great grandfather: Why did you abandon your wife and son?
Maternal great-great grandfather: Where did you bury your life savings on the family farm?!

Melissa Wiseheart and Mandy Dick bring New Albany’s past to life by portraying two of its early residents.

Genealogy is history and very important just like the historic data on a town or city. So it was both a surprise and delight at a recent meeting of the Southern Indiana Genealogy Society (SIGS) when attendees were introduced to a pair of special guests: Olivia Butterfield and Hattie Scribner.

Ollie Butterfield (played by Melissa Wiseheart) is the wife of George Butterfield, who helped establish the New Albany Public Library and served as its first librarian when it opened to the public in July 1885. Mrs. Butterfield also talked at length about the history of the library, from its beginning to present day.

Hattie Scribner (played by Mandy Dick) talked about how her grandfather, Joel Scribner, and his two brothers, Nathaniel and Abner, founded the new river town of New Albany. She took pleasure in telling a story about the time her great-uncle Abner traveled down the Ohio River to New Orleans where he collected profits from a consignment of sugar that were to be used for various business adventures. As it turns out, the boat sank before the sugar could be unloaded. She ended with how she sold the family’s beloved home, the Scribner house, to the Piankeshaw Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.

Acting SIGS President Norma Windell Lincoln holds newly printed programs for the “History and Heritage Celebration” which takes place this fall.

Acting SIGS President Norma Windell Lincoln holds newly printed programs for the “History and Heritage Celebration” which takes place this fall.

During the meeting, a new SIGS project was announced — First Families of Floyd, Clark and Harrison counties will honor and preserve the memory of tri-county pioneers. The intent of the project is to document the lives and contributions of some of the countries’ early Native Americans and pioneer African Americans, women, immigrants and children. The event — History and Heritage Celebration — will debut on Thursday, October 2, 2014 at the New Albany-Floyd County Public Library.

What interesting facts have your learned about your ancestors; I’d love to hear about it.

Until next time…

2 thoughts on “Learning about our ancestors is more than names and dates

  1. Jana Last says:


    Oh yes. I’d love to know more about my ancestors as individuals as well. Earlier this week, I posed some questions I wish I had the answers to about my great-grandmother.

    I want you know that your blog post is listed in today’s Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/05/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-may-16-2014.html

    Have a wonderful weekend!

  2. Pingback: Stories | A Wise Heart's Journey

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