family history my backstory

My Family History

I was raised in a family that was slightly removed from the immediate locale of the rest of our relatives… therefore, whenever we were able to get together with our grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins it was a special treat. My dad’s family had moved into Wharton County, west of Houston, in the 1910’s and my mother’s family moved into Fort Bend County in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. Both of these counties are second tier counties on the Texas Gulf Coast, meaning that the topography could be compared to a plate. The only relief from the flatness of this part of the state is negative, the streams and rivers are all cut into the surrounding flatness.

Even with the many visits and summer weeks staying with my kin, it was mainly just the immediate generation members that we knew. Our family Bible only went back one additional generation listing Great-Grandparents. As a child growing up I remember driving around Wharton County with my dad as he pointed out old houses set in cotton fields where he lived at one time or another growing up. Today I couldn’t even get you close to any of those sites, so that much of our family history is lost now. My dad was also great at passing on the stories he heard as a child growing up. Being the last of 13 children, a lot of his family’s history had happened before he showed up on the scene, so I am sure some of the stories had already taken on a certain amount of myth before he arrived.

I remember the thrill in 1972 when my Grandpa Sewell bought a copy of “Linville Family in America” by Alice Eichholz. There in the book was my family right down to me and going back into England in the 1500’s. I was so impressed with this information I painstakingly copied my direct ancestors all the way back from the book. These five pages of data I have managed to hang onto to this day.

When my dad passed away one of my long lost cousins showed up for the funeral. One of the things he brought was a copy of the ancestry chart for the family. When I had the opportunity to really look over his information, I noticed some discrepancies in the info and what was in our family Bible. Eventually, this led me to the local genealogy library and hours of research only to discover that both of our sets of data were partially right and, of course, partially wrong.

This search for my family’s history started in 1996 with the death of my father (it should have started earlier when I could still pick his brain) and has continued to this day. From the very first some of my research was done online, and today, with the digitalization of old records, more and more of my research is done on the internet. In the process of doing this research I have visited a number of states (and a lot of dank, dark courthouse basements) and sat with the graves of grandparents and aunts and uncles who just a short time ago didn’t even exist in my world. I will say that today I never pass a cemetery without wondering who might be there that I am related to.

Over the last decade I have met and enjoyed the friendship of enumerable other researchers looking for the same ancestors. These distant and not so distant cousins have shared in the thrill of the discovery of each little clue in the long search. It has been with the help of these researchers that I have expanded my research, and it has been the expansion of the available data on the internet that has made re-researching so much fun. The thrill of finding reference to a cousin (long gone now) and then tracing that family back through multiple generations in an hour is like finding buried treasure on the beach.

It was also this search for family history that led me to the Blue Ridge back in 2000. I had a couple of days to kill on a trip to Charlotte, I had a car, and I had a map that led me to Linville, NC. At the time I was not aware of the actual connection I had to the area, as a matter of fact I had made four trips into the Blue Ridge of northwestern North Carolina before I stumbled onto the information that the Linville River was named for a multi great uncle. It was just last year that I came across the records that my fourth Great-Grandfather was one of the original settlers of what was then Wilkes County and now is the community of Vilas, North Carolina. It seems he paid taxes on 270 acres in 1787 on what is to this day known as Linville Creek and were members of the Three Forks Baptist Church from 1790 to 1800. Sometime after 1800 the family moved on to the west and ended up in western Missouri by the 1830’s.

So, does this make mine a 200 year “slow road home”?

The photograph at the start of this text was taken about 1939 and is of my Dad and his family. James P and Sarah (Sallie) Boyd and Family…