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Genealogy Gazette

Volume 7, Number 16
Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369
September 2, 2015
Publisher's Notes
In this article we discuss why we do genealogy. I started many, many years ago because I was inquisitive and just wanted to find out more my family. Through my years of research, I hope to leave a lasting legacy for future generations about our family's past.
Why did you start your genealogy research and what do you hope to leave?  
Thank you,
James L. Douthat
Mountain Press
Whenever I speak to a group like I did this past week, I am always asked the same question: “Why did you start doing genealogy?” This is usually sparked when I mention that I started in High School and published my first genealogical piece at age 17. I have come to several reasons why I started and hopefully this will help you look deeper into your own research.
When I was growing up, I was just interested in the stories that my grandfather told me about his younger days. The one story that fascinated me the most was the one of my grandmother’s great grandfather captured by the Shawnee Indians and sold into slavery in Canada. Grandmother loaned me a book that was written in 1854 about the story written by her great grandfather’s sister Mary. Mary and a neighbor had also been captured by the Shawnee and sold into slavery. You can see how a 15-16 year old boy was captivated by this story. I was especially intrigued by the fact that they were saved and returned home to Virginia. I just wanted to know more about these ancestors.
I was also fascinated by the stories that my Grandfather told about the people he knew and met. Some of the names he mentioned caused me to question where they came from and who they really were. When you get a name like Cosby Buevisa you know there has to be a story in there somewhere.
The more I learned from him, the more I wanted to know. Unlike other relatives who knew their parents and that was all they really wanted to know, I was too curious not to find out the people he talked about. My grandfather was a politician and ran in twenty straight elections for the job of treasurer of the town in which we lived. He won them all and knew most everyone in town. In addition, his brother Will was the treasurer of the county and a half-brother was treasurer of a neighboring county. Between the three of them, they knew a lot of people and many of them were related to us in some fashion. It was a lot like the first political scene for the United States. For the first 25-50 years, the aristocracy of Virginia controlled the country either by blood or relationships. Many of the first Presidents were Virginians and their blood relatives were heads of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Keep in mind that you have to be careful of taking gossip for fact in these stories. Somewhere along the way, someone told me that we were related to Amelia Earhart. I knew that there were Earharts in our family, so I just knew we were related to her as well. After much research, I determined that we were not related. However, I learned a great lesson in the process. You have to start with what you know for fact and that can be proven with proper documents, not just hear say. When I teach courses in beginning genealogy, I tell the students to listen to the stories and gossip of the family, but don’t hold those as truth until you can prove them to be correct.
In doing the work, remember to keep good records with a detailed system for recording the facts and where you find them. Even if this is found in Grandmaw’s attic, make a note of that and where it will be found. In later years, Grandmaw’s attic will be lost and at least we have a place to start searching for that lost material.
Also, keep asking your living relatives to tell stories about when they were younger. Just the other day, I was talking with one of my wife’s uncle about his grandfather in Arkansas and he gave me a couple of pages of material that someone had sent him. There was not much in the papers that I did not already know about these folks. However, later in the evening he came back to our house with a large envelope of materials that had also been sent to him years ago. Something in our conversation just sparked his memory about this information. The envelope contained a world of information that I needed to fill in some of her family’s chart. This was so timely since we were planning a trip to the old home place the next weekend. Now with all of the new material in hand, I decided not to go until we had a chance to study this information before going. There were dates, locations of home sites, stores they owned and even the cemeteries where they were all buried. It was a gold mine of information.
Genealogy research can also help you come to a better grasp of history and the real story behind a lot of the actions taken through the years. From the massacred members of my early family by the Shawnee in Virginia, I have spent time studying the tribe of Shawnee and their connections with the Cherokee of our present home land. I now understand that the small group that did the killing of my great-great-grandfather, his wife and nine children as well as hired hands were on the outside fringe of the nation itself. The Shawnee were a part of the push by the white man in their quest for the west and this was how they rebelled. My genealogy research has led me to better understand both sides of the conflict and the history of the time period.
With all of this work through the years, I leave my future generations a legacy of the past with the stories, the facts, and the fiction that will enable them to move ahead knowing where they came from and hopefully a sense of direction of where they will be going.



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If you have any questions or suggestions for future editions, please email us at jimd@mountainpress.com.