Thursday, April 11, 2013

What's in a name?

A lot.

Let me explain.  I'm an amateur genealogist.  I love unravelling the puzzles of my family history and my husband's too.  His is a doozy, lemme tell ya.

I have a double name.  Very traditional - very southern.  I like it but I've quit being called the middle name for quite a while... something like 15 years, so if someone calls me the double name, I know they are either family or have known me for a long, long time.  And I'm okay with being a double-named Southern traditionalist.

Okay back to genealogy.  It's a sometime obsession for me.  I'll work on it for hours and hours and hours and not sleep for a few days while I do research ( and let me say thank GOD for online records - as much as love going to the Archives, it just isn't convenient and they just won't let me bring coffee in next to their microfilm machines) and then puzzle and moan and groan and make the family miserable with my stories of new discoveries.  Then I won't work on it for a long time, usually due to my paying work.

Okay what is my point anyway?  Oh yeah.  Names.

One letter can change a name.  One branch of my family has a name that end with an "s".  That name ending with an "r" is a completely different thing.  It's a different family.  So folks who read census records ASSUME that the one ending in "s" is wrong and make it the more common "r".  Why is that important?  Well... I can't find my great-great-great grandmother's daddy and it's driving me batty.  But because I have corrected the information that these two surnames are really different families, I can rule out a bunch of potential fathers for Marinda Joines Waller.

So this week I had the opportunity to travel and see where my family first lived in Georgia.  I found Waller Rd.  How cool?  (For those who don't know, Waller is my maiden name.)  I found Daniel New Bridge.  He was my great-great grandfather and was a Baptist preacher.  I found the homeplace of my great-great-great-great grandparents, Richard and Nancy Lightfoot (which is an English name, not Indian).  I took a lot of pictures of graves and then came home and did some research and wished I had taken about 200 more pictures of other graves.

Part of my fascination with genealogy is I feel a connection to these people.  Weird?  Maybe, but these are the people who shaped the people who shaped the people who shaped me.  Some of them have tragic stories.  Some of them are courageous.  Like Caterina Wessinger Kleckley who was captured by the Creek Indians in South Carolina, but was released because she was so stubborn.  I like her.  Like my Kleckley ancestors who fled Germany due to religious persecution and came to a place where they could worship freely.  Even my Scottish descended great-grandfather who had some sort of feud with siblings and changed the spelling of his last name to separate from them.    I see my green eyes and ears from my Big Daddy who died two years before I was born, and the crazy sense of humor I've been told about from my Granddaddy who also died two years before I was born.

I look at these pictures and visit these places and wonder about their lives, their homes, their faith.  And I thank them.  And thank God for them.

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