Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The People I Met in My Genealogy Research Part 2

I was a teenager when another important event in my life of genealogy research occurred. My grandmother Edie beckoned to me, asking that I come with her to her study, a little desk area she had set up in her bedroom. “I want to show you something,” she said. From a folder, Edie lifted three large pieces of paper, each the size of two regular sheets of paper. She unfolded all three sheets and laid them out on her desk. A shape ran across one sheet and over to the next. It looked like a Chinese fan – a half circle with many spokes leading out from the center. On virtually all the spokes leading out from the center, a name was hand-written. On the “handle” of the fan was the name Elizabeth Baldwin Sherman (here's a photo of her).

Elizabeth Baldwin Sherman (Thacher)

Reverently, Edie explained to me what the fan was. “This is a family tree. It was created and researched for my grandmother by her children. Elizabeth Sherman was my father’s mother. Her grandfather is the man who signed the Declaration of Independence.” I followed up the spokes of the fan to her grandfather, Roger Sherman. I knew this name well, as everyone in the family did. Roger was the red-haired man from Connecticut, a great leader in the formation of this country. I found out much more about him later, including the fact that he also signed the United States Constitution, but that’s a story for a different chapter (or book). But there were so many other names on this fan, hundreds of them. Names like Prescott, Wellington, Perkins and Standish.

“Edie, is this right?” I asked. “Is this really Miles Standish, captain of the Mayflower?”

“Yes, I imagine it is.” She said as if she was mildly surprised, but surely she already knew. Perhaps she wanted me to discover him for myself or to test my knowledge of U.S. History. In any case, I could see that she was pleased that I was so interested.

I can’t tell you now why she chose to give a copy of “the fan” to me, a fan that detailed her own genealogy back to the early American colonists. Perhaps it was the way I’d sometimes stared at the old pictures on the wall in her hallway. Perhaps she remembered how much fun I’d had with that earlier genealogy project. Whatever her reasons were, I felt at the time that she was entrusting the family genealogy records to me and that she was passing the torch to me as the family historian.

Now, I have to tell you that I idolized my grandmother. She was smart and worldly and wise and inspirational. And yet she was comfortable allowing me as a youngster to sit in on and even participate in the philosophical discussions that occurred over glasses of wine around her pool each summer. So if I felt at the time that she wanted me to be the family historian, sure as anything I was going to take on that role. And so I have.

By the way, I have to give a ton of credit to the people who researched and compiled “the fan.” Now that I’ve been able to compare the information it contains, the fan matches up remarkably well to the consensus of what is published in overlapping trees I’ve found on the internet over the years. The only differences I’ve found have been the spelling of some of the names. It’s a remarkable work of genealogical research and I’m greatly in debt to them. Unfortunately, I can’t even name them since I don’t know which of Elizabeth Sherman’s children participated in the project. The next two pages present the bulk of the information contained in the fan, though certainly not all! I’ve catalogued the remainder of the information in a database that resides both on my computer and on the internet.

Ancestry.com if you have an account there: family tree starting place

If not, Rootsweb here: Starting place #2. For more detail, click on "Display pedigree in text format".

Go to Part 3