Virginia [and Valentine's Day] is for Lovers–Genealogy Lovers

When my younger son, John, was 8 years old he became fascinated with the photograph of a boy in an old family album. He thought the photo was of himself at a younger age. Actually, it was the twin brother of his great grandfather Eakle.

I promised John when he turned 12, I would take him to Virginia to discover who the boy in the picture was. He was so excited, he told everyone he was going to Virginia on a genealogy trip–even his school teacher.

His 12th summer arrived and I had a large genealogy conference in Atlanta GA. I planned to attend the conference, then to meet John in Richmond for our trip. He would have none of it. He wanted to see Atlanta too–after all, the Dukes of Hazzard had already shown him what fun Georgia could be.

We had a great time. Virginia archivists and librarians loved John. They assigned him his own search number and seat. They allowed him to read microfilm alone and to use the copy machine himself. He was interested, willing to learn, demonstrated he could follow library rules, and even though he enjoyed Atlanta, he loved Virginia.

We walked cemeteries. We climbed battlefield towers. We explored the foundations and cisterns of Eakle farm buildings and barns. We took a gizillion photos. And made copies of all the documents we found on his ancestors.

The only travel rule we agreed upon was that each day we would try some new food: hush puppies, crawdads, apple-pan-dowdy, Pennsylvania German custard, grits, crabcakes. John tried them all–even chopped liver mousse (ugh! he said).

And we searched the cemetery where John Everett Eakle was buried beside his grandfather, Henry Kennedy Eakle. But…we had to return home again to discover the story behind the photograph.  Of a young doctor who died before his time.
Today, Ancestry’s 14 Feb Daily News referenced Valentine’s Day articles that have appeared online and in the magazine, Ancestry. One article caught my attention: Maureen Taylor, “Roses Are Red, Violets Are Blue…” Ancestry Daily News 14 Feb 2006, with sound advice on how to preserve the romantic memorabilia in our own family archives, including photographs.

Had it not been for that family photograph album so carefully preserved by the Eakle family as they travelled West on the overland train, my son John and I would have missed one of the most important genealogy experiences of our lives. And my son and I would know much less about ourselves, each other, and our Eakle ties.

And the January/February 2007, Ancestry magazine carries a delightful introduction to their new Immigration database of more than 100 million passenger and crew names for immigrants who came into America through Ellis Island and other American ports. Check out “An Immigrant’s Kiss,” p. 37.

The Italian kisses his children but scarcely speaks to his wife, never embraces or kisses her in public. The Hungarian and Slavish people put their arms around one another and weep. The Jew of all countries kisses his wife and children as though he owned all the kisses in the world and intended to use them all up quick. Maud Mosher, 1910, Matron at Ellis Island

This is the way the article begins and my mind was flooded with the story related by the dear Lebanese-Americans I have interviewed for a family history I ‘m compiling. How these people loved each other and helped each other emigrate and get a new start in life–so determined to begin anew with each other. One family tells the story of how their aunt had an eye infection when they arrived at Ellis Island. The officials told her hey could not admit her with eye trouble and she would be detained and then returned home. No way…she cut her own eye out rather than be sent home without her family. Her black eye-patch was a badge of courage and honor among those family members.

Valentine’s Day, like Virginia, is for Genealogy Lovers. Share a family genealogy story with your loved ones today–and every day. Happy Genealogy Lovers Day! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

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