The Grinch Will Steal Christmas, after all…

In spite of the strike, The Grinch Will Steal Christmas–the judge ordered the stage production on Broadway to re-open! Seems the kids who come to New York City to see the show can’t be deprived of Christmas. ( Applause, please.) They are entitled to some Christmas happiness–seeing the good guy win for a change.

In uncertain times, when the economy doesn’t provide enough money. Or when wars go badly and might alone does not rule the day. Or when political matches become tense and unreasonable. Or when gangs fight it out on the city streets where the innocent get caught in the middle. Or when Mother Nature turns her back on rain and earthquakes and ice. Or when rational people no longer have excuses or even descriptions of what happens to them. Genealogy is the anchor.

My favorite story from the era of Henry VIIIth–mid-1500’s–is the newly ennobled Earl who bought a large estate on the outskirts of London. His money was mercantile income from the sale of ships. Through the elaborate gardens were statues of the original Twelve Apostles with their attributes clearly visible. He hired a corps of sculptors to lop off the tell-tale features and to re-do hair, feet, and robes. Then he added statues of twelve women in conversational groupings. And called them his ancestors. This led to several coats of arms being commissioned–because he did not have a coat himself–and set him back a considerable sum of bribe money. Gotta watch out for these ancestors!

If you want a really calming activity in the midst of all our 21st century chaos, work on your genealogy. Identify a corner. Set up a table and chair. Get out your stuff. And even if you lack time to do much with it–just the sight of your ties to the past–a past you can document, will bring a sense of calm into the room.

Genealogy is the anchor for me too. I went to the Family History Library yesterday, all day. And found something remarkable that I want to share with all of you:

Wayne C. Moore, “Paths of Migration,” First Families of Tennessee: A Register of Early Settlers and their Present-Day Descendants. 2000. Available, East Tennessee Historical Society, PO Box 1629, Knoxville TN 37901. 468 pp. This volume is a product of the Tennessee Homecoming, 1986. Lamar Alexander, who was governor in 1986, wrote the Preface. He descends from Thomas Rankin and John Alexander who migrated from Sterlingshire, 1688, to Londonderry and Donegal Ireland, on to Chester County PA and finally to Jefferson County TN. And the pride in his account is contagious.

I have searched the data portion of that book many times. Very good stuff. I just never took the time to read Moore’s essay on pp. 16-61. Until yesterday…

He describes the migration into and across Tennessee as from “forted farm” to “forted farm”–the settlers just kept coming. Stream after stream they just kept coming. They built stockades and forts on their houses to protect themselves and their kin from the Indians.

From county-to-county large numbers of residents from a particular place moved hundreds of miles away to the same place. They traveled together and they followed each other. This striking migration pattern included wholesale removals of church congregations, kinsmen and neighbors enticed by what the front-runners found as they located their dream estates in the middle of Indian Hunting Grounds. The Indians complained to the British government to no avail.

Drawing on two important genealogy articles, Moore acknowledged that dipping into the genealogy literature often revealed important truths:

  1. Mary McCampbell Bell, “Traffic Jam on I-81: Migrations from Virginia to Tennessee,” National Genealogical Society Conference Lecture, 1996. Bell studied thousands of Revolutionary War Pension applications. She discovered that those counties adjacent to the Great Wagon Road–Botetourt, Augusta, Montgomery, Washington–furnished 66% of the Virginians who migrated into Upper East Tennessee. And the counties in Southside Virginia–Halifax, Pittsylvania, Charlotte, Bedford, Amherst, and Amelia to Middle Tennessee. If no one left evidence of their origins–look in these counties first!
  2. Mary W. Higshaw, “History of Zion Community in Maury County, 1806-1860,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 5 (#1 1946): 3-18. Zion Presbyterian congregation moved from the South Carolina backcountry to Maury County TN. And Joseph Rhea brought his whole Presbyterian congregation from Piney Creek Church in Maryland to the Holston Country in 1777.

The essay includes some good pre-1796 maps and the footnotes provide an excellent bibliography. I recommend that you add all three of these excellent pieces to your winter reading list. This is the kind of reading that ensures the Grinch can’t steal your Christmas! Your favorite genealogy guru, Arlene Eakle

PS My phone service is still in limbo–Have to decide what parts of it to continue at home and what to install at my building where the Genealogy Library Center is now beginning to operate. I’m used to having copy machine and FAX at home. And which providers to use for what. Ugh!

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