Many years ago, a box was discovered in the far corner of the barn owned by my husband’s parents.  The contents inside were a genealogist’s treasure.  There were old photographs, letters, and documents that dated all the way back to the 1700’s.  These family papers had been lovingly passed on from generation to generation, but then somehow had become lost in the random collection of old memorabilia that often inhabits attics, basements, and barns. Covered with dust and cobwebs, this “goldmine” had not seen the light of day in over 40 years.  In the irony of historical research, it is probably the very lack of attention paid to “the box” that salvaged it and kept the contents inside from deteriorating. Tightly packed and sealed, it had withstood the ravages of air, pollutants, moisture, and human touch.


It is my belief that every generation has at least one person in it that is the “keeper of the memories.”  This person is infected with the passionate “bug” of genealogy.  It is an odd infection that drives us to roam about cemeteries looking at tombstones, sit for hours in libraries looking through veritable tons of reading material, spend countless years in front of the computer screen, and completely wear out our eyes transcribing old documents that have handwriting so tiny and illegible that it borders on doing the impossible to make the words out.  The excitement of discovering new facts and clues is like an aphrodisiac; spurring us on to research longer and harder than before.


Our goal is simple:  to preserve, protect, and pass on the legacies of those who have gone before us.  Through their written words, we come to know these ancestors as if they are sitting next to us, and we want to honor their lives.  We become their voice again.


There is also a selfish motive in this obsession with the past.  By reading and learning what our forefathers endured and overcame, it provides perspective for our own lives.  We realize that every person in every generation experiences grief, loss, joy, love, fear... every emotion born in the human soul.  It is the tie that unites us with all the ages.


It also gives us the comfort of knowing that every single one of us makes a mark in the universe.  Our lives are shaped by those that went before us and we shape the lives of those coming after us. We may not know it at the time, but we all leave the world a little different for us having lived in it.  It is such a human trait to want to be “remembered” and in genealogy, we do just that - remember and restore.


There is, indeed, magic in this world.  It happens every time the avid “keeper of the memories” meets up with “the box.”  It is my honor to have been the person upon whom fate felt worthy of bestowing “the box” and its treasures.  It is my deepest desire that in recording some of the old letters I will have done my part in “preserving, protecting, and passing on” the past.  As I have told my grandchildren, “one cannot fully appreciate their future until they understand and honor their past.”


Judy C. Ware  


Chapter 1