I like to dabble a bit in genealogy. I find history interesting and our family history fascinating. I’ve been doing research on both sides of the family for years. I get enthused about a particular ancestor and spend weeks tracking down information. Then I get sidetracked by real life and don’t even think about my ancestors for weeks or months. I guess I wasn’t endowed with generous amounts of motivation. But it’s a nice hobby that’s still waiting when I get around to it. Dead people don’t go anywhere! So I add bits and pieces to the puzzle of my past when I find the time.
The internet has helped immensely! I used to spend hours perusing the books and journals and microfilms at the genealogy library for the tiniest scraps of information. Now I have access to census data, marriage licenses, wills, and other family research in the comfort of my home. It might take me just as long to find something, but that’s usually because of missing dates or names.
This week I’ve been concentrating on my great-grandmother, Mary Lettie (Coker) Banta. I found her family listed in the 1880 census. The census information includes occupations, birthplace of parents, ages of all household members, etc. Her family group included her parents, Joseph and Margaret, and her twin sister Martha, and brothers, Ambrose and Joseph. Joseph Sr. was a farmer and young Ambrose worked in the brick yard (along with several other boys and men on the census rolls). Other citizens were listed as “hirelings”, “servants”, “shopkeepers”. And you could list yourself or family member as “deaf, blind, idiotic, or insane”. I wonder what the difference was between idiotic and insane? LOL
In the Texas Marriages I found entries for Mary and Martha in 1886. They each married a Banta brother. Martha and Henry married in April. Mary and Calvin married in December. The girls were fourteen!
By 1920 Mary was in Oklahoma with her husband and family, including my grandmother Della. The census page for them is particularly interesting because the enumerator was great-grandpa, Calvin Banta. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed except that I was rechecking the date of the entries. So now I not only have the listing for their family, but the entire page is written in grandpa’s handwriting!
Speaking of handwriting…boy has it changed. You need an interpreter to read some early handwriting. I actually did have to write to the county clerk and ask for a “translation” of my great-great-grandparent’s marriage certificate. I not only couldn’t read most of the handwriting, but couldn’t understand what I could read. Here is a portion: “Both of the county and state of aforesaid and of the lawful age and you are hereby commanded to make return of this license within sixty days, with your certificate then, or how you have executed the same.” Huh? I hope they understood it!
So this is one of the little things I like to do when I have time. Most of our family can be traced back to the 1500’s. There are gaps here and there- dates missing, people not identified completely. Those are the puzzle pieces needed to complete the picture. But for the most part my research keeps matching up with the research of others. I find someone who has an old Bible entry or a birth certificate or marriage license or photo that no one on this side of the family has seen. I copy it and include it in my notebook. I share what I can with others who are researching their family. I keep dabbling…