I’ve been working on my family tree again. Since I changed computers and lost most of my old data, I’ve had to go back through paper copies of all my old files and retype everything to the new Family Tree Maker 2009 program that I purchased last month. I’m really enjoying the process, but it has made me painfully aware of something lacking in my data: stories!
As I’ve typed in names and dates and relationships it has occurred to me that one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the Banta Genealogy printed in 1893 is the stories of the people. My mother’s ancestors come alive in the little comments about them and the stories of their travels and marriages and activities. I love to read about their encounters with Indians and their adventures in the wilderness. But I also love to read about their ordinary, daily lives. I love little bits of information like these:
1. “I give and bequeath unto Anna, my beloved wife, all and singular my lands, and also all my personal estate of every sort and kinde.”
2. “Henry Banta was the father of twenty-one children, and is said to have left a larger number of descendants than any other man in Kentucky.”
3. “The New York Herald, of March 14, 1882 contained an account of the coming celebration of her one-hundredth birthday…”
4. “She had ninety-one grandchildren and eight-one great grandchildren. She reads well without glasses, having her second sight, but prefers glasses for steady reading. She says she can sew very well and knit just as good as ever, but not quite so fast.”
5. “For many years he officiated as a minister of the Baptist denomination- old school- declining all pay for his services.”
For the most part my own work has been sterile and lifeless! And it occurred to me that I am the only one left, at least on our side of the family, who actually knew some of these people! I may be the only one to remember that Aunt Ruth made Hawaiian chicken wings and called them “Hiwahyan” chicken, or that Uncle Don and Aunt Marie loved to dance in the living room. Or that Gran had a bird that sat at the table and ate off her plate. Or that Bigg dipped snuff. Or that Hib stopped his farm work each day to watch a soap opera.
Thankfully the Family Tree Maker program has a section called “notes” that encourages the addition of not only source information, but personal information that adds color and life to the raw data of people’s lives. And I’ve also made it my new mission to write a separate story of everything I can personally recall about each of my ancestors. It may not be important now, but a hundred years from now, my descendants may find the stories as fascinating as the ones in my Banta book.