What motivates people to do family history? Family history is more than names – we are drawn to the stories of their lives. We dig their names and dates out of vital records or the census and we dig deeper into newspapers and family letters to find the stories of their lives.
When I was teaching a genealogy class for the Darien Historical Society (CT) back in the early 1970s I asked my class – why were they interested in their family history? One elderly man said – My sister was the kindest person he ever knew. She never married. I knew that if I didn’t write our family history that no one would remember her.That always stuck with me. In today’s Denver Post Tina Griego wrote:
“Usually it starts with a family story. Grandma was tracking the family and they ended up with a box full of her papers. Or they heard someone in the family fought in the Revolutionary War. Or ‘My ancestors came from Spain and settled in Mexico and I want to find that branch of the family.’ “ What is it, I ask her, that draws people to their family histories? What is it they hope to learn? Why does it matter? As I ask, I am aware that these questions are as much professional as they are personal.
We receive “fan mail” every day – this letter was so good I wanted to share it.
Tom, I’ve been working, several months, on an ‘Great American Success Story’. William L. Ledford and his brother James E. Ledford were born in the mid 1840′s in Cherokee County, NC. by the time they were 6 & 7 years their father had died and they were working in the newly discovered and opened copper mines in eastern Polk Co., TN. They both married in 1866 and both had children. By 1878 they, with others emigrated to Leadville, Colorado to get into the same industry there but with little success. By the 1890′s they had gone to Butte, Montana. Both their wives had died…both had re-married.
In Butte James ran a saloon selling “Overland Rye Whiskey”. William (WL) had obtained a lease on the land surrounding the streams running from two of the area mines. He knew of a precipitation method he’d learned in Polk’s mines that folks there obviously didn’t know. Newspaper accounts give WL and Jim credit for ‘inventing’ the method on several occasions. In three years WL had accumulated over 100,000.00. A fair sum in 1895. He returned to Tennessee with his new wife and only a few of his children.
We were just about to initiate a search for son Thomas when I subbed to GenealogyBank. Thanks to a fantastic find with your service I located several different articles concerning W.L. and Jim Ledford but one was simply outstanding. It seems that Thomas had died sometime between mid 1898 and July 1899.
WL had told brother Jim to make arrangements for the burial. The person who’d actually done the burial was, apparently, trying to gouge WL so the issue went into the courts.
Thus an article giving very detailed accounts of Jim, WL, one of the missing daughters AND Thomas. WOW
Joyce Gaston Reece, Secretary Friends of the Archives Historical & Preservation Society Monroe County, TN