My own family
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years writing about other people’s families.
From the French and Indian War in colonial times up to the Vietnam conflict, I’ve written more stories than I can count about people’s experiences and about the experiences of past generations.
All the while not knowing the last names of my own great-grandparents.
My own family history was never something I had spent much time pondering.
I don’t really know why.
Maybe I wasn’t curious enough.
Well, I’m curious enough now.
Writing so extensively over the last few months on men – William Alexander, Alexander Blodgett and Sewell Martin – from this county who wrote letters home from across the country during the Civil War, I started to wonder if I had any connections to the War of the Rebellion.
Knowing so very little about the history of my family, the last thing I wanted to do was dump money into a site such as ancestry.com.
I’ve used Findagrave and a bunch of other resources to investigate the men I’ve written about so I put that experience to work, wanting to see how far I could get without spending a dime.
So far, I’m eigth generations back on one side.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I found online what looks an inverse NCAA tournament bracket where I’m the champion and started filling out what I knew.
Parents and grandparents were easy enough. With no surviving grandparents, I was able to go to their obituaries and find great-grandparents pretty quickly, too.
Then I went off on a bunch of internet rabbit trails.
So what have I learned?
¯ I am very much British.
¯ I am very much West Virginian.
¯ And there are pastors all over the place.
Eight generations following my maternal grandfather – the grandparent I was closest with – goes all the way back to a Joseph Forney, identified as a veteran of the Revolution.
His grandson was a Mennonite minister so apparently I’ve got a pacifist streak, as well.
My paternal 5x great-grandfather (not sure if that’s how I should type that out, seems easier than typing great a boatload of times!), was a minister (not Anglican) in England and was working with the American Bible Society as late as 1895.
His son followed in the ministry and wound up in West Virginia, where my grandmother’s family appears to have been for nearly 200 years.
My paternal great-grandfather served in World War I.
And until last week, I had no idea.
I saved the best for last, though.
I found what I was looking for – James H. Baker.
Baker was born in (you guessed it!) West Virginia in 1844.
He would go on to serve as a private in the 4th West Virginia Infantry and then, once his regiment has sustained such losses as to be too small to be effective, signed on with the 2nd West Virginia Veteran Infantry.
Courtesy of a National Park Service broken webpage, I don’t know as much as I want to about Mr. Baker yet. I have a rough idea of where those two units were but not when he was a part of each of them.
So not only do I have some work to do in that area but I also haven’t had much luck on my maternal grand-mother’s side or on some of my paternal grandfather’s side.
That means there’s more out there to discover.
And I can’t wait to see what turns up.