Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Family Historian--a few words on Genealogy

The Family Historian

The phone rings right after dinner and we cringe thinking it’s another telemarketer calling but it’s that worrywart Mark Phelps wanting to know when did Aunt Bessie die, and who did she marry and not only that but when did it happen. Then he wants to know about all her children and even her grandchildren. We never cared for Aunt Bessie that much to begin with so why should we care about these silly little details of her life. We just want to be left alone and not have to get involved in this family business!

How many people at your workplace or the neighbors you bump into can tell you who their 4th Great-Grandfather was or much less what his life was like. Many people never knew their Grandparents much less anybody past that. Ask the average person what their Great-Grandmother’s maiden name was and you probably get a blank stare. I myself have Presidents in my ancestry and much is known about these people because they were important and someone bothered to write down their history so that generations later their story could be told. It’s just as important to the Family Historian how the modest farmer in Caswell County, North Carolina in the 1700’s made his way through this mortal life.

The first time you gaze upon a document that was written over 200 years ago about someone that had the same blood coursing through his or her veins as you do today, it’s an absolutely mesmerizing experience. Just try it some time and you’ll see. Go to a county courthouse and read an old will, land deed or marriage certificate about someone that lived during the time of the Civil War or even better yet during the Revolutionary War. See their signatures there on the 200 year old paper, see how simple their possessions were, see where they lived, and the legacy they left to their family however humble it may be. Some were better off than others and could leave large tracts of land or dozens of slaves to their descendants but most left a small piece of what it had taken them a lifetime to achieve and just wanted to share it with his family in the hopes that it would always remain a secure place for generations to come.

How many people could even fathom a time when young girls married at 14, had 14 children and faced death at every birth or feared the child most likely wouldn’t make it to it’s first birthday. When a simple cold that we treat as a mere inconvenience today could send you to an early grave, unless you were just tough enough to survive. Many didn’t! You exist today because someone made it through the diseases, the wars, the trials that man has faced throughout the annals of recorded history. They survived so you could have a chance to face the brave new world of tomorrow.

Being a Family Historian is most of the time a thankless job. Countless hours researching old documents that you need a degree sometimes just to translate it. Running down leads only to crash headlong into a brick wall because a careless census taker didn’t do his job, or the British Army burned the courthouse and all the ancestral records that it held. Traipsing through snake and tick infested cemeteries that are sometimes scary even in broad daylight and after having risked your personal well being to find you have just completed another wild goose chase. Your spouse is angry because you’re chasing the dead when you’re among the living. Other’s think you’ve flipped your wig because all you want to talk about is someone who turned to dust 100 years ago. So why do they do it? Because they think it’s important to know where you came from, that some day when they’re too old and feeble to continue, that someone in the family will pick up the family flag and march proudly forward into the future, while preserving the past, so 200 years from now when someone asks “What was you Great-Grandmothers maiden name?” They can say “Sit down and I’ll tell you all about it”

Latham Mark Phelps

August 15th 2003

Welcome to the Phelps Family of Caswell and Person Counties, North Carolina. After 25 years of family research I hope to assist other researchers and perhaps gain new insights into my own family history. This site also contains lots of info from Orange and Alamance Counties as Caswell, Person, and Alamance were once all part of Orange County. Most of my lines were in the Orange County area since before the Revolutionary War. I have been helped along the way by many people too numerous to name. Beginning with my two Grandmothers Hattie Belle Morton Lunsford and Catherine James Walker Phelps, both now deceased. I would like to sincerely like to thank my Father--Wilford Latham Phelps who joined me in this project in March 2001 and has been a tireless workhorse in compiling these records. I would also like to thank my wife--Betty Roberts Phelps who many years ago before we were married followed me through graveyards in 4 Counties, Courthouses etc. before the age of the Internet-and who still allows me the time to pursue my lifelong hobby. Also included at this site are the other families in my ancestry Walker-Murray-Harder-Cole-Trollinger-Dortch-Woods-Latta-Lunsford-Morton-Blackwell-Oliver-Lea-Rucker-Rice-Cobb-Fitzgerald-Albarty-Blanchard-Outlaw-Madison-Taylor-Rippy-Sellars--plus others. I will Update this page as necessary and welcome any new info or corrections you could share. This page is still (and probably always will be) under construction. Latham Mark Phelps

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