Why do I do history & genealogy, and
How did I do it?
D. A. Sharpe
The study and pursuit of genealogy and history has been an interest of mine since about 1978. I heard of some historical information, both about my family and about that of my wife, Suzanne Boggess Sharpe. Then I learned of some interesting history on my father's side of the family. So, I was drawn to learn more about the history in our family lines, and thus the pursuit began.
It has since come to my realization that a knowledge of your heritage helps give understanding to who you are and what may have shaped why your family is like they are! One particular aspect, which has been of interest to me, is to capture information about what Christian heritage and experience my family had.
In 591, English King Ceawlin, received Christian Baptism. He is the earliest member of our family's ancestry that claimed Christianity, over 1,400 years ago. Pope Gregory had sent a missionary from Rome circa 591, named Father Columba. King Ceawlin is the 35th great grandfather of Edward Southworth, a British upper class noble whose first wife was Alice Carpenter. After Edward died, Alice went to the New World, to the Plymouth Colony at the beckoning of the Colony's Governor, William Bradford. She and William married in what was the fourth marriage in that New World Colony. She and William became my seventh great grand parents. King Ceawlin, because of his lineage down through that of my son-in-law, Steven O. Westmoreland of Wise County, Texas, is the 49th great grandfather of my grandchildren, Kate, Jack and twins Lily and Sarah Westmoreland; and youngest son, Sam.
One particular Christian heritage story of interest is about Isaacs Watts and my cousin, Sir. Thomas Abney.
My early years of genealogy were spent contacting known relatives by mail or phone to learn what they knew and the directions to which they could point me. Visits to libraries and courthouses began to take place in areas where it was understood that the family lines had lived at one time or another. There were lots of walks through old cemeteries, and the camera became a recording tool for capturing information.
Wanting to be organized, composition of the stories being discovered was committed to word processing equipment. Affiliating with genealogical organizations, such as lineage societies (Sons of the American Revolution in 1988 and Sons of the Republic of Texas in 2005) and family line associations (Boggess Family Association late 1980’s) helped form good resources. I am a life member in the Dallas Genealogical Society and of the Wise County Historical Society. People in those groups often provided marvelous help and pointers in locating information. Today, I am a dues-paying member of a dozen such genealogical and historical societies, and an officer in two of them.
There are several genealogical search services available for Internet access. My choice has been Ancestry.com, which may be the largest or most-used resource of that kind. To use all of the range of its services generally costs around $200 annually. However, considering the information one can acquire, versus the expenses of traveling across the country to courthouses, libraries, etc., it is a real value.
Maintaining a personal web site has been a boon to me. Posting various forms of genealogical charts and reports gives access by the public to your stories. I have learned that you need to be careful about not displaying factual data about living relatives, as showing such can make people really mad! Concern about identity theft drives that motivation. The other driver is that the personal stuff is “none of your business!”
My search has been made a little easier, because my mother is descended from British Monarch family lines, about which much is published in the public domain, and which is fairly accessible to research. My father also came from family lines that were connected to a number of early people of significance in American History. My earliest direct lineage goes back to my 38th great grandfather, who was a Norwegian Viking in the 600's AD. Many genealogists do not have the fortunate luxury that I have had in that regard, and have to do a lot more work of development.
For example, my family has relations with all of the British monarchs from 520 A.D. to today, except for 85 years. About five of those years out of ruling position were when Oliver Cromwell ruled England and the rest were reigns prior to William the Conqueror (my seventh cousin, 26 times removed). Relationships have been defined with 20 of the 44 Presidents of the United States, and there are a few more for me yet to research. Connections exist with two U. S. Vice Presidents as well and two Nobel Peace Prize Winners (1906 & 1929).
My research has enabled me to accumulate records on over 9,000 relatives representing over 3,100 marriages. I used to think that was a lot, until I met some professional genealogists who have files of relatives up in the five figures!
If you wonder about third cousins, four times removed, etc., here is an online explanation:
The personal web site has been a source of other genealogists discovering, through online search process, that my family information can relate to them. They contact me, mostly by the e-mail address I post, but occasionally by phone as well. Being publicity shy is not in my bag of concerns, so the public exposure brings far more benefit to me than has anything unpleasant.
One element that has been useful in composing genealogical narratives and giving them interest is to incorporate well-known public occasions that took place on or near the date of a relative's birth, marriage or death. It may be interesting to know that your great, great grandfather was born on the day that Ulysses S. Grant was inaugurated in his first term of United States Presidential Office, etc. Maybe your parents were married on the date that a patent was issued for some product that is solid American culture today!
I encourage people to become interested in their family histories and to record them, not only for their own self-enjoyment, but also for the benefit of their children, grand children and the descendants even after that. Identify those relatives you have who are oldest, and get to them with your interview pad to write their thoughts and recollections while they still have cognizant memories. They and the other people related to your family lines will appreciate your provision of these marvelous facts and stories in an organized format.
Dwight Albert (D. A.) Sharpe
805 Derting Road East
Aurora, TX 76078-3712
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