Is not all that we do in Family History Research because we are curious? About where we came from. Who our ancestors were. What their lives were like. Why they moved from place to place. What they did, who they married, and how they died. So many things to be curious about, so it’s difficult to narrow in on one specific thing, but I’ll have a go.
The first person who came to mind is my great great grandfather, Zachariah Whitaker. I know only the basics about him. Born 10 September 1836 in Vigo County, Indiana on the family farm near what is now Lewis; married Cassandra Stuck, moved the family to a farm in eastern Clark County, Illinois, enlisted in the Illinois Infantry but was out in a few months due to an elbow injury, came home, had a few children, and collapsed and died at age 56 after leaving a Sunday school meeting on 20 November 1892 near Hardinsville, Illinois, several miles from his home in West York.
What I am curious about and have searched for endlessly is for what church he was a Reverend. He came from a line of Baptist preachers – his father Isaac and grandfather John before him. Their churches were well documented and known, both in Kentucky and in Indiana.
Zachariah and his wife Cassandra are buried in Plymouth Cemetery, which, after being curious about its history while writing this post, I discovered was a Methodist Cemetery. A brief article about the church and cemetery at https://clark.illinoisgenweb.org/church/church_plymouth.html lists many names of the families near his farm in Melrose Township and spouse names of his children and others: Ralston, Drake, Due and Dix. This is seeming less and less curious. Perhaps he and his family joined the Methodist Church instead of the Baptists. I would think it unusual for a practicing Baptist preacher to be buried in a Methodist cemetery. So was he ordained as a Methodist minister? I have done lots of research about the Baptists, but not about the Methodists.
This is the Alien Registration card photo of my great grandmother, Caroline Reintjes Sauer. I have this document, which is very rare. Most German Americans burnt them when they were no longer required. When my sister found this document, it made me think about what Caroline’s life must have been like in Indiana during that period of “The Great War”. I’ve written a short bio piece on her, but must think more deeply about this. Grandma Caroline died on Christmas Eve, 1927 in Indiana.
I love stories of strong women, especially when I find them in my ancestry. When I found Grietje Cozyn (multiple spellings of that Dutch name), I was so happy to read her biography. And because of the historical nature of the time in New Amsterdam, the location of her family farms in what became Lower Manhattan near Wall Street and on the Stuyvesant property is well established. I love thinking about her life in the early Dutch colony and that she was part of the group that established the Tappan Patent in what is today Rockland County and surrounds. The house her 3rd husband built for their family is still there. After her lifetime, later during the Revolution, that house was twice used by General Washington as a headquarters.
Here is something about Grietje that I shared with my women’s group last year for International Women’s Day, my 9th great grandmother:
foundations: late 14c., “action of founding,” from Old French fondacion “foundation” (14c.) or directly from Late Latin fundationem (nominative fundatio) “a founding,” noun of action from past-participle stem of Latin fundare “to lay a bottom or foundation” (see found (v.1)). The Latin word is glossed in Old English by staþol.
It’s impossible to identify the many foundations or founders of our family in an historical sense. The many branches are infinitely broad and deep; or maybe they are the roots. So why do we think about upward branches instead of the roots as our foundation, given all those tendrils below ground out of sight, in the past, who have provided the nourishment for all that came later? Alex Haley recognised the importance of Roots. We talk of putting down roots. But we lay a foundation when building a house.
One of those foundations for my direct Whitaker family line was John Whitaker who sailed to the Maryland colony in the mid 1600s, likely as an indentured servant to pay for his passage and establish his new life. There were several John Whitakers who arrived then, so which one was ours is lost to the depths of time. His origin story from England is therefore a dead end as well. Did he establish an institution? An endowment? He did acquire land after leaving his indenture period. Through his wife he sent children into the world who took his farming legacy for a time to the wilds of western Pennsylvania near Fort Pitt, then down the Ohio river, and into the wilds of Kentucky, establishing some of the earliest Baptist churches in and around modern Louisville, another sense of religious foundation. Preacher Isaac Whitaker and his sons later moved the family from Kentucky to Indiana in the early 1800s, establishing my Indiana identity through several past generations, with a brief few decades across the Wabash in eastern Illinois before returning to Vigo County where I and my sister were eventually borne and raised.
I wish I had known of these foundation places in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois and even my own county in Indiana, places that I visited in ignorance of the relationship to my family foundations. It would have been much more meaningful to me to know that I was walking where their farms had been, feeling those roots beneath my feet.