Generally these OHA posts are all about food and the way people cooked the dickens out of it around the turn of the last century, or possibly the one before that. But in the olden days they did more than overcook seafood. When the sun went down and chores were done, my maternal grandfather researched genealogy at his rolltop desk. My mother remembers him calling long lost relatives in New York state, noting marriage lines and cross referencing maiden names. His four children could recite the Barnard line back seven generations: Raymond, Louis, Judah Harrison, Judah Pinney, Ebenezer, Francis and Joseph.
All his work on the family line is gone now, lost with the rolltop desk. A few years ago I inherited a family bible (or three) and tried to begin again. After a few weeks the piece of vellum I had taped to the wall had grown to 5′ x 6′, with extra pieces flapping all over with the names of children I’d forgotten and second marriages. I had to take it down when winter really set in and we started up the wood stove so as not to end the family line in a house fire.
Two years later I tried my first software genealogy program. It sucked – I think that’s actually the technical term. Family Tree Maker 1.0 was deeply flawed, structurally unsound and compulsively tidy. No one ever remarried, had step children or came into the line undocumented. In my family it’s not unusual to have one set of siblings marry another set, and then the remaining two marry after their spouses have passed on. This kind of behaviour is hard on probate courts and software, and don’t even get me started on gender issues. FTM 1.0 hated my family so much it eventually stopped working altogether.
Two weeks ago I bought a copy of Family Tree Maker 2010, because winter is setting in and I knew what would happen if I started taping big sheets of vellum to the wall behind the wood stove. I never thought I’d be plugging software on this blog, but this product is more fun than a video game. Well, any video game that’s not GTA IV.
My favorite of the Barnards has always been Francis. Referred to as “Deacon” Francis in the lore, he married Lucretia Pinney in 1740 when she was 19 and he was 21. Starting in 1743 they had 13 children: Lucretia, Lydia, Irana, Aaron, Moses, David, Sara, Elizabeth, Elijah, Ebenezer, Samuel, Elihu, Caroline and Francis, Jr. They lived in the same town I grew up in, and my mother often told me of the sign on the side of the house that proclaimed:
The house stood on Duncaster Rd. until 1989. I have a vivid memory of the sign, but now I can’t remember if I saw it myself or simply heard the story often enough to make it real. In ’89 they took the house down and the Wintonbury Historical Society put up a plaque in honor of the sons. Tonight I’m going to fire up the program and record the daughters, too.