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Saturday, January 14, 2012

THE SEVERED TIES

I was working on adding the Indiana descendants of my 5x great grandparents
Joseph and Sara (Herrick) Ellingwood of Lyndesborough, NH when I came to
the case of my 3rd cousin 3x removed Emaline Ellingwood.  Emaline was Joseph
and Sarah's great great granddaughter and this is her line of descent:
Joseph Ellingwood & Sarah Herrick
Joseph Ellingwood Jr & Mary Punchard
Francis Ellingwood & Elizabeth Whiting
Joshua Ellingwood & Elizabeth Dille
Emaline Ellingwood & Albert S Brooks

Emaline was born in Indiana on 16Mar 1862, 31 years after the death of her
great grandfather Joseph Jr. She was married at age 16 to an Albert S Brooks,
gave birth to two children, a boy and a girl who both died in infancy, by age 19,
and died at age 21 on 11Sep 1883.

And as I added the information and sources to my tree, I wondered if anyone
back in New Hampshire even knew she had existed.

I thought back to the letter Return Ellingwood wrote to her nephew Charles
Fletcher in Ohio in 1825 and how she mentions she hadn't seen her brother
Joseph Sr for ten years. And he lived only one state away from her, much
closer than the brothers and sister who had moved westward to New York,
Ohio, and Indiana. Apparently  Return and her sister Martha had kept in
touch by writing letters but Martha died in 1823 and Return's letter to Charles
in 1825 was her delayed response to learning the news.

This is what happened. Family members moved away, sometimes to nearby 
towns and counties, sometimes far away. Keeping the family ties intact depended
on the written word and not everyone was fully capable of doing that. People in
rural areas often had a rudimentary ability to read and write but might not feel
comfortable enough to write long letters. As a generation or two passed and
the older members of the family on both ends died off, those family ties stretched
thin and then were severed completely. Someone if asked might vaguely recall
that their great grandfather's brother had moved someplace out West but they
wouldn't recall where it was or what his name had been. The kin on the other
end might know their grandparents came from Ohio but not know the family
had originally been from New Hampshire.

In some cases, it doesn't have to be distance but anger that separated one
branch one branch of a family from another. We've all heard about cases
where a family argument leads to two relatives never speaking again and
their descendants live in the same town not knowing about each other. I
know about that gap firsthand because of the divorce between our Mom's
parents.

This is how we end up with the NFR's (No Further Records) and brick walls.
We look for records, search archives and websites, and visit cemeteries
to find clues and reattach those family ties, because we're genealogists, and it's
the reason we do what we do.

2 comments:

Cheryl Cayemberg said...

Great post, Bill. I understand severed ties too. My uncle's daughters stopped talking to him when they were children. Divorce and alcoholism. He's recovering and remarried but they don't want to have anything to do with him (a shame, I love him dearly, but I guess I understand). I would have completely lost my 1st cousins if it hadn't been for some sparse clues and Facebook. I'm now the only one in my family that talks to them, but at least someone is and it happens to be the family genealogist.

Thanks for sharing a great post!

Carol said...

Points well made, thanks Bill for another great post.