Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Earlier this year I made a discovery that made me think about
the connection between poetry and history. For centuries poems
have been written about historical events and figures, and about
places our ancestors may have lived or visited. It occurred to me
that poetry was a great resource to help us understand even more
the times they in which they lived.

Last month I issued my "Great American Local Poem Genealogy
Challenge" to my fellow geneabloggers:

1. Find a poem by a local poet, famous or obscure, from the region one
of your ancestors lived in. It can be about an historical event, a legend,
a person, or even about some place (like a river)or a local animal.

2. Post the poem to your blog (remembering to cite the source where
you found it.)

3. Did it inspire you to research the subject of the poem and how it
relates to your ancestor?

4. Submit your post's link here to me by November 22nd and I'll publish
all the entries on Thanksgiving Day!

The responses I got deal with poems ranging from Europe to
California and written from the 17th century up to the present.
I think you'll enjoy reading what these geneabloggers found!

Leading off, Dorene Paul of
Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay
presents The Poem "Erie" by Rev. L..B. Gurley. Dorene tells us
some things about Rev. Gurley's life and of how the poem reminds
her of time she has spent herself by Lake Erie

John Newmark of
Transylvanian Dutch contributes three poems
that remind him of his European ancestors:

Poetry: The Forest--Emilius Buczi is a Hungarian poem about
a forest, the description of which could be the same as one
close to a village where John's Hungarian ancestors lived.

Poetry: TS Eliot- The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock represents
John's relatives who lived in St.Louis and London, since Elliot came
from the first and spent much of his life in the second city.

Poetry: Julian Ursin Niemcewicz- America and General Washington
commemorates John's Polish ancestry with a work by an 18th century
expatriate describing his visit with George Washington!

Heather Rojo who writes Nutfield Genealogy chose The Ballad of
Cassandra Southwick
as her poem. It's based on an actual event
and was written by the great New England poet, John Greenleaf

Vickie Everhart from
BeNotForgot' sends us a great discussion of
Longfellow and Cleeves and Peaks Island. It was orginally written
for the August 2009 Carnival of Postcards and it includes a beautiful

From Tina Sansone over at
Gtownma's Genealogy we have Southern
by Southern poet Patricia Neeley-Dorsey. Both Tina and the poet
were born in Mississippi and there's some great imagery of the
Southern lifestyle.

Next, Leah introduces us to Joaquin Miller's "California Christmas"
in her post White Storm of Roses at
The Internet Genealogist. Very
lyrical and very appropriate as we enter the holiday season.

Over at her blog
Herstoryan entertains us with a poem about a
most unusual battle in which an ancestor took part. Read all about it
in Poem: Col.Elderkin and the Battle of the Frogs.

T.K. of
Before My Time shares her analysis of a poem written
in the year 1640 concerning the founding of the town of
Woburn, Ma. The post is entitled
A Rude Copy of Verses on
the History of Woburne Towne and it's a fascinating look at the
meaning behind the words!

From the 17th and 18th centuries we return to more recent times.
Elizabeth Swanay O'Neal's uncle John Swanay was a poet and she
presents an excerpt from his semi-autobiographical work Bascomb
Falls:A Family Portrait at Little Bytes of Life.

footnoteMaven's family has strong connections with New York City
and so her poem is Mannahatta By Walt Whitman. She also provides
us with a link to a site with an audio reading of the poem. Thanks, fM!

Next, from Jasia of Carnival of Genealogy fame, comes "St. Joseph's"
by Doug Tanoury. It's accompanied by a slide show of the church
that inspired the poem, and you can find it at Ode to a Detroit Landmark
at Jasia's Creative Gene blog.

My friend and co-worker Laura Vona is transcribing letters and journals
of her late grandfather Roy M Pearson Jr and has written a poem about
the night after his death:

"He was killed in a car accident near his New London, NH home before
I had much opportunity to get to know him as an adult. The night after
the accident, I stayed up late in his study, examining his books and helping
myself to the second half of a bottle of wine that he had every expectation
of coming home to finish."

Read the poem (and others) at her website here. She's a talented writer
and I'm going to keep working on Laura to start a genealogy blog!

Finally, the poem that started me thinking about poetry and genealogy
was written by the Honorable Mr. Lilley Eaton in 1844 to mark the
Bicentennial of the three towns that made up "Old Reading" in
Massachusetts. It contained quite a bit about my ancestor Jeremiah
Swain and it was the start of quite a few discoveries for me. You can read

And that concludes "The Great American Local Poem Genealogy
Challenge". I hope you've enjoyed it and that it makes you look for
poems with connections to your own family history.

Thank you to all my contributors. I'll be doing another one of
these so keep looking for more poems!


my Heritage Happens said...

This was a wonderful idea, sorry I missed it, maybe next time around! Great entries! Thank you!

Family trees said...

I like Genealogy blogs, it brings our history nicely.