to Ponder

written January 23, 2006

The field of genealogy is full of many "how comes", "whys" and "wheres". Occasionaly, but not often we come across some "what ifs". Just as occasionally, I find myself being asked by others, "What is it about genealogy that fascinates you so much?"

I normally just tell them "it's the points to ponder that get you and keep you". They go away with the feeling that I am referring to something completely related to genealogy; but they are just naive in the whole matter really.

I think that maybe some words used to describe what I am referring to are: "kismet", "fate", "karma" and my personal favorite "chance". I am sure that I put much too much into it, but I find that the things I ponder the most in genealogy are the small seemingly insignificant occurences of the past. The ones that when really thought about boggle your mind as to the possible reprecussions that could have derived from them.

For example:

One of my ancestors, Calvin Secrest, migrated to Morgan County from Davidson County, North Carolina in the year 1845. The family initially settled in the Paragon area of Morgan County.

Not many years after that, Calvin decided to migrate to Missouri by himself to check out the lay of the land before returning to take his family there to reside. He apparently decided that for whatever reason, he really didn't like it any better and returned to Morgan County, he later purchased a farm in the Gregg Township area in 1855 and remained their throughout his life.

Over the years, Calvin and Nancy raised their family of nine children. In the year 1876, their daughter Lydia Catherine Secrest married Ephraim Ratts on March 12, 1876 in Morgan County.

My ponderance in this case wanders to" What if Calvin had decided that he liked the land in Missouri and returned to take his family there to live. At that early date, Lydia Catherine had not even been born. She would have later grown up and married someone in Missouri, most likely. As Lydia Catherine Secrest is my 2nd great grandmother, one of the direct results of the family migrating to Missouri is that I would not even be here today; never have been born.

It is truly mind boggling to me that my very existence depends on just one decision that a man made almost 160 years ago. What if the reason that he decided not to relocate was as simple as it had rained everyday he was there and he just didn't think crops would do well? It could just as easily not have rained during his visit. The occurence of that rain makes my ancestor's decision that much more of a "chance" decision. "What if" his reasons for deciding against migration to Missouri were based on something that could have just as easily gone the other way?

It doesn't relate to Owen County history, but with my husband family line of Jennings- the way that the first imigrant of that family migrated to the US was because in England 2 little boys were playing near the docks throwing rocks at each other. The older one who was about 10 years old struck his younger brother in the head with a stone and made him bleed. This event and the thought of his mother's reaction scared him so much that he ran and hide on one of the ships closeby the docks they were playing on. He later fell asleep there and when he later woke up and was found, the ship was out to sea bound for America. As he was only a child, the crew didn't toss him overboard as they might have done with an adult stowaway. They took him to America and found a guardian for him in Virginia at the time that they docked. As he grew up and was married the family later would migrate to the Tennessee areas. This event I would say was a very chance occurence between two little boys. The existence of a family line was dependent on that.

Most of you can probably come up with just as many chance occurences in your researching. Certain decisions that seemed to be made by the toss of a coin and could easily have gone the other way. Do you ever ponder what effect a different decision could have had on your very existence?

It is rather humbling to realize that your existence really doesn't depend on whether or not your parents chose to have 4 children or 3 children; but rather on a decision of someone much further back.

Given the number of times our ancestors migrated and the varied reasons why they did, it is amazing that we are here at all.