Posted in #52Ancestors, Ancestor Stories

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

When deciding what to write about for Week One’s 52 Ancestor challenge, I thought it would be best to start at the beginning. If you’ve been a follower of the blog for a while, you know that I got my love of genealogy from my mother. What you probably don’t know is how she found her way into the genealogy world and became the official family historian. So, here is her story..

Pamela Sue Burkhart was born in 1957 in Detroit, Michigan to Dorothy Jean Price and Vernon Burkhart. Her parents were both from Harlan County, Kentucky. They had moved to Detroit for work by way of the “Hillbilly Highway”. My mom says that when she was growing up, it was just like being in the south. All of her neighbors were either from Kentucky or other southern states. Families in their neighborhood held tight to their Southern traditions. So, while they were living, and working, in the north, most families never really embraced the Michigan way of living.

My mom with her grandfather, William Howard Taft Price

My mom married my dad, Christopher Franklin Arthur, in 1975. His family came from a similar background. They made their way from West Virginia to Michigan for work also. To say that my childhood had mostly southern influences and traditions would be an understatement. In 1991, my dad’s job moved us back to the south. This time, though, we were heading to Tennessee.

About this time, my mom began to hear stories about her 2x Great Grandfather. There was a family discussion on what his name was and which side he fought for during the Civil War. At the time of the war he lived in East Tennessee (Union County to be exact). If you know your Tennessee history, you know that the state was split on who fought for which side. While rumors were that he fought for the Union, nobody knew for sure.

Now that we were living in Tennessee, about 4 hours away from the Knoxville/Union County area, my mom decided to put this “discussion” to rest. She now had easy access to the Tennessee State Archives and, with a little drive, access to the cemetery where her 2x Great Grandfather was buried. Needless to say, she solved the mystery and figured out the Elias S. Carroll was a Lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War.

During one of our many road trips to East Tennessee

She now had a taste for the research and how if felt to solve a family argument. Now she was eager to see what else she could find. Family history had always been important to her, but now it was at another level! This was long before internet research was a thing. I love reading over some of the notes from phone calls and the emails that went back and forth between newly discovered relatives. If she had not laid such a great foundation, I would not be the genealogist I am today.

I asked my mom what advice she would give to someone beginning their family history/genealogy journey. Here is what she told me:

Listen to the stories. Find what they all have in common. Usually there is a least a small nugget of truth in there somewhere. Be patient and be willing to put in the work. It will all be worth it!

My mom and I

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