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BrickWalls in Family Trees
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JB    Posted 11-14-2004 at 19:09:24       [Reply]  [No Email]
Having read of the 'brick walls' below, I thought to describe a brick wall in our family's history:
I don't do Family Tree but a sister in law does. Let me relate a story that will explain why brick walls sometime happen.

In the '40s, I was 14 years old and staying with my grandparents when my grandpaw was sick and I was running errands for them. I mentioned one day that my grandpaw was a saintly man, in my eye. Well, friends, that opened up a can of worms!

My grandma gazed off across the way, and said it wasn't always so, and commenced to tell me a tale or 2. Seemed they lived back on the Tennessee border when they were young, and Paw was a hotheaded young man. He got into a quarrell with a man (don't remember what over) and it got pretty heated, and the man got the better of my grandpaw. Well, Paw was madder than a hornet, walking home through the woods. When he got to the spring that furnished water for the house, he stopped to rest and get a drink of cool water. When he stood up, he heard a noise in the bushes just behind him, and, thinking it was the man he'd had trouble with, picked up a club from the ground and drew it back while easing up to the bushes.

Suddenly a grey mule stuck his head through the bushes, and scared the life outta Paw, and before he caught himself, he whammed that mule between the eyes and it dropped like a ton of bricks! He was horrified and when he checked the animal, he figured it was dead, and ran home. He told Maw what he had done, and to get together a few things and they had to get out of the county. He hitched up his mules to the wagon, and they threw a few things on, loaded up the little kids and left their possessions behind.

He said killing a man's mule was a hanging offense, and so they made their way to Texas, and never even bade kith and kin goodbye. On the way, he decided to change his name.. he kept his first and middle name, but adopted his mother's maiden name, and they used it forever more.

Once she finished the story, she sort of shook her head and said she didn't know why she told me that tale, and I was not to repeat it to a living soul, and so I didn't. For years, I looked at my grandpaw and wondered if it were true, knowing that my grandmaw was a truthful soul.

When I was nearing 40, (and both grandparents were long gone) a cousin came to visit my parents and we met them there and had a sort of reunion. One day, during the course of conversation, the cousin's wife mentioned that she'd been trying to trace Paw's family and kept hitting a brick wall. I got very uncomfortable, and then I looked at my older sister, and she had a funny look, and I asked, "Do you KNOW? You DO!" and she admitted she did, and she too had been sworn to secrecy! We told it as best we could remember it, and my mom sat with open mouth! She knew nothing of this tale, and when we contacted her older brother and sister, neither did they. I guess my sister and I were the only ones that knew the story, and knew Maw and Paw's real name.

I immediately wrote it out and sent at least one copy of the story to each branch of the family that we knew of and asked them to make copies and spread it around. Since then, over the years, when I learn someone is interested in working on that family tree, I send a copy of the story. You'd be surprised how many think I made it up!!! But all I can do is make the offer, and they can do with it as they will.

These are the kinds of stories you find entertwined in family history, and half the fun is ferretting them out! I don't know why I was made a 'keeper of the secret', or why my sister was also given the story.. I guess as sort of back-up. Now, the sister is also gone, and so I continue to tell the tale at any opportunity. I also wonder was the mule really dead or just stunned? Whatever the outcome, it changed a lot of lives forever.

Grove r    Posted 11-15-2004 at 06:06:59       [Reply]  [No Email]
Excelent, JB! surely makes one wonder how many other instances there are of the same nature, and how many have used major, or minor, catastrophys to drop out of the mainstream of life, to start a new beginning, for whatever reason......One commonly used excuse for not sharring the past is the proverbial "skeleton-in-the-closet". To demonstrate; a fellow I know, recieved, in the mail, for a reasonable monitary amount to cover costs, a family history book, depicting family members, with pictures and anecdotes. He wasn't too interested, until he read the part of why his people emmigrated from the US to Canada...his ggrandfather was being saught for horse stealing, apparently a hanging offense, so he thought it wise to change his ways and move to Canada! Needless to say the fellow paid for and kept the history book. The point being, we cannot change history...what happened, happened, for whatever reason...some of it not too pretty...but that is what it is all about, history! Have a good one R.E.L.

JB    Posted 11-15-2004 at 07:22:57       [Reply]  [No Email]
What my sister and I both found amusing about the whole thing, at the time we were let in on the real story, if our mama had known of it, she would have been royally scandalized. Probably would have accused Maw of being senile. However, by the time we brought it out into the opening, she was open to the story, and I think relieved to know why the family had left their home and family behind. I think she always felt a little strange that there was no kin in the picture on either of her parents side.

I find it really weird that Maw never shared the story with any of her 9 children, some of whom would have loved to hear the tale! Neither my sister nor I were Maw's favorites, though she liked us well enough and we were both fond of her. This is just another example of the twists and turns history takes, and if our cousin and wife hadn't chosen that time to visit, I suppose the story would have died with us!

Another fun side, the cousin lived in the state where the incident happened.. just a couple hundred miles away. If they were ever able to move forward with the history, I don't know, as the cousin died a few years after we reunited with them, and I didn't stay in touch with his wife.

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