St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Who cares about the past?

<fontfamily><param>Times</param>Family History. That's in the past.
Who cares? That’s a common response from relatives when I start
asking questions. Who cares? I care. By looking at the past and by
gleaning what information we can from the records, we can start to
understand why our elders had some of their sayings about life.

For instance, my maternal grandfather was known for saying one’s name
should only be in the newspaper three times- once when you’re born,
once when you marry, and once when you die. And, of course, my
personal favorite saying of his was “Company are like fish, after
three days they stink.”

My grandfather was very interested in history. Not so much of his
personal family history, but rather that of the town he lived in. A
quaint town, known as the Holy City, and to outsiders as Charleston,
SC, is a wonderful old town full of history. If you have a chance to
go, do so and take the time to learn something about it. After all,
it has been around since 1670. My grandfather was most interested in
the architecture and had the opportunity to restore many an old
building and plantation. He was also president of the Charleston
Hysterical, er, Historical, Society.

Now, why would he say that one’s name should only be in the paper
three times. He was well known for his restoration skills and his
name is still recognized in historical circles some 40 years after his
death. I admit, I didn’t know hardly anything about his family. All
I knew was he died when I was young. It wasn’t until I got interested
in genealogy that the clues began to surface.

My mother told me the family had owned some five plantations before
the War of the Northern Aggression, also known as the “Recent
Unpleasantness” and that she would play with confederate money in the
attic of one of the plantation houses. Now that was something I
wanted to check on.

I started searching the census records for the Charleston area in
addition to searching the newspaper archives for my grandparents. By
checking the obituary for my grandfather, I found his parents’ names
and the location of his birth. I checked the names of his siblings
and their obituaries. Slowly, but surely, I was beginning a database
of his roots. And then, I found the book. There was a book written
about his family, by distant cousins. Now to be fair, it was only a
minimal genealogy book, which left much to be desired. But it was a
start. From there, I gathered more obituaries and then started
looking at church records. My excitement grew as I found the maiden
name of his mother.

In my excitement, I started trying to track her family. My mom had
told me long ago that they used to go to Palatka, FL, to see some of
her daddy’s people. Now, how did they get there from SC? I found the
clues in a book of church records as well as a book about the Civil
War. The book on the Civil War was actually the memoirs of Colonel
Asbury Coward, who was a cousin of my great grandmother, and the man
my grandfather knew as “Uncle Asbury”. Asbury Coward’s story was a
fascinating one and one worth reading. Asbury Coward is still
remembered today in Charleston as The Citadel named its dining hall in
his honor and his portrait hangs at the school. By looking at his
portrait, I could easily detect which side of the family that my
mother’s and my uncle’s cheeks came from. The book can be found
through interlibrary loan and a copy is at the Georgia Tech library.

Who cares about family history? I care. The story of my family’s
past is fascinating and I know that your family history is as well.
Who cares? We all should. We should all know something to tell our
children, of our history, which also tells us of our country’s history.

(To be continued)


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