In the world of genealogy, we are always meeting new friends and cousins. It is what makes our hobby so enjoyable. People with the same agenda meet online, at reunions, in libraries and in courthouses. Our findings are proof that more can be accomplished by teamwork than by an individual.
by Mike Peters
On July 13th of this year, I met Lynne Steger. We both research the Gadd surname. The Gadds migrated to the area that would become West Virginia from Franklin County, VA. She is descended from Andrew Powhatan Gadd, who married Delilah Ferguson on 23 February 1851 in Wyoming County. I study the line because Andrew's brother, Sanford Pleasant Gadd, married my gg grandfather's sister, Peninah Peters, on 5 February 1857 in Raleigh County.
But Lynne and I have a lot more in common. The similarities in our lives are eerie. Black and white reruns of "The Twilight Zone." The episode this week, Rod Serling informs us, is called "The Twin."
Lynne and I both live in the Columbus, Ohio area. We are both children of military fathers. Lynne has a daughter named Shelby Caitlin. My oldest is named Shelby and my youngest Katelyn. Lynne was born on 16 May 1957. I was born on 15 May 1957. And so it goes. Each new E-mail unravels some new commonality that we share. I call her my online twin.
In her most recent correspondence, Lynne talked about oral legend and its importance in genealogy. "Oral history is SO IMPORTANT to genealogy, especially in places like the hills of southern West Virginia where people didn't always have the means/education to record information, or being more concerned with the survival of each day, didn't see the value of the written record of history, " she said.
"If it wasn't for oral history," she continued, " the people I research would be one dimensional, not three."
She then told me about a meeting that occurred in Shady Spring, WV, a meeting that illustrated her point. Lynne was about 10 or 11 when she met her gg grandmother, Rachel Emmadora "Emma" Cochran. Grandma "Emma," the daughter of Hardin Cochran and Mary Anne Cannaday, would live to be 106. "Emma" would occasionally smoke a corn cob pipe. More often, she sat in her rocker, gripping its arms tightly as she rocked and watched the world. She was "keeping her eyes on the neighborhood."
Gordon Gravely and
Rachel Emmadora "Emma" Cochran
"I watched her brush out her ankle length hair for her daughter to pin up, " Lynne recalled. "It was the color of a dark red Irish Setter, except at the forehead, where it was grey. She told me that was where she put the shampoo when she washed it, because she had to lean forward in a barrel to do so."
"Since then," Lynne said, "I think less, not more, is better!"
Grandma "Emma" also told Lynne about her three marriages. The first gentleman, a Bennett man, was no account and ran away. The second, Cephus Luke Bowers, who was Lynne's gg grandfather, died in a logging accident. Their union produced daughters Bessie and Lena. With the third man, Gordon Gravely, she celebrated a 60 year anniversary. "Emma" and Gordon took in Willard Upchurch, after the boy was found wandering along the railroad tracks.
Years after that meeting, Lynne insisted to her mother and grandmother that Grandma "Emma" was married three times. They claimed that she had "tied the knot" only twice. Lynne informed them that Grandma "Emma" had told her as much. They still didn't believe. Maybe she had heard wrong. Lynne later found documentation of all three marriages. Without Grandma's story, that part of their family history might have been lost forever.
"It is the human nuances that draw my children to their family history," Lynne concluded. "It is the fact that the wood furniture in my living room has the finish stripped away where my great great grandmother rested her hands while she rocked. To see my children sit in those chairs, and rock with their hands in the same place presents such a priceless picture of timelessness."
Cue Rod Serling! Read the signpost up ahead! It is folklore. It is oral legend. It is a grandmother's story. But more importantly, it is about how part of that story, before it was documented, was kept alive in the memory of a granddaughter.
Thank you Lynne for sharing this wonderful story.