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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Small Town Life and Family History

For a few days this week, Harmony and I took her maternal grandmother up to Virginia for the funeral of one of her grandmother's cousins. Much of Harmony's family originates from a tiny town called Ivor, and that's where we were. I met lots of third cousins, second cousins, removed cousins, etc. etc. etc.

This was a new experience for me. On TV, I have heard of towns where one does not need to lock doors. Ivor is one of those towns. I personally experienced that when the deceased cousin's family left early for the visitation and left the house to us, with no key. We just left the lights on and departed when we needed to.

The more interesting part of the trip was family history. Harmony's grandmother grew up in Ivor. These were times when most of your neighbors were related to you somehow. These were times when street names had actual meaning; many of them were named for people that her grandmother actually knew. We got commentary on most of the houses we passed on the road: some sort of cousin or uncle or aunt or friend had lived at this-or-that house. It was quite interesting.

The best part was when we got a tour of the house that grandmother's mother grew up in. It's still there, and it's been slightly modernized, but the house is largely the same house. To give you an idea of how long that property's been there, there were actually slave quarters. They were separate buildings close to the house, with little insulation. Still standing, but not habitable anymore. Aside from school trips and recreations, I had never seen something like that before. There's just something fascinating about walking in and being somewhere where you have a real connection to history.

History is much more interesting when you have a personal connection to it (even if you are merely married in to the connection). Sure, it would be interesting to inherit old Bibles. Even better would be to inherit old Bibles that were actually used by ancestors. Walking through old houses is fine and dandy. Even better is walking through old houses that your ancestors built, lived in, worked in, and came in to at the end of a hard day's work.

I don't get that much with my Korean family. Most of my extended family resides many thousands of miles away, so I rarely hear talk of the old days. I don't think my parents have many heirlooms in the house, if any. If those still exist, they are in Korea. One of these days I will have to ask my parents about family history and the like. In the mean time, I am glad to have married into a family whose roots are but a day's drive away.

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6 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Ginny

    Yes, that is extremely nifty! Wouldn't it be so exciting if you went to Korea and did the same thing? :-D Or maybe you already have...

    My parents recenty went to Ireland and accidentally came across stuff like that in our family. It was so exciting!

  • Iris

    That is so neat!
    Yeah, I would also like to find out more about our family's history. I did get a tiny glimpse though, when I saw some newspaper articles with harabuhjee in them - he seemed to do SO much in his lifetime; I would like to learn more about what he did. :)

  • Smockity Frocks

    **Note to self: Plan trip to Ivor, Virginia to rob unlocked houses. Check Junk Male and Harmony's blog for map.**

  • Harmony

    JunkMale didn't mention that the tour of my great-grandmother's (and other relatives going back a looong ways) house was the husband of one of my grandmother's cousins. The wife (now deceased) had been born and raised in the house and so he knew a lot more of the family history than a random owner would have known. There were also pictures of relatives all along the walls. Some of the pictures my grandmother has copies of in her home. Two were pictures of my great-great grandparents (my grandmother's grandparents - did I count the right number of greats?), including a picture of my great-great grandfather with a crutch - and right next to that picture was the crutch he used to use (the leg had been replaced, but the shoulder rest was original).

    There were so many more cool things that we learned and saw on the trip. We marked the locations of the important family houses on our GPS, so we won't need help finding them again. :-)

  • Alan

    You two performed a wonderful act of kindness by taking Harmony's grandmother to the funeral.

  • Harmony's Mom

    I was blessed to have grown up in that town until I was 9. It is mostly a commuter town now, and crime does happen there. (A cousin that owned a store in town was robbed back in the late 60's or early 70's & the guys beat his fingers off-he was holding his head to protect it). There have been fires over the year & hurricanes cause rivers to overflow and flood certain areas. Most of the people my age that got any college education live in big cities now. But some are moving back in retirement. I hope Mom showed you the house she was born in & the one I lived in until I was 9. I could walk across the street to the school and walk home for lunch. Not many can say that today (unless you are home schooled of course, then it is more convenient)!