by Marsha Ward
In August, I had the immense pleasure to provide a trip for my sister-in-law so that she could get back east to visit elderly aunts and contemporary cousins and to search out local cemetery and library records for ancestral lines of my husband's side. It was a two-week road trip of epic proportions, including five hours stuck in a parking-lot-on-the-highway situation in the Shenandoah Valley, due to a haz-mat accident earlier in the day.
I had been feeling the same urgency my SIL had, that we needed to take this trip now. My only conditions were to be able to visit a couple of places in Virginia for my own research needs for the next novel in the Owen Family Saga.
|Cannon at Gettysburg|
Due to time constraints, we weren't able to see as much as I had wanted, but we got to enough places, and I now have a real sense of the locations and conditions to suit my purposes.
Our record gathering on the genealogy side was quite successful, and we met people who were willing to help us in any way we needed. We also met a couple who were researching one of the same ancestral lines, and who are willing to obtain necessary courthouse records for us.
We found a cemetery that long-time residents of the town didn't know a location for. There we found the grave marker of the first ancestor on the Ward line to come to America. What a thrill that was! We still wonder what his middle initial "M" stands for, but we know we'll find out some day.
After an exhausting walk over a large cemetery in the Pittsburgh area trying to find Su's grandparents, she made a few phone calls to several of the aunts. Then, with new information in hand, she told the driver-cousin to stop the van so she could search a new portion of the cemetery, opened the door, and stepped out onto the very grave markers we had been seeking for two or three hours.
A day trip to another town turned into a two-day stay, where we met the aforementioned couple and gleaned vast numbers of records that can't be found online.
Did I get to work on editing my novel while I was gone? No. Will it put my publication schedule behind? Maybe. What was more important was that I got to see relatives I hadn't seen in fifteen years, and gathered vital information on family members I'll meet someday on the Other Side. That makes my Vacation from Writing worth it to me.