The tagline on this blog touts the fact that my 3nd great-grandfather, William Morris, wrote our family record in a copy of Robinson Crusoe.
That’s just one small piece of information, but an interesting one, nevertheless. How many stories could be dreamt up just to explain why he would’ve written our family record in that particular book?
In other news from my family tree, my 7th-great-grand uncle, John Martin, was apparently one of Black Beard’s men. Seriously.
I once discovered a letter that was written by a school teacher named Turner Nelson in 1823 that referenced my 4th great-grandfather, Laban Morris. This school teacher used to live in Craven County, North Carolina, and he had tutored the sons of my ancestor in a little one-room schoolhouse in a community called Swift Creek. The teacher had since moved to Indiana and was teaching school there. The reference to my 4th great-grandfather said:
I want you to Show this Letter to Laban and let him know that it is my wish for him to come to this Country with them Boys of his and not stay there on that old field of Alderson Ellison’s Spending of his time in that place and sinking himself to destruction tell his wife that her Sister Sally is well and has two fine Boys that goes to School to me at this time if he will come I know his chance will be better here than there.”
The fact that I know that Laban was the illegitimate love child of a teenage Revolutionary War soldier and a young girl, who as far as we know, was probably named Betsy Morris means that I know that he had the proverbial “hard row to hoe” in the tiny community of Swift Creek. Folks surely would’ve looked down on him because of his less-than-ideal family situation. That means I can assume I know what Turner Nelson was referring to in his letter when he said that my grandfather’s chance would’ve been better in Indiana than it was in Craven County.
Another ancestor appears to have been connected to the family of the King of the Mattamuskeet Indian people in Hyde County (on Pamlico Sound). His father moved away from the reservation that had been established for the Mattamuskeet people and appears to have ended up marrying a German girl.
And yet another ancestor was apprenticed as a teenager to a man who abused him. The young orphan then petitioned to have his apprenticeship changed just six months before he would’ve been turned out on his own. He ended up marrying the daughter of a county court justice and, by God’s grace, did quite well for himself. A true rags-to-riches story.
There is nothing particularly unique about my family. Your family surely has stories that are every bit as interesting. It’s just a matter of finding them. If you start to dig, to learn about your ancestors, you’ll soon find their lives were the stuff of the greatest stories ever written. Even if you’re not into historical fiction, you can borrow story lines from your own family history and update them to fit in a contemporary novel.
If you’ve never done any genealogy before, you might want to read this article first.
There are ample resources available online now that make family tree research easier than it ever has been before.
Leave a comment if you’ve discovered any ancestors with interesting stories. I’d love to hear about them!