Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Wearing of The Grey

 *Get ready to hit the Unfollow Button*

I've been immersed the last couple of days in my genealogy stuff.

Genealogy is like a big jigsaw puzzle of history, but on a personal level.
You find clues to people by finding someone and leapfrogging around and back to another person.

Like yesterday.
I spent 5 hours, tracing the movement of 4 generations of a family, both moving physically in the world and moving through the changes in the family structure that is brought on by time.

All this tracing and cross referencing of 8 decades of a family's members to try to find where someone in that grouping would cross over into the path of the particular person I wanted to find.
Sometimes if you can't find a person directly, you can locate them in this way.

But it was not to be in this case.

I could look at it as a waste of 5 hours but since I am fascinated by people's lives from the past
and I thoroughly enjoyed myself poking around in their closets, I am ok with it.

Currently I am noodling around in my mother's side of the family.  Her side is the one that has deep roots in America.
By deep I mean pre-Revolutionary times.  Not all but quite a few branches...or should that be
And most, if not all are in Virginia.

My roots are country roots, not city roots.  Many of them were planted in south central VA, in the Campbell and Charlotte Counties of the state.  The land of farms and rural life.

Here's a bridge over the Falling River(a branch of the Roanoke River)....

And here's an old mill on the Falling River, called Harper's Mill....
My grandfather was born a Harper.  That grist mill belonged to someone in our Harper family.  Many of the Harpers I am descended from were millers by trade.

I found myself out of one of the limbs on that side of my tree yesterday and I had progressed back to the 1860's era.
1860's as in Civil the South.
And I have begun to unearth(bad pun)Confederate soldiers in the family.

Due to my ancestors involvement in the Civil War and also how I find myself connected to and how I feel about that whole time in history I have been exploring that era of our nation's history anew.

And I want to say that the teaching of American history to our children is sorely lacking in this country.
The amount of time the school's spent on teaching history was a lot longer during my generation than it is in today's schools.
What my 2 college student kids were taught up to Grade 12 was barely anything compared to what my generation was expected to know.
And I am finding what the last kid I have in high school is being taught is so dumbed down, it's ridiculous.  And he goes to one of the best(credentials of teachers/test scores) public schools in this region!

History is NOT considered important in the schools anymore since knowing/learning it doesn't directly help you find a job when you graduate.  And that's what they concentrate on nowadays in high school.....on teaching to the test and vocational learning.

But it IS still important if you want to be an informed member of society.
You need to know what happened in the past so as to know who you are and how to NOT repeat the mistakes your ancestors made.

And though my generation did indeed spend more time on history as a subject in school, we were focused on all the wrong things.
We were drilled on knowing dates, events, names....the WHOs, WHATs, WHEREs.  Not enough time was spent learning about the WHYs of history.

Why things Why the Civil War happened.

The textbooks of my youth were very general in their whys, and some whys where ignored or downright incorrect or just missing.
And as a Southerner I am going to tell you something about all those pages in your history textbooks won't.

That the North, being the victor in That War Between the States, they got to decide on how this era would be recorded and how the history would be written and passed down to future generations.
The names, dates and facts may be correct but the whys are colored and skewed toward the victor's side.  Or pieces of the Whys are totally missing if the 'powers that be' thought those parts would make them look bad to posterity.  While the South had better generals, the North had better SPIN DOCTORS when the war was over. ;-)

The WHYS of history is not so simplistic.
There isn't good or black or white.
History is shades of grey at best.

As a Southerner I was/am always made to feel less than, especially when the Civil War came up.
Not just personally by folks I've met from "Up North" when I was a kid, but from the textbooks in my school down to films, songs, books and other aspects of our national culture.
Being a Northerner was good, being a Southerner was bad.  The South had slavery so that made us evil.
I guess it's easier just to label us the bad guys and ignore the complicity of the North in that whole economic system.  It's easier to think yourself superior to someone else and look down upon them.

Not to start a new war here but there are many folks out there who harbor many misguided notions about the South.
About who we are/were.....about our history.
And just because "we" like a certain flag and song, it doesn't make "us" racists.
It's been almost 147 years since the war ended and I still find myself having to fight the battle some days when I hear some ignorant opinion fly out of someone's mouth up here in Yankeeland.

Being from the South is complicated.

Events going back to the Tariff Act of 1828(bonus points if you even know what this was)have changed the course of our nation's history.
And until this country can have an intelligent dialogue about how the South was treated since before the founding of the first colonies through today, we are doomed to relive and repeat the past.

Sluggy-Proud daughter of Virginia


  1. Where's the dis-like button??!
    Eh - I'm NOT a history buff, but I did pass it barely in school... For a long time, I used to watch North & South religiously once a year. And I always loved Aurie...

  2. I am with you about the dumbing down of history. I had excellent "Social Studies" teachers all through high school. I loved American history classes! Geography is another sadly taught subject. My 30 yr old cousin that had to move to Denver didn't even know what state it was in much less point to it on a map. "Somewhere in the states"
    Good Grief!!

    When I was in Texas many many years ago I heard "Y'all must be a Yank?" everywhere I spoke. "Ummm no, Canadian" and then they seemed to like me a bit better!)

    History of countries and of families is in fact shades of grey.

  3. I'm not going to un-follow - in fact, this is right up my alley. Two feet from my head is a 1905 photo of my great great grandfather and five of his brothers (there was one more, deceased at the time of the photo), and all seven brothers were confederate veterans.

    You got that right about being snickered at disdainfully - try growing up in central Maryland and hear the snorty giggles erupt when "Georgia" is mentioned.

    I will say, however, that either I was not taught much in school or I snoozed my way through. My kids, on the other hand, have graduate-degree-level high-school educations. They know more about history than I ever hope to know. Hey, what did I just say? Central Maryland... the high-net-worth center of it, too... tax dollars at work in public education (it's teaching with an Ivory Tower spin, of course, but boy do they learn!)

  4. Oh, and my well-educated son confirmed for me (as if everyone knows this) that while southerners are (oft-times unjustly) accused of being racists, the yankees are more racist in more sneaky and damaging ways, and always have been, than the misunderstood southerners who get along in ways not even fathomed by those who seek to stereotype them. Don't even get me started! I got started. I'm getting out now. It was all I could do to hold my tongue and not speak up about "The Help" which has (according to reviews and other material I've read) offended many a southern black person, not to exclude others annoyed by many facets of the storyline, production, and crammed-down-throat agendas.

  5. Have you ever heard of the Melungeon people of SW Virginia (and KY and TN)? We think our family is tied into that group, but without DNA testing, I doubt we'll ever prove it. According to the map it looks like your family in Charlotte and Campbell Counties would be just east of where we were. My family eventually migrated to what's now West Virginia. You'd be surprised the number of people who don't realize that WV is an entirely different state than VA.

    1. I've heard about Melungeons and even made a post on my blog about them once!

  6. B-Kat--And that's another thing. We learn nothing about Canada in school. My kids learned more about your country by listening to Raffi
    And it's certainly a sad reflection on our educational system when a Canadian knows more about American history than an American does. 8-(

  7. When we went from History lessons to social studies we failed our children. I also have a history degree. When I would go to school conferences and would meet high school teachers, they would introduce the subject as Social Studies. I would just cringe. My daughter has a history degree also, and I would not be surprised if the youngest goes that route also. She claims medicine. But I swear she will be a lawyer. She argues like one!

  8. 444--Your family was very fortunately that they didn't lose a single brother IN the war!

    Yes, nobody teaches about the race riots of Chicago that started once all those freed people of color started migrating north for better opportunities for employment. Seems all those abolitionists wanted freedom for all but didn't want to live next door to or have certain folks too close to them in their public spaces.

    I have my own issues with THE HELP, but they are personal and don't revolve around the race card or anybody's agendas but my own. ;-)

  9. Fred knows more about American History than I do. But then again, I never really cared. How sad is that!

  10. Dy--I've heard of them.
    My VA kin stayed east of the mountains mostly and I haven't traced any into WV yet. My mother use to say in regard to ancestors that some of ours came over on the boat and others were here to greet the boat when it got I suspect I'll find some native american genes at some point if I dig far enough.
    Getting your dna done isn't that expensive anymore ya know....the basic % of which race testing at least. It's only a couple hundred bucks. The gene matching test is more. I'd go have it done if you are curious. I'll have to have mine done eventually to get into some DNA Projects to prove inclusion in my famous 'founding fathers' families ancestors.

  11. Mark--That IS sad if I don't drink enough before you tell me
    I never was very much interested in history in school. I got the bug as an adult. And now my genealogy work has me asking more questions and my kin as well as the world around them at that time, so I am cracking open the books again.

    You should let me do your genealogy ya know....

  12. Out My Window--I think they changed the name because History=boring in peoples' minds.
    Other than some Southern history and a fascination with the Tudor England period I was never a fan when young.
    Now I love it! I could read history books all day long now.

    My oldest will have his History degree next Spring. He wants to teach it. The poor I always thought he'd go into politics or economics.

  13. Slug: Many people are frustrated when they try to do genealogy. The mister, for example, is descended from Czechs and just a few generations back the records go blank. He's found about 1% of the data I have on my family, and that's because of mine coming over in the early 1600s with land grants, and some tracing back to Edward III and back from there. When those dudes are in your lineage, people keep better records. Also, the wealthier, the better records, in general. Of course, everyone's family tree fans out to incomprehensible dimensions when you trace backwards and up every line, but the longer just ONE of your lines go back, the more you can learn. When people are unfortunate enough to hit dead ends just a couple of generations above them, they can't do much from there and it's a real shame. I hope that this generation preserves everything available so that following generations won't lose what's on record today.

  14. 444--That is my fear...that the currently living generations don't record stuff, especially now that nobody actually writes anything and it's all on the computer(I can just see everyone's digital records getting booted out into space at some point when the machines crash).
    And it's more likely that losing today's information will make future generations of searchers lives very hard indeed.
    Use to be the majority of folks didn't more around much. Might migrate for 1 town to the one next door or something, but since WW2, the national migration has exploded! People moving across the country if they don't leave a very clear paper trail may be unfindable in the future. And smaller families and not having multiple generations living as a unit together also will make the search more difficult.

  15. I hated history in school. We had social studies, Problems in Democracy, World History and US History in hs in Memphis. When I learned history was in university English classes. I know why people wrote this poem or that, the social climate, the issues, and names and dates. I am a whiz at history now. As a matter of fact, I am thinking of getting a BA in History since I can go for $36/class now that I am over 60.

    My northern inlaws wanted to rub it in that the South lost and refight the Civil War. I cannot add more than you all have said about the more racist north.

    My father was originally from Illinois and back to PA, my mother from MS. Both sides of my mother's family owned slaves. I have a copy of a will of a Civil War era grandfather who willed slaves to sons and wife.

    That has nothing to do with my position on slavery now or my feeling about ethnicity.

    As a grad student I attended a conference in Birmingham and had a professor from Australia start lecturing me on the South and our treatment of slaves.

    I told her the last thing we like in the South was people lecturing us on the Civil War. That we did not feel that way now. AND, by the way, how did Australian's treat the aboriginal people? I did not give her a chance to answer but walked away. Later, I told professors, grad and undergrad students about the conversation. Some looked glum and others looked like they approved. One prof was going to say something to me. I looked at her and told her that the woman was rude. But, I just straightened her out on a few things she did not know, obviously, trying to broaden her education while in the US.

    Can I follow here twice to make up for anyone you lose?

    By the way, there is only one race--the human race. There are different ethnicities and different countries of origin.

    1. "By the way, there is only one race--the human race. There are different ethnicities and different countries of origin."

      AGREED. How long until they stop asking people to check a "race" box? How many people is that un-applicable to, anyway? Checking "other" or multiple boxes makes it a moot point and also, how long until people don't actually know the answer to that question? (Some hardly know who their grandparents were - some literally don't know - so I think the answer to my question is "Already.") It's just absurd to try to break everyone down into groups, and there is no valid point to it, in my opinion.

      Tangential note: If you apply for, say, a scholarship that is said to be meant for certain "racial" groups or even orientations (I read of a scholarship recently aimed toward a certain collection of orientations), I'm pretty sure it's illegal to actually state that in the fine print in the requirements. A person could apply and who would be able to confirm or refute that you've met or not met either racial or orientation requirements? They're not going to ask, and everything can't be learned with the eyes! Also, you could outright check on a form "black," for example, and if you're observed to be white as bleached paper, they can't ask you to bring in genetic testing results or whatnot. (The reverse applies too, of course.) Obviously I truly believe this practice of using "race" for official purposes or even of recording for "data collection" it is archaic and becoming more so by the minute.


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