Periodically, I go on a genealogical rampage trying to find — and understand — my family history. For me, it’s always been slow going and each find is in itself a victory. My people liked to hide under rocks.
On one side of my family, the Wyants and Lees (not of Virginia, but of Kentucky), my great-great grandmother, Sophronia Lee Wyant, was born in 1836 (or 1830 if you ignore her changing of birth years in the Lee Family Bible). Sophronia Lee Wyant, the daughter of a Kentucky physician, was the wife of a Methodist minister in the Ohio River valley. Born in Indiana, Sophronia lived in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana again, and finally Illinois. As I read aloud Little House on the Prairie with my third graders, I realized that Sophronia’s life coincided nearly exactly with Pa Ingalls’ life. How strange!
I recently finished Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James Swanson. As I read this text, I couldn’t help but wonder at how my relatives must have reacted to this event in America’s history. My g-g grandmother would have been a pastor’s wife in Crittenden, Kentucky at the time of Lincoln’s death – she would have been in confinement as my great grandfather Wyant was born in Cittenden in May 1865. At that time in her life, she would have been 3 years away from widowhood; my great-great Grandfather William Orrin Wyant became ill suddenly and died in January 1868. Sophronia Lee Wyant kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings which we have in our family. Would she have clipped out anything to reveal her feelings as Lincoln’s funeral procession made its way from Washington back of Springfield, IL?
I wonder about my family ancestry and how they would have reacted to events of the day. As time passes, our history veils events in romanticism, often ignoring the difficulties of every day life. Reactions and opinions contrary to popular beliefs often are glossed over with cursory attention.
All of which leads me to wonder more. How will my future relatives view our time in history?