Genealogy is made up of history, detective work, logic, research, pursuit and other forms of activity. From these activities you learn about your ancestors, your roots and bring into closer view elements of history which now have more meaning because your people lived it. Genealogy also brings the find of thrilling serendipities.
Let me give you two examples from my past as an illustration of what should be ahead as you pursue your ancestors.
I was brought up in the backwoods of coal mining camps in West Virginia. My four college roommates were all from Louisville, Kentucky. Some of their families were in the liquor business, but more on this later. All of them thought Louisville was the social capital of America, and they behaved as though they believed it. Since we were all teenagers well schooled in heaping boyish ridicule upon each other, you can imagine how they kidded me.
My work in genealogy helped uncover the following, long after my roommates had passed away well before their time.
Research determined that my 4th Great Grandfather was a man named Hugh McGary (1744-1806). I found him first in Augusta County, Virginia and from there tracked his move to Wilkes County, North Carolina. There he became friends with a man living some twenty miles away named Daniel Boone (1734-1820). The two were early pioneers into the then wilds of Kentucky, which was then Virginia, as Indian fighters, hunters and explorers.
In 1774 there were but very few white men in Kentucky, none with family. In 1775 Boone and McGary and two other men, all with wives and children, led their families into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap with some 20 other people, thus becoming the first men with families in that state. The event is celebrated in George Caleb Bingham’s painting Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap, which now hangs in St. Louis in the Washington University Gallery of Art. The Woman’s Club of Harrodsburg in 1926 erected a plaque which reads, “… Remembering The First Mothers of the West to Enter the Wilderness, Mrs. Daniel Boone, Mrs. Hugh McGary, Mrs. Richard Hogan, Mrs. Thomas Denton….”. On this trip the first Bible (printed in 1743) to enter Kentucky was brought by Hugh McGary.
Hugh McGary is often blamed for the defeat of the United States in the last battle of the Revolutionary War, the Battle of Blue Licks on August 19, 1782 in northeast Kentucky. Later research proved that others were to blame.
After the battle in 1786 McGary came across Chief Moluntha and asked the Chief if he had been at Blue Licks. Upon hearing a yes, McGary felled the chief with an axe. The ballad celebrating this event goes like this:
Oh, our soldiers when done, in the town they convene,
Where trophies of Vic’try were everywhere seen,
a brave son of Mars slaps his bloody old dagger,
And swears by the Lord that he made a squaw stagger,
A dastardly fellow advanced to the King,
Who was promised protection and brought to the ring,
He soon was espied by intrepid McGary,
Who just at this juncture came up from the prairie.
He gave the old savage a cuss and a blow
And sent him bare-skulled to the region below
In 1798 he became an original shareholder of the Kentucky Vineyard Society. This society was established by Jean Jaçques Dufour, winemaker for the Marquis de Lafayette, both sharing a vision to grow grapes along the Kentucky River. Kentucky was the site of the first commercial vineyard in the United States and by 1860 Kentucky was the third largest wine producing state. Other original members of the Society included Jesse Yocum, James Garrard, and Henry Clay. See http://www.kentuckyvineyardsociety.org/about.htm.
So I say, Louisville may well be the social capital of America, but my people were the first here. We also set the stage for the liquor industry so well known today in Kentucky, but initiated with the first vineyards of my people.
Two true serendipities.
Much of the above comes from Hugh McGary, Senior, Pioneer of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Indiana by Mary P. Hammersmith.