Why have I spent more than 25 years researching our family ancestry? At first, it was the stories grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins shared with me. I wanted to learn more. I already had a natural penchant for research and interest in people’s stories. Then, as I got to know about more about our ancestors, I thought about how their decisions, opinions, and circumstances had contributed to making me who I am today.
I have decided it is time to wrap up my research and summarize what I have learned for any current and future family members who might be interested.
Many of our grandparents, in the lines I could find information on, came to America as colonists in the early to late 1600s. The rest came in the 1700s. All of our grandparents were in America by 1770. That was not what I was expecting to find when I started out. From colonists to pioneers, they slowly migrated west, helping populate and determine what the United States of America would become.
Our family ethnicity is English, Scotch, Irish, and German. There is a strong possibility that there may have been Native American several generations back.
Most of our ancestors listed their occupation as farmer, but a few men and women were entrepreneurs. They lived mainly in less densely populated areas and had strong ties to community and religion. They fought in wars. A few held local public offices. Some were founders of towns. I have seen plaques commemorating individual accomplishments, as well as being mentioned in history books.
I relied on several resources in my research. I corresponded with other researchers. I visited libraries, museums, and historical sites in several states. I personally interviewed family members, close and distant, and got copies of manuscripts from the interviews and stories of others. I was fortunate that one of my day jobs required that I live in Salt Lake City for a few months. I spent most of my off hours at the Mormon Church’s Family History Library. I have used websites such as familysearch.org (sponsored by the Mormon Church for free), ancestry.com (subscription required), usgenweb.com (free), and others when they were available. I also did name and history searches on the internet using a couple of different search engines.
I entered the details and copies of documents into my personal copy of Family Tree software. I used information that I copied from others as placeholders while I searched for documentation to back up the information. I have found many errors in others’ research. Just because one person posted something and 250 people copied it doesn’t make it true.
There are several loose ends and family lines that I wanted to know more about but couldn’t find the information or couldn’t verify which was our direct line. Our European ancestors followed a naming pattern that led to much confusion when they lived in the same area and each sibling used the same first and last names for their children. It was difficult to discern which one of the Williams, Johns, Jacobs, etc., was our direct line. The typical naming pattern follows:
1st son named after father’s father
2nd son named after mother’s father
3rd son named after father
4th son named after father’s eldest brother
1st daughter named after mother’s mother
2nd daughter named after father’s mother
3rd daughter named after mother
4th daughter named after mother’s eldest sister
If the wife dies, the daughter of the new wife is named after the deceased wife.
Information I found on some of our ancestors isn’t much more than name, born, married, and died. In my narrative of the individuals, I will attempt to include information about what it was like where they were living, what was happening in the nation and locally, and some of the events that might be influencing them.
To accommodate my living relatives, I am dividing my research into two parts—my dad’s family (Austin-Pearl) and my mom’s family (Saxton-Smith).
I hope you enjoy learning about our ancestors. You may recognize ways that they have influenced how you act and think today like I did.