Monday, March 23, 2009

A Family Story Told...

I just read this awesome and touching "family story." It isn't my story, but it is a wonderful example of finding one's family story (or a "chapter" of it), and how it unfolds before your eyes bringing the past to the present. It's about a Col. Isaac Erwin Avery and his last moments as a Confederate soldier. Because of certain circumstances, he's buried in a crude grave, and his family is left not knowing his actual grave site. Later, his body is exhumed and moved to Washington Confederate Cemetery (within Rose Hill Cemetery) in Hagerstown, Md due to Gov. Bowie's (Md) decision to honor the Confederate soldiers in a cemetery set aside for Confederate soldiers. The soldiers are identified and marked (346 in total). Those not identified are buried there as well in unmarked graves, which number 2122.

Though the soldier's last words are used by a prominent member in American history, the Col's family is never notified of the grave's whereabouts, and went undetected until a newspaper article in The Washington Times in 2007. President Theodore Roosevelt in Raleigh, North Carolina at the unveiling of the statue commemorating Sir Walter Raleigh, became "choked up" when it was time to read a yellowed piece of paper he held in hands. He handed it to Lord James Bryce (Britain's minister to the U.S.), which after reading it, Bryce responded, "President Roosevelt, we have nothing to compare with this in the British Museum." A true and rare compliment, indeed. You see, they were the words of Col. Avery who knowing he was about to die, he scrawled in his own blood with his left hand (he was paralyzed on the right due to his fatal injury)the following request, "Major, tell my father I died with my face to the enemy." His father eventually sacrificed a total of 3 sons and later another due to injuries sustained in the Civil War.

This story, which is told in its entirety at the link below, is a perfect example of how learning your family story can bring not only closure to a family chapter, but fill-in important facts about your family story. It's kind of like the difference between reading a non-illustrated book and an illustrated one. While you can't read "picture" books all the time [yes, I'm serious], neither can you tell your family story without "pictures" [literally & figuratively]. It's called many things in genealogy like: "filling-out your family tree", "adding branches or leaves to your tree", "fleshing-out your family". It doesn't matter what you call it, just do it. Find your family story. You'll never know what you might find -- a military hero, a thoughtful and loving son, a courageous soldier, a pirate [I've got one - a story for another day...], etc. Sometimes you find them, and sometimes in the midst of looking for one, another one will find you!

One thing is certain: you'll never know until you try.


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