By Becky Cook
Alas, we are getting ready for another season of March Madness. From the earliest post-season contests to the Final Four collegiate basketball pairings, we are forced to view the television and internet brackets which show who is still in the running. We see the flow of play down to the last game. If you have a favorite team you watch and follow its progress toward victory. . . . OR its elimination.
At the same time I’ve become aware of a pattern of brackets which has nothing to do with basketball or any other sport. It’s simply a way to represent family history/genealogy/ancestry in an orderly fashion. You look back in biographical lineage and you build a “stair step rendering” of your family succession through the years. I have some family members who have already discovered much of my maternal and paternal lineage. But, I’ve also learned that they only scratch the surface. I THINK I know who I am and where I came from, but I want more. I want to find out who I really think I am.
My Dad’s mother was born in 1861 and lived most of her 104 years in Madison County, NC. Part Native American Cherokee, this hard working mountain woman, grew up, married, raised her family, and is buried in a plot on the family property. That is also where my dad grew up. He was the youngest of Granny Becky’s nine children, not all of whom lived to adulthood. And he was the only one of the family who graduated from college. I knew my Granny Becky quite well and listened to hers and other family members’ stories first hand. The only home I ever knew her to have had no running water, only well water with hand operated pumps; no indoor plumbing, rather an outhouse a vigorous hike away from the house, OR a “chamber pot” beside the bed at night. Though the only electric kitchen appliance I ever knew her to have was a refrigerator, Granny’s wood burning stove was where she daily produced melt-in-your-mouth biscuits for whoever dropped by! I consider the memories and recollections of her to be awesome. And now, with the help of a friend who understands more formal ways to access genealogy, I’ve gained a whole new viewpoint.
My Mother’s lineage is pretty remarkable as well. Much of it has been recorded in a 40-page account entitled The Autobiography of Alfred Knight, Though the document contains no graphic bracketed representations, family names and dates are plentiful. The family originated in England and emigrated to the U.S. in 1871. The story of their move to America has always fascinated me. Newly widowed Alfred Knight (my Great-Grandfather) loaded up his 6 children (one of whom was my Grampa) and headed across the Atlantic in a commercial sailboat. It was a six-week nightmare of a trip replete with dreadful seasickness and almost overpowering discouragement. But, they arrived in New York and eventually connected with family members already there. Alfred Knight ended up settling in western New York State along Lake Erie where he pastored a church and where his son Francis (my Grampa) became a farmer. Grampa married Florence Napper, who was a distant cousin of his, and who had also immigrated from England. They had 5 children, including my mother. I was named for my two grandmothers, Florence and Rebecca. The crudely written document telling this story comes from a hand written diary my Great Grampa kept over several years. His son typed it for the family. The time frame includes places and events of the family before and after their move to America. Husband, John and I enjoyed searching for street names and business addresses in London where the family lived and worked all those years ago.