Sunday, June 28, 2015

If You Could Spend an Afternoon With an Ancestor....

I'm imagining time with an ancestor again.  In my last conversation with an ancestor I didn't mention in my post that I would ask about her parents and family.  I wouldn't want my ancestor to think I wasn't interested in him or her personally or that I was only interested in talking with him or her for the purpose of obtaining genealogical information.  I would certainly have included questions about family -- parents, siblings, ancestors -- in our visit, but only after my ancestor and I had developed a rapport and become comfortable with each other.

Today I'm imagining time with one of my British-born ancestors, one who is just three generations away from me, my great-grandfather, William Doyle.  He came to America as an 8-year-old boy with two younger siblings and his mother.  His father had immigrated to America the previous year.  All of his grandchildren called him Pap.

I would choose a spring or autumn afternoon for this visit.

I would like to know...
  • if he worked in the mines even as an 8-year-old.  Family legend says he did.  If so, I would like to know what he did and how he felt about it.
  • if he was able to attend school while he lived in England and what it was like, if he did.
  • that he remembers about preparing to come to America, the trip across the ocean, landing in America, and travelling from New York to Pennsylvania.
  • what happened that he decided to keep a mustache his whole life.  (Again, family legend says there was an accident that caused scarring.)  What was the accident and how did it happen?
  • how he met his wife, Tressa Froman.  Maybe he would tell me some courtship stories.  Maybe he could tell me where his father-in-law is buried!
  • if he remembers his grandparents on either side of his family, if he lived near them, and whether he saw them often.  I hope he would share specific memories.

With an afternoon to spend with him, I would ask him to show me around the farm in Stoneboro.  I would ask what life was like for him as a boy on the farm and what school was like.  I would want to know about his childhood friends.  I hope he would talk about growing and selling strawberries, determining where to dig a coal mine, and share any special memories of his parents and/or his children.

I'm sure his answers to my questions would prompt more questions and the afternoon would pass all too quickly.  I fully expect to be able to talk to Pap when I pass through the veil from life to death.

I welcome your thoughts about questions you'd ask your own ancestor.  If some of you would like to write a post and leave a link in a comment I'll compile your responses in a blog post next Sunday or Monday.  (Feel free to use this image or the one in the previous post at the link above.)

Happy visiting with your ancestor.


Copyright © 2009-2015 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Nancy, what a clever way to share a story about an ancestor when all you have are snips and unsubstantiated family lore.

    1. I hadn't thought of these "conversations" in those terms, Wendy, but it works for me. It's sad to realize that I know more (from family sources/legend) about this line of my family than any other. It's also sad to learn that even though the family believes it, records indicate different "facts." Thankfully I don't have to show many people the discrepancies -- so no family quibbles.

  2. Those questions would definitely be interesting to find the answers to!

    1. Those, and so many more, Brenna. Some day I'll be able to ask.

  3. There are so many questions I'd like to ask of many of my ancestors. Sadly, I didn't begin researching my family history until after my maternal grandfather's death. There are lots of questions I wish I could ask him about his life.

    1. Oh, yes, I know what you mean, Jana. Soon after I joined the Church our home teacher encouraged me to start asking questions of my oldest relatives. I'm so glad he did. Even so, I didn't get all of my questions answered and there are still so many things I'd like to know.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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