Searching for the BaldridgeTree, my family history blog, had its origin in the genealogy research I began in the latter part of my life. As the sad story goes, I was late to recognize the value of my heritage, and I squandered far too many opportunities to learn it from the best sources, my still-living family members. Thus, I now must dig out each and every scrap of family history from the books and databases that are available.
However, I soon discovered that, as valuable as every old photo and document record may be, they did not satisfy my need. Okay, now that I know the dates of birth and death, the marriages, the children, the places lived and deeds accomplished, now what?
When I first began researching my family, I often found quotes that were meaningful to my task and which encouraged me to persevere. One in particular that inspired me was by Mitch Albom, from his book For One More Day: “Sharing tales of those we’ve lost is how we keep from really losing them.”
Someone wise also pointed out that, at the end, our lives are often encapsulated by two dates separated by a dash. And since the dash represents everything that happens between those two dates, it is the most important part. The guiding thought I adopted for my blog reflects all of this when it says in part, “I honor their history. I cherish their lives. I will tell their story. I will remember them.”
I also have found inspiration in reading the stories that others write about their own family history. This story, For the Queens and Kings of Appalachia, for example. It’s from a blog written by Anna Wess, and since Appalachia is my heritage, too, I always recommend Anna’s work to others. If you haven’t yet read this particular story of hers, you should — it doesn’t matter whether it’s your heritage or not. And if you aren’t acquainted with the writing of Anna Wess, you should definitely correct that oversight, too.
You may not have heard her name before, but you soon will. Anna writes with an authentic Appalachian voice — and I don’t mean that she mimics our dialect and accent as others have tried to do She doesn’t need to, because Anna Wess is the real deal and it flows naturally.
Anna Wess writes of her home, the mountains of Southwest Virginia, but they are ours, too. The mountains of Kentucky, of West Virginia, of Tennessee, of North Carolina, of dadgum southern Ohio — even if you live in a city on the flattest of the flat plains of Indiana, no matter. We cannot leave those mountains behind; they will never go from us; for they are OUR mountains, and they are home.
Anna is OF us, and her stories are OUR stories. When she writes about her Granny, you may recognize your own Granny. You will know Anna as kin by her words. One note of caution: if you’re no longer in Appalachia, her tales are a letter from home that will make you ache with yearning.
After you have read this award-winning story, sit and stay a spell. Do yourself a great favor and look around at the other offerings on her blog. Anna will welcome you as family and offer whatever she has to share.
Oh, and when you do visit with Anna, do not fail to make your acquaintance with Paw. You could hear some distant echoes of your own Daddy in him. At the very least, you will never be able to forget Paw.
Yeah, I’m a big fan of Anna Wess. Just trust an old country boy — read, you will be, too. The only downside is that you may often find yourself wistfully looking into an empty mailbox, longing for another letter from home to arrive.
This is a hard place. And we are hard people. All of us know that hardness, even those who have escaped into the rest of the world. We are proud of it. It’s a birthright. A certain bad blood courses through us, as arcane as the land itself. These mountains are family, our very ancestors. They have taught us lessons that haughty Northerners and other foreigners will never learn or understand.
We are children of the pines. Walkers of the high ridges. Tellers of stories too wild to be true… but are. We are the daughters and sons of central Appalachia. We are, by birth, Kings and Queens of this nowhere. We know this. These mountains have told us so. They love us and want to keep us all to themselves. The wind has whispered it to our souls since we knew how to speak and listen. And we listen…
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