There’s a story I have yet to write about how I grew up nowhere — never living in a place more than a few years – and somehow landed in my genealogical epicenter.
Though I bought a house because it was close to a train station and had a pretty little arbor in the back, I later discovered that I was nearly surrounded by ancestral ghosts.
My relative Fitzwater White once lived around the corner and is buried in a churchyard up the road (with both of his wives nearby). I learned that the Fitzwater family founder, Thomas Fitzwater, arrived with William Penn and that many of my Fitzwater kin are buried in a family plot in the middle of a subdivision in nearby Fitzwatertown.
The Whites (the name my mother grew up with) may be found in the pretty meetinghouse yard up the road that-a-way.
In the opposite direction, a husband and wife from a different branch of ancestors lie under a poem inscribed on a stone erected in a cemetery where only a few years later British troops chasing George Washington would camp.
It turned out that my grandfather was born in a little town not far from here, at his father’s mill on a road that’s named after the family — White’s Mill Road. The mill itself was torn down soon after I learned about it. Losing it so soon after finding it was hard. I wanted to know more. And felt I should have done more to preserve its history and the tangible representation of that history.
Confronted with this connection to a past and people in a place that was new to me, I began to explore what it all meant. Helping my father do geneaology research I learned about more and more connections to this place, reaching all the way to the early Swedish settlers.
A twist in my life journey found me back in school, pursuing a graduate degree in historic preservation. Perhaps I was hoping to learn the skills that would allow me to bring back to life the people and places I was distantly connected to.
This blog is experiment in doing just that, a newfangled time machine that will allow me to share historic material with the intent of inspiring, informing or intriguing others.
I’m also a strong believer that the past shouldn’t be unapproachable. History doesn’t have to be a string of dates and a quiz with a pass or fail grade. With the time machine, the person from 1897 (my great-grandfather) might simply be your neighbor, with many of the same passions and concerns you and I have.
So, yes, I have an agenda here. But this will be a work in progress and I encourage you to share your own ideas with me. Let me know what you think in the comments section or you can email me via Sabra [at) MyOwnTimeMachine dot com