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My Time Machine — and welcome to it

June 20, 2009


There’s a story I have yet to write about how I grew up nowhere and somehow moved to my genealogical epicenter.  Though I bought a house because it was close to the train 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 his wives nearby).  I learned that the Fitzwater family founder arrived with William Penn and he and 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 couple of my father’s Smith 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 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. 
Confronted with this connection to history 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.  
A twist in my life journey found me back in school, pursuing a 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 an 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.  One of my goals is to work with some of the many local archives and repositories  that are unable to digitize their collections to post a few alluring tidbits from their valuable collections (and urge you to visit them to see what else you may find).  
If you are on your own quest, do check out the links list for possible new leads.
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