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Saturday, February 18, 2012

I was looking for horse thieves

This would be post number seven already and I am still having fun. I hope that all y'all are too.

Here in Fallon, Nevada, USA we are reaching for a high of 52 with cloudy skies and about 20 cents worth of chance for some rain.

What is really needed in this part of the country is snow in the higher elevations as this is where we will get our water come Spring. No snow, no water for irrigation and beyond that the wetlands. The water authority folks talk about having "X" number of years of water stored in reservoirs, but that is for human use. The water for irrigating the fields that produce the market crops like alfalfa, soybeans and corn to name a few are not in that plan. If you are a horse owner, (I was but no longer) you had better be concerned about where you are going to get your hay and how much it will cost you when you do find some. Plan for trouble my friends. Not enough snow, means not enough water, which means reduced crops and hay shortages.

Speaking of trouble, I went looking for some once and I have decided that I should write about that this morning.

One of the hobbies that Anna had when we got married was genealogy, or the search for one's ancestors and the written records of them. The LDS (Mormon) church, to which we do not belong, is quite fanatical about such research and recording keeping and used to be the best source of data in the days before the Internet was the all knowing oracle.

Many a night we went to their library and viewed microfiche and reels of film with documents like birth and death certificates, and the ever useful census reports. Hour after hour was spent staring at film readers and when you found something likely you printed out a copy to spend more hours staring at when you got home and contemplating whether it was the right person or not.

Just like with gambling at a casino, you only had to "win", or find someone, a couple of times and you figured that you were good at it and the hook was in your jaw.

Anna had a long head start on me with her research and had mountains of copied paper and notes. Plus she had family who actually talked to each and remembered their parents and grandparents. She had a wealth of names and locations which pointed her in the right direction. But she also had the usual family stories which "got better" over time and gave false leads. When you have to search one document at a time and you are in the wrong location it is easy to waste a huge amount of hours, even days and weeks as you waited for new records to arrive in the mail and become available.

Along comes her impatient husband, new to the game and hooked after finding just a couple of new relatives.  I was uncomfortable using the LDS church resources with all of the restrictions placed on non members and turned more to the computer and the Internet where I was free to search. Anna trusted her method of tried and true searching and so was skeptical of anything that might be found on the computer.

We are talking 1996 here and the web was not quite as complete as you see it now. I logged  many a late night hour searching and after finding a couple of really good leads which gave me new proof and new relatives I was excited! Anna called me a genealogy pit bull because I would never let go until I got what I was after. The names filled in and the branches of the tree took shape. No, it wasn't straight up!

The hook wasn't in my jaw, I had swallowed it! I was intent on finding the horse thieves and outlaws, or pirates, or something exciting.

We had family stories on my side too and I remembered a conversation with my paternal grandfather about our heritage that took place when I was about six. Grandpa told me that we were mostly Scottish but had Cherokee blood and he was 1/8 and that we should be proud of who we were.

Given that I was so young and that my grandfather died later that year from lung cancer, the conversation never went anywhere. My family wasn't interested in who we were and the story got filed away in the recesses of my memory. Later when it became the "popular" thing to claim Native American roots I said nothing, because what did I have to prove my story except the memory of a six year old.

So the hunt was on, I wanted find horse thieves, pirates and Indians now too. I stared at the computer screen until my eyes wanted to fall out. But I did make progress and my success brought Anna around and we found more as the sites became available like and search engines improved.

Are you excited now too? What did I find?

My ancestors on both sides did actually come from Scotland and ironically enough from the same area, although many years apart. For those who care I am Clan McIntyre on my father's side and Clan MacNichol on my mother's.

My paternal lineage grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War and was awarded a land grant of 1,000 acres in South Carolina, which they settled upon in 1800 and part of which is still in my family. As a statement of fact, not a judgement; they were plantation owners and as such slave holders. The son who would be my ancestor (ggggrandfather) married a Cherokee girl, much to the displeasure of all outside of the family. The land had belonged to the Cherokee Nation when the government gave it away and the local population of white land holders wanted the natives gone.

When this grandfather died during the Flu epidemic of 1832 (at age 32) my grandmother was declared a "non person" and as such had no rights to anything including her own children and the property of her house.

My grandfather's older brother was a lawyer and petitioned for, and was awarded custody of, his dead brother's children, including my ancestor, or my story would have been vastly different. My grandmother was sent to Oklahoma with many other Cherokees, Choctaw, Cree and others. She appeared there on the roles in 1838. No further record has been found, yet.

So the evidence to support my own grandfather's story was found, his story proven, I am 1/32 Cherokee and we are Scottish.

So did I find the horse thieves? Kind of, but that is a story for another time and if asked about Silas and the Hanging, I will recount it.

What I did find, which is FAR scarier than horse thieves, is the number of preachers and ministers in my family tree. On both sides!

As a side note, you can learn many interesting things about your family doing this research.

The grandfather who died in 1832 was the clerk of his church and as such was responsible for all record keeping and business transactions. This is important to me, not from a religious standpoint, but as proof of his education, he could read and write and do mathematics, etc. His older brother was a lawyer. Another was a Surveyor. This tells me that we came from a family that believed in education. Common practice of the times in that area was for only the oldest male child to receive any formal education, the rest being the work force which made it less necessary to spend the money schooling them.

I wish I could resolve why such an educated and loving family allowed my Cherokee grandmother to be sent away. It may never be clear to me, but from learning about it I am more determined than ever to treat people as equals. Something good has grown out of the injustice that I can't fix for her.

I know that you all have family stories, legends, myths, tall tales, "Uncle Herbie spit in Al Capone's face and lived to tell about it..."  Those stories invariably started out with a truth which may have been more interesting than what it has become.

Go hunting for horse thieves and see what you find. And then tell me, I can't wait to hear!

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