We were talking about "the mayor", a man you will meet later on in the story who happens to have been my 2nd great-grandfather. Out of the blue, my grandfather said, "Well, you know there's that little cemetery outside of town, right?" Of course, I said no, I had no idea. Had I been photographed at that moment, I'm certain my jaw was resting on my chest. Shortly thereafter, my grandfather and I made the one-hour trip to Morgan County, Illinois, to see this cemetery he was talking about.
I was in awe.
Atop a small hill and alongside the road, a white painted fence protected 4 grave markers. A nicely-carved wooden sign commemorated the place, including the fact that one of the individuals buried therein was the first blacksmith in Morgan County.
I went from marker to marker, taking photographs and just touching the stones. There before me was my 5th-great grandfather's burial place, alongside his wife. Next to them was their maiden daughter. And in the corner, a very large boulder with a plaque inscribed with a list of all of the burials in the cemetery that had been placed there by the Reeve Family Association. There was an association. A sign. A place. Family I had never known about until that moment.
I'm taking all of this in, and my grandfather says to me, "Oh, the old farmhouse is just down this way if you wanna go look at it." The old farmhouse. We had a farmhouse, for heaven's sake, and no one had ever mentioned it.
I think I beat him back down the hill to the car, and we traveled the short distance down the road, and there it was. The old prairie-type saltbox-ish homestead wasn't in great shape, but I didn't really care because it was "there". Not just "there", but "still there". My grandfather then explained to me that my distant cousins owned the farm, and took care of the cemetery, and that I really should talk to them sometime because he was sure they had lots of information to share if I wanted it.
Thus began my foray, my interest, and ultimately, my passion. I was to discover much about this paternal side of my family on the one hand, and yet, over the years, so very little that their origins became my first official "brickwall". As it turns out, they have become one of my favorite lines to research, as I have found out much that has brought them to life as people, not just dates and names and places. One of them was quite the character, another the mayor of a city, yet another a tireless midwife who made socks for the Union soldiers in the Civil War. You'll hear more about all of them later.
Within a year, I had written letters, made phone calls, met relatives I never knew (living ones), and had a good grasp on what this genealogy stuff was all about.
And I was all of 19 years old.
Next: The cemetery's sordid past, fun at the courthouse, artifacts, photos, and early Internet genealogy...