Legacy

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My grandfather taught me the importance of leaving a legacy. As we spent time together nearly every day of my life, I came to know his stories and experiences, his most joyful moments and his most compelling sorrows. I will always remember the somber look on his face as he took my hand and quietly told me, “Sister, as long as someone remembers who you were, what you stood for, you will never die.”

Those words have stayed with me through the years.  It was his joy of telling me of his ancestry, his life, and thus of my own, that lead me to major in Public History Research in college.  Because my grandparents lived next door to me as a child and I have raised my family in the home where members of my family have lived for five generations, I feel a sense of duty in carrying on the legacy of love, values, struggles and strengths that were passed on the me by my grandparents.

These are my mothers parents, both who lived into their 90’s.  They were married 72 years. I treasure the stories they told and I recorded, the maps my grandfather and I made that showed how our community looked and how people lived well over a century ago. With those gifts along with letters, mementos and keepsakes, I feel as if I truly “know” people that died before I was born. I have  photo albums overflowing with pictures (along with copies of pictures) dating back over one hundred years. Because my grandparents lived such a long life and were close by, we were able to label and identify many of the people, places and events that would have been lost to history without my interest and their willingness and joy in sharing their stories with me.

I don’t think of myself as a legacy, though I have written my thoughts and feelings most of my life. I think of myself as the keeper of a legacy, a link in a legacy that I have tried to pass down to my children and to their children.  I have a double-page in one of my old albums that speaks volumes to me about the importance of knowing who we are, and having the courage to share that knowledge with others.  On these pages, there is a photo of my son, myself, my mother, her father, (my grandfather), his father (my great-grandfather) and HIS father (my great-great grandfather.  We all look so much alike that it takes my breath away.

My grandpa always called me, “Sister” because I looked so much like his own sisters.  I can see myself sewing  dresses with his sister, as I read in the 1910 census that she was listed as a “seamstress”. My aunt still wells up with tears when she sees me because I look so much like my mom, (her sister) who has now passed away.  There is something magic about seeing myself in my ancestors.  It is so easy to imagine myself being in that photograph of my great-great grandfathers’ cabin in Kentucky in the 1890’s.

I think of what was sacrificed so that I could be here, in this beautiful valley in the Appalachians. One of my great-great grandfathers  was a prisoner of war for nearly three years.  Every one of my great-great grandfathers that I have researched was a Confederate soldier during this time.  It was a matter of hearth and home, and often not a matter of choice. I have photographs of most of these men and their families. We have stories of family members wounded at Gettysburg, and pictures of them. My grandmother told me stories about her grandfather and uncles going to Sutter’s Creek, California during the Gold Rush in 1849. They brought gold back around the Horn of South America, invested it in the Confederacy and subsequently lost it.  We have old Bibles, letters and records to prove it. My grandmother remembered playing with cousins in trunks full of then-worthless Confederate money.

I feel compelled to share some of the more difficult stories of my heritage-the family name that took years to connect to our first ancestor in America because it was a woman, not a man. She had given birth to a child out-of-wedlock and the fact was long-buried in the annuals of history. Another family member was difficult to find because his mother had remarried when he was a young child and he was listed by his name on a ship record along with his mother and step father who had a different name. They came to Pennsylvania on one of William Penn’s ships in the 1700’s.  William Penn had a lot of ships, I learned. This doesn’t mean my ancestor was even an acquaintance of Mr. Penn himself. Still, it is a fact worth preserving.

Then there are the rich or famous that we find among our ancestors. We have articles about my grandma’s cousin being Babe Ruth’s  second wife. Her name was Clara, but she was called “Claire”. Claire Merritt Ruth if you want to look it up. She met him when she was dancing with the Ziegfeld Follies in New York.

The records do not end with stories of old.  My father and uncles fought in World War II, some of them under the most heinous of conditions. My father and his brother were raised by a single father after their mother died when they were very young. I trudged my way through a four-year university in three years while I worked and raised two kids by myself.  I lost a son at age 15, he was just playing baseball and collapsed.

Each of us has a legacy, whether we want to or not, whether we share it or not.  I take pride in claiming every one who came before me, for their struggles, their triumphs and yes, even their failures.  That is who I am, it is who we are as a nation, as a people. To each of you who took the time to read this lengthy, yet, in honesty, extremely condensed history of one woman’s  family, I encourage you to take the time to preserve the story of who you are, where your family came from and to fill up that now-empty page with what the future holds.

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55 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    vbholmes said,

    Wonderful story! You are very lucky to know so much about your heritage and to live in the home where five generations of your family have preceded you. In today’s world, it is a rare luxury to have a daily connection to the past–and to appreciate it. I am very sorry to see your story marred by the passing of your son–the hardest of tragedies to bear.

  2. 3

    moorich said,

    As you know, three Merritt girls married three Moore boys and so their world was filled with double-first cousins, double the kinship of a first cousin as they got one dose from mother and another from father. The result was that the kinship was equal to a half-brother or half-sister.

    And these double-first cousins moved during their youth from one family to another. As our Uncle Willie would tell me, “he made two crops with us.”

    The offspring were generally divided as being more of one or the other. I heard “He’s a Moore or a Merritt.” My father was more a Merritt while Uncle Willie was a Moore. Aunt Maggie and Clare Lee were more Moores and Aunt May and Aunt Vivian were Merritts

    Your grandmother, my Aunt Irene, spent a lot of time living with her Uncle Jack because she so resembled his mother Margaret Allison Moore. That’s what she told me. He loved having her around for that reason.

    I too have heard the stories of our relatives playing store using worthless Confederate money from a trunk at the house in Cleveland, Georgia that our Great Grandfather Jeptha Merritt built with the gold he and his brother William dug out of their mine in El Dorado County, California.

    Our Uncle Gordon took that picture, so stark and pioneer looking, of our grandparents on their new house in Stockbridge, Georgia. What a wonderful photo. When I look at it I remember that this was the new home that our Uncle Orian built for them, and he and Aunt Ophelia moved their large family of one boy and five girls into what I understand was a lesser home up the hill (which they called “the mountain”) from this one. I can’t compare the two because by the time I became aware of things the grandparents were gone and Orian and Ophelia had moved into the house pictured.

    We do have a rich family heritage. And learning about them has taught me so much about the pioneers of our country.

    Thank you for the reminders, cousin.

    Richard Moore

    • 4

      beebeesworld said,

      I always love and keep to print-your replies because I know I will learn so much more-and correct my errors etc…thank you for reading and enlightening me-I thought i saw the sutters creek thing in a family bible=am I mistaken-I intend to add your letters to my family history stuff-i need to get them print out-i am so behind in everything w=right now. If you have or can make a copy of what you have written down about our moore-merritt gang, I sure would love to have it. You know a lot more about this stuff than me-you are a generation ahead of me and the one who did or retrieved most of the research-I crave more if it!!! As you can tell that photo is a “Picture of a picture” poor quality-all my good stuff is on film-and about all I can do is make photos from my old ones-which I havent done a lot of -and try to do a better job with the light etc=it can be done!keep in touch and keep informing me-I will be happy to reimburse you for pics.prints etc- money couldnt buy the really important part-knowing our family-who they were, what they liked, what they went through so we’d be where we are..should have wrote this on email …love u all brenda

      • 5

        ly said,

        My family in Conyers, GA, right down the road from Stockbridge, had a similar situation with brothers marrying sisters. Two brothers married two sisters and they had several children. One brother died; one sister died. The two who were left married and had children. My grandmother had brothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters, and step brothers and sisters.
        It’s all written down, but I never could keep it straight in my head!! The older I get, the more I want to know.

      • 6

        beebeesworld said,

        My grandmothers family was from the same area of “outer Atlanta”. Some still live in Stockbridge area,other towns that people fled to when Atlanta go to be a bit too much. Back in the day, a lot of people had similar situations to your family-a widow marrying his cousins widow etc. It was a matter of necessity-someone to keep the house/kids, someone to earn a living etc. Some people laugh when you say” three brothers married three sisters” etc-call it an Irish Tale, but it was often true-it was in my family. Nice to hear from someone with such close ties. I live in Western NC. My grandma’s family came up here from Georgia in 1917-thought it was too cold and went back to Ga. My grandma had fallen in love and married, so she stayed here. She always said, “You can take a girl out of Georgia, but you can’t take Georgia out of a girl!” Her 1st name was Georgia, but she went by her middle name-lived to be 96. she and her love. my grandpa, were married 72 yrs before he passed at age 91! I will follow your blog and see what else you have in store! Thanks for reading my blog, hope you will follow as well. beebeesworld

  3. 7

    Ths is truly a beautiful and great post. I enjoyed reading all the comments above. Thanks for sharing a part of you.

  4. 8

    howanxious said,

    Oh! It is beautiful how you carved the history of your family. :-)

  5. 10

    [...] Read more… 89 more words You guys … I feel the need to share some success of one of our own beloved … Beebeesworld is going to be featured on WordPress' "Freshly Pressed." Congrats, Beebeesworld!! You guys, give her some love. Full length article is HERE. [...]

  6. 11

    Beth Richardson said,

    That is such a wonderful article. I remember growing up next to my grandmother and her mother next door. It is a good feeling. Brought back memories. Congrats to you Beebeesworld on being featured on WordPress “Freshly Pressed.”. Proud of you.

  7. 13

    Congrats on having this freshly pressed, I can see why it was chosen. Beautiful.

  8. 14

    Nicole said,

    Pretty awesome article. You make it look so easy to recount family history! Very inspiring.

  9. 15

    russtowne said,

    I feel honored to be given these fascinating glimpses of your ancestry and you, beebee. Thank you for sharing them.
    Russ

  10. 17

    bamamagput said,

    Enjoyed your post. You are lucky to have known so many of your relatives, they sound lovely. My husband is the keeper of our Family History. It is pretty tedious to track back all those lost relatives. He had help with much of his research from my Grandfather’s years of research. I don’t know if you find it a challenge or not, but my husband is very careful to use documents and while he enjoys the computer searches like Ancestry.com with the census records, he finds many errors from well intended people that post stuff that just doesn’t fit the time or place with actually documents. What are your favorite search sites?

  11. 18

    lexiesnana said,

    I loved this post,as my families past is interesting to me and I love to write about it too.Thank you for a wonderful read.Blessings

  12. 19

    rajan said,

    The house itself is a legacy. It is so beautiful. Is it still there?

    • 20

      beebeesworld said,

      I don’t think so, it was built on the farm of one of my great grandparents children when they got old. They wanted to be closer, but have their own place. The photo was around the late 1930′s.

  13. 22

    gauravdey said,

    Definitely legacy continued…

  14. 23

    Your story kept me just when I was on the way to the lake – and that is hard to do! You will not believe it, but I’ve never heard about such a lifeline before. I have no ancestors to be proud of and there is in fact just one grandpa I can remember, but since a couple of years contact to my brother, after 10 years I did not see him. I’m very glad with the situation. I never thought that I will need my brother again, but I do! So thats my little story. I will be around here more often and be very curious what to find next…and now water is waiting…I wish you all the best, nice greetings from good old germany!

    Frank

    • 24

      beebeesworld said,

      Ich fühle mich geehrt, dass du mein “Legacy”-Geschichte so gut gefallen, dass es Ihnen immer von Ihrem See Ausflug-für eine Weile. Sie wieder in Kontakt mit deinem Bruder, ich bin ein einziges Kind, und wie Sie gelesen haben, ein Kind verloren. Lassen Sie mich wissen, wenn Sie eine Schrift Blog, facebook, E-Mail, dass Sie teilen und ich werde ihm folgen. Ich hoffe, Sie werden mehr von meinem Blog zu lesen und folge mir nach. beebeesworld

      • 25

        Entschuldige, dass ich jetzt erst antworte. Ich habe keine Benachrichtigung erhalten. Ich bin begeistert, das Du deutsch sprichst! Wie ich sehe bist Du sehr beschäftigt mit deinem Blog und dann habe ich sofort ein schlechtes Gewissen, wenn ich dir deine Zeit stehle. Ich schreibe über alles was an der Seele sägt und am Herzen nagt: Liebe. Du findest es hier: http://www.silbenschmiede.com
        Wenn Du mir einen Gefallen tun möchtest, möchte ich dich bitten ein Gedicht von mir zu lesen, das ich heute geschrieben habe. Es ist auf englisch und die Antwort auf ein Gedicht, das ich zuvor von einer Frau erhalten habe….

        I’m sorry that I answer this so late. I’ve received no notification. But I’m so exited that you speak german. I can see that you are very busy with beebeesworld and immediately I have a bad conscience about stealing you time. I’m writing about everything that saws the soul and gnaws on the heart: love. You can find it here: http://www.silbenschmiede.com. If would like to do me a flavour I may ask you to read a poem I’ve written today. It is in english and an answer to a poem a woman sent me. It will be easier when you send an eMail to silbenschmiede@t-online.de so that I have an adress where to send it to.

        With regards and all the best wishes to you
        Frank

      • 26

        beebeesworld said,

        Frank. Wie ich schon, vielleicht erwähnt nicht durchkamen, I dont tatsächlich Deutsch sprechen.
        Ich habe Freunde des deutschen Erbes und haben deutsche Vorfahren mich. Ich dachte, ich kann abholen ein bisschen aus sehen Sie Ihre Arbeit, und ich verwende ein Google Translater. Ich bin so froh you speak english! Ich las apoem Sie auf dem 20. von unserer Website geschrieben und es war sehr eindringlich. Die Gedanken waren von großer Tiefe, was hat Sie denken, es zu schreiben? Ich gehe zurück und lesen Sie mehr lesen Sie in Kontakt durch mein Blog lesen und das gibt mir einen direkten ling, um Ihnen zu bleiben. Best wishes, Brenda

  15. 27

    cartoonmick said,

    Grandparents are a great assets to family values.

    Every kid should have at least 4 of them.

    • 28

      beebeesworld said,

      And so many of us don;t-living, that Is. I had both of my mom;s into their 90’2-lived next door and never met my dads. My husbands grandparents had all passed away before he was born. beebee

  16. 29

    Elza Pereira said,

    Este amor e respeito pelos seus antepassados é que fez USA esta nação forte. Parabéns pela escolha, muito merecida.

  17. 31

    This was so beautiful to read.

  18. 32

    You’re obviously blessed to live where you do and to feel such a connection to your ancestry and heritage…congratulations! Beautiful post…

  19. 33

    juliet021365 said,

    I’m so glad reading your article,knowing that we have the same in common about our oldies.It’s only different from me because our grandparents got married without love involvement.That was happened on world war2 where Chinese people reached our country.And because of Chinese tradition their eldest daughter were also married to Chinese man without love involvement too.But what is the importance of this story is my grandparents lived in their whole life together till death.And the life story of their eldest daughter who was my aunt because she is the sister of my father was also a successful love story they have.For me it was a very inspiring story because as compared to all the love story and marriage life in today world failures of marriage life was so rampant when in fact freedom in everything was given to everyone.the family of my aunt was so closely tight until now.Their children have their own family,but still they were always have time to bond each other especially to my aunt.And I’m so glad to know that there is still parents who were sacrificing for the sake of family.

  20. 34

    You’re very fortunate indeed to know your family’s history. My father and mother rarely discuss theirs so I know only a very small amount. I became a journalist and have had total strangers tell me amazingly intimate stories about themselves, no small irony.

    I was in Chicago last November and stayed a block away from the North American Building, which my paternal grandfather helped develop. It was the most amazing feeling to be able to touch his legacy.

    • 35

      beebeesworld said,

      Thank you for reading my “Legacy” story. It is interesting to find out you were so near your family history and were able to learn from the experience. I will follow your blog and hope you will follow my blog as well. Best wishes,beebeesworld

  21. 37

    ly said,

    Beautiful remembrances of your family history. You’ve inspired me to think about mine. Later, when you read about my grandparents in my blog, know that the writing is a nod to you placing that prompt in my head. Thanks to you, friend. Laura

  22. 39

    Beautiful post. I too have done much family history research and have taken one of my lines back to 1470 here in UK.

  23. 40

    jane tims said,

    Hi. Your post says why so many of us love to research our family history, and why it is important to talk to our families about their own memories. Very nice post! Jane

  24. 42

    Cindy Hancock said,

    Simply lovely

  25. 45

    Sarah said,

    Lovely post. I actually felt my heart contract a bit when you told about losing your son. All of it was very moving.

    I come from a widely dispersed family, so don’t have the intimate memories you have. There’s even one branch I know nothing of because my paternal grandfather’s Irish Catholic family cut him off completely for marrying my Irish Protestant grandmother (in Canada, so not even part of their world!). There’s been some reconnection in the current generations, but it’s sad that so much was lost to my father. We know a lot more about my mother’s side, which I love. When I was a kid, as soon as we got to my grandmother’s house I’d disappear into the attic to go through the old photographs and what I thought were wildly exciting treasures from England. I’d still do that, if I could.

    Anyway, congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    • 46

      beebeesworld said,

      Thank you for reading my “Legacy” story. I will follow your blog if you will email me the blog address, I could not access it from my site.It is sad that your fathers family was lost to you-it may be possible to find out about it with some research. Thanks for the kind words about my son. Life changed for me forever. I have almost died 2, maybe 3 times from the result of the traumatic stress of his loss. hope you will follow my blog as well. Best wishes,beebeesworld

  26. 47

    Revisiting family heritage is a mind-opening experience (a humbling one too). I had a chance to revisit mine in Eastern Europe a few years back, an experience that I hold close to my heart.

    Thanks for the post.

  27. 48

    Shane Lynch said,

    I’m not sure though. I think it may have been a generational thing. Leaving a legacy I think is less important to the younger generations who have been more inclined to detach themselves from history when topics such as foreign policy and environmental threats lurk in the future. Plus with our ever growin population the likelyhood of leaving a legacy that will be applicable to any type of mass audience let alone the next generation of people all trying to be unique is a bit of a pipe dream… People now live in the moment and and for the next.

    I like the post though. Keep it up and congrats on the FP! You deserve it.

  28. 49

    coolcatcal said,

    Hi BB-
    Very uplifting and well written story. Great pic of house. Nice “spin” on your topic..legacy.
    We have some things in common…my dad was a prisoner of war also, WWII….
    see my touching song lyric BLUBIRDS CAN FLY IN THE RAIN @
    http://www.starseeker777.wordpress.com
    also my tune THAT OLD HILLBILLY SONG (civil war) @…
    http://www.soundclick.com/coolcatcal
    and of course, we share our love for shooting pictures and writing.

    Keep up the great work!

    Cal

    http://starseeker777.wordpress.com

  29. 50

    Oh, Beebee. Its’ so powerful. You have a fascinating history to share. Thank you for sharing it. You packed a lot into a short amount of space. I wish I could take the time to understand my history more. It is something that must continued, or somewhere down the line it will be lost. As you said, you are link in the legacy of your family’s heritage and history. It definitely has got me thinking I should try to do the same. My parents will not be alive forever. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed.

    • 51

      beebeesworld said,

      Thanks for reading my article, I know you will be richly rewarded by the stories you hear, the research you do and by sharing what you learn.Remember to label your old photos-make copies of old pictures owned by others with your digital camera-at their home. People will let you copy their photos, but not take them to your home. I got most of my old photos this way 20-30 years ago with a film camera and diopter lenses, unfortunately , they are not easily or economically copied to disk. I am going to have to copy my “copies” with my digital camera, and the quality goes down with every re-copy. ready-set-go! beebeesworld

  30. 52

    iRuniBreathe said,

    It’s amazing to read about your family and that you know so much about them. Definitely a legacy to be treasured. I don’t think heritage and lineage is as important for the current generations, although perhaps if the stories were uncovered they could be.
    This was a great post and I’m glad it was on FP!
    Cheers,
    iRuniBreathe

  31. 53

    After “liking” your post when it was first freshly pressed, I’m coming back to it to urge you to consider expanding on this “extremely condensed” story. I’d love to read more about your 49er, Confederate, baseball hero marrying, and POW ancestors. I’d follow that for sure and you’d be doing all those that came before the favor of keeping them alive as they get “remembered” by your readers.

    Thanks for the visit, too. Lynyrd Skynrd rules!

  32. 54

    [...] BeeBee’s World is full of beautiful imagery that I read when I need a smile. My favorite post on this blog is still a short family history called “Legacy.”  [...]


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