Family Trees and Woodpiles

One of my personal, unpublished (until now) goals is to work on my family tree.


I was fascinated by census records when I was in my early twenties and did a lot of research on the family tree.  Obviously this was long before the internet and it required patience and resources like microfiche containing census records from the 1800s.  It involved a lot of guesswork and produced many dead ends.  Thankfully I was a college student who had the time to invest and enjoyed the air conditioning of the library since I had none of my own.


Fast forward almost forty years to retirement and I’ve got that urge again.  So much has changed!  Thanks to the internet you can now capitalize off of other people’s research.  At this point I haven’t even tapped into the “subscription” services.


But there are still rabbit holes to go down.  Whereas I used to focus only on my surname, now I spend time following some of the ‘supporting cast members’. 


On my father’s side, tragedy brought an early death to both my great-grandfather and great-grandmother.  The children were divided between relatives at very young ages resulting in a huge void of information in later years.  It has only been in the past few months that I have begun to assemble some of that lost history.  I suppose it has been there all along but there has to be an investment of time to pull it together.  Some of the stories sound vaguely familiar but others are totally new to me.


My great-grandmother Virginia’s maiden name was Butler.  She died as a young widow following pneumonia, which was a by-product of a severe burn she received when her dress caught fire tending the fireplace.  Her father was one of identical twins.  (News to me.)  I love the names given to these twins born in 1851: George Washington Butler and Marquis Lafayette Butler.  Do a quick search of who gets credit for great victories in the Revolutionary War and you will find these names they were given! George “Wash” never married; Marquis “Fate” was my great-great-grandfather.


Go back a generation to their father and you’ll learn that Burnell Butler was a deaf mute and yet achieved much in his life, raising a large family.  That is, until one of his sons escaped the asylum and allegedly pushed him off a cliff during an argument.  There were some in this branch of the tree with great power (enough to destroy a town by diverting the railroad) and others on the losing end of gunfights.


My dad always said to be careful when you start poking in the family woodpile….

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