Who I Am and How I Got This Chronic Condition
My name is Deborah A. Carder Mayes, but I’m just Debbie to people who know me. I hope you will get to know me through my new column for The In-Depth Genealogist. I’m a baby-boomer who got a chronic condition about 1998. It’s highly contagious and extremely addictive. If you’re reading this, you probably have it, too. It’s called genealogy.
Some of the symptoms include: knowing where all of the cemeteries are in the county you live in or, at least, in the county where your great grandparents lived; knowing all of the counties in the state and most of them in at least one or two other states; knowing the names of the all of the townships in counties you’ve never in and the names of the little blink and you’ve-missed-it-villages; knowing the most popular given names a hundred years ago; having the desire to stop at every little country cemetery you pass; preferring an old county history to a new bestseller; knowing what was actually asked on a census for any given decade; and checking the obituaries before the front page headlines. There are a lot of other symptoms but you get the picture.
So, how did I catch this condition, you ask? About 1990, my dad wrote a little booklet containing everything he and his only living aunt could remember. Together, they listed everyone they remembered or remembered hearing about, their birth and death dates and places if they knew them and any “facts” they knew about them. Dad talked to all of our close living relatives and asked for their birth dates and for copies of pictures of everyone in our family living or dead. This was the first section of his little booklet.
The second part was all of the old stories that had been passed down to him and his aunt. At least, all they could remember. He called this section of the little booklet, “The Dirt and Stuff”. I love this part. Some of the old stories I’d heard before, but some were new to me.
Dad made copies for everyone in our family. They were just simple little booklets he printed himself off of his computer and bound in those paper folders with the clips inside like we used for essays and school projects.
I am the oldest among my first cousins. During the ‘90s, my younger cousins all got married and started having kids. Dad wanted to update the family history booklet he had written and add my cousins’ spouses and children. He asked me if I would help him.
Dad and I made the rounds, visiting each of my aunts, uncles,and cousins, getting the information for the family history updates and taking new pictures of everyone. Then, we went to my great aunt’s to see what else she may have remembered. I remember sitting at her house listening to her and Dad brainstorm and being fascinated hearing old family tales I’d never heard.
I wanted to know more and asked them what they’d like to learn about our family that they didn’t know. They replied that they wanted to know who John Carder’s parents were, as John was the earliest ancestor they knew of and who was Gooseberry?
John Carder was my great, great grandfather. All they knew was that John was from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia and had fought in the Civil War.
When the family bible existed, which my dad and great aunt both remembered, written on the family page was a grandmother who was Cherokee whose name translated into English as “Gooseberry” and whose given white name was Mary.
Another bit of family history was about my great aunt’s and my grandpa’s brother being struck and decapitated by a train while playing along the tracks the day after his twelfth birthday.
I want to find the answers to their questions and I wanted to learn the whole truth behind the old stories. Remember, Dad did no research beyond what was remembered and getting birth and death dates.
Dad said to his aunt, “Aunt Marge, I remember visiting great grandpa, John Carder’s grave when I was a boy. Do you remember where it is? My great aunt looked at him and replied,
‘Why, yes. I still go every Memorial Day and put flowers on the graves.”
The next morning, Dad and I picked up Aunt Marge and we were off to Logan County, Ohio where we went to a little country cemetery. She showed us where the eight family members were buried and who was buried there. It was fortunate she knew because there were only three markers. One was a small child’s marker that was totally legible. One was John Carder’s daughter, Mary who died at the young age of 33 years old, and one was John’s government issued marker with his company and regiment on it, “Jno. Carder, Co. I, 71st Ohio Infantry”. Now we knew John had moved to Ohio before the Civil War as there had been the question whether he lived in Virginia or Ohio when he served.
I’ll save the answers and stories learned through my research about John, his daughter, Mary, Gooseberry, and little Natie who was killed by the train for future posts but now you know how I acquired the chronic addition of genealogy.
I am a genealogical speaker, writer and researcher in West Central, Ohio. I live in Allen County with my husband, Cliff, our sweet dog, and bratty cat.
Early, in my genealogical journey, I joined the Ohio Genealogical Society and its Allen County Chapter. The older chapter members were my first mentors from whom I learned so much and will always to grateful. I am currently the Allen County vice-president and newsletter co-editor. I’ve previously served as historian, 3 terms as vice-president, 4 terms as president, 8 years newsletter editor, and for many years as a library research volunteer, workshop director, FGS delegate and on most committees. I belong to several other OGS chapters, NGS, APG, GSG, ISFHWE, and numerous other genealogical organizations and lineage societies. For full list and my services, visit my website, Deborah A. Carder Mayes Genealogy & Family History. I’m excited to be a new columnist for The In-Depth Genealogist and hope you will enjoy and learn from my column, Beyond the Obituaries.