Sylvester Family Gathering in 1897

Several people have asked about the cover picture.  The picture was taken in 1897 at a gathering of the family of my paternal great-grandparents, James Madison Sylvester, Jr. and Rachel Helms Sylvester.  Not only does this picture include three generations of people, it also includes the two major mode of transportation for the family.  On the right is a horse of one of the family members.  Horseback riding and buggies were the major mode of transportation.  On the left side is a bicycle which was also used by several family members.  Many years ago, I received a copy of the picture and asked my father to identify everyone.  Although he was not born until several years later, he knew everyone with the exception of one family which is thought to be the photographer and his family.  The three generations include my paternal great-grandparents, my paternal grandparents, an aunt, and several great-uncles and great-aunts.

Having someone identify the persons in an ancestoral picture is a great contribution to ones genealogical research.  I have found that this is made easier by photo-copying a photograph and placing numbers on each person in the picture.  Then it easy for a relative to say that “number one is your great-uncle, Abner Smith”.  This is much easier than attempting to write, “The fourth person from the left.”  Later, it is much easier to create a listing of all of those in the picture.

In the cover picture, my great-grandfather, James Madison Sylvester, Jr., is seated at the far right.  Seated immediately to the left is his wife, my great-grandmother, Rachel Helms Sylvester.  My grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Wampler, is standing directly behind my great-grandfather.  My grandfather, Forest Edward Sylvester, is the man standing in the back fourth from the left.  My aunt, Clara Belle Sylvester Hazel, is the little girl seated on the ground second from the right.

Seated on the ground are three unknown children thought to be those of the photographer.  As stated earlier, the girl second from the right is Clara Belle Sylvester Hazel.  Seated in chairs are Rosetta Helms Burkhart with Jeptha Nobel Burkhart standing by her, Jane Helms Fox holding Jimmy Fox, Phoebe Cuthrell Fox, Rachel Helms Sylvester, and James Madison Sylvester, Jr.  Standing are Mary Eliza Sylvester Humphrey Clay, Unknown photographer’s wife, Nanna Wampler Humphrey, Ada Sylvester Clark, Nettie Burkhart Barrett, Cora Sylvester Fox, Sarah Elizabeth Wampler Sylvester.  Standing in the back are Foris Sylvester, Absolom Humphrey, Walker Burkhart, Forest Edward Sylvester, John Fox, Emma Sparks Sylvester, and Charles Sylvester.

Writing Your Own Story

Have you ever wished that your ancestors had written their own autobiographies?  Wouldn’t it be great if your great-grandparents had written about their lives including facts about their daily lives, their religious and political beliefs, and their hopes and dreams for the future.  As we do our genealogical research, we struggle to find facts about our ancestors, but what a great find it would be to have it in their own words.

Now think about your own grandchildren and future generations who will want to know about your life, your thoughts, and your dreams.  At this point, you may be saying, “Who would want to know anything about me?  I’m not interesting.  I haven’t done anything important.”  That is probably why your ancestors didn’t write about their lives.  But, we know that their lives were interesting to us.  We want to know about their homes, the jobs, their hardships, their successes, their religions, their political beliefs.  What they considered mundane, we find fascinating.

Now back to us.  We should create a gift to our descendants.  We should write about our lives as mundane as we think they may be.  By the time our grandchildren begin their genealogical research, what we consider a normal day in a normal home in a normal society will be past history.  To our grandchildren, our lives will be as unique as the lives of our grandparents are to us.  Hard to think about isn’t it!  But it is true.

Now about creating that gift of writing your own biography.  First of all, you will be able to provide facts and thoughts that you know are true.  You will be able to share what you wish and keep private what you wish.  It is a way of being in control of your own life story so that those researchers in the future have the facts in your words.  How do you write your own story?

I will be giving a presentation on “Telling Your Own Story” as a part of the monthly free presentations at the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana, Inc.  Their monthly free presentations are on the second Wednesday of each month (except June, July, and August) at the Main Allen County Library in downtown Fort Wayne, Indiana.  My presentation is this Wednesday, January 14, at 7:00 p.m. at the downtown library in the Theater.  Take the elevator down to Level Two.  Refreshments will be served starting at 6:30.  Also, the Society will also have books related to Allen County on sale.  I hope you will come and learn how to write your own story.