Friday, August 14, 2009

Family values

It’s been a good week so far for cousins named Ken --- first Ken Mason via e-mail, well on his way to becoming his branch of the Mason/Miller family’s principal historian; then Ken Sims, wife Janet, and their three children in person.

I’ve never been good at figuring out degrees of cousinship --- life is too short to work the formulas. But one way to explain it is to look at the photo above of the Joseph Cyrus and Mary Elizabeth (Clair) Miller family of English Township, Lucas County, taken about 1890. Ken Mason is a grandson of that tall girl in the center of the back row, Elizabeth Mary, my Great-aunt Lizzie. She went on to marry Albert Mason and Ken’s dad, Ray, a first-cousin of my mom, was one of five results.

My granddad and Ken Sims’ great-granddad is that somber looking young man on the far right, William Ambrose Miller, who married Jessie Frances Brown. Ken’s mom, Alice (Krutsinger) Sims, and I are first-cousins. The Krutsinger branch of my family lives in Colorado although Ken and family live in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

I don’t know Ken Mason well enough to gossip about him, but feel no similar constraint about the Sims family although I have nothing but positive things to say.

Those are the Sims below, taken two years ago out at the farm in the rain and all concerned still look pretty much the same, although dryer. We were having such a good time talking (and eating) that I didn’t think of pulling out the camera and taking a new shot this time until it was too late and they had headed east.

Much has been made of late in political debate and discussion of various social issues about “traditional values” and “family values.” As it happens, when I think of family values I think (among others) of the Sims.

Some of this involves career and other choices Ken and Janet have made to place the principal emphasis for now on life with their children as a family.

One small aspect of that has been a consistent effort to visit regularly here in Lucas County so that the children would have an opportunity to see the landscape, meet and interact with the elders of their family among both the Millers and Krutsingers (now for the most part deceased) and perhaps understand a little more clearly part of where and who and what they come from.

In a family of farmers stretching back beyond sight whose diaspora was forced by the depression of the 1930s and whose members are now almost entirely divorced from the land and scattered from coast to coast, such a thing is rare. In fact, these three great-great-grandchldren of Cyrus and Mary Miller are and probably will remain the only representatives of their generation within my immediate family who will have had that opportunity.


I’ve been on call lately to run over to the library and help researchers, and many from out of state turn up during the summer, in the family history rooms maintained by the Lucas County Genealogical Society. These rooms are always open and often staffed by Darlene Arnold, Mary Ruth Pierschbacher and others, but the regulars can’t be expected to be there all the time or constantly on call.

Although there are exceptions, most of these researchers are older --- my age and beyond --- and developed their interest in family history or found the time for it long after the real live people who could have pointed them in the right direction and shared the stories that bring lists of names and dates to life, have died. Scraps of paper, microfilm images and tombstones are useful when that’s all that’s left, but I’ve always been grateful to have known nearly all the available elders --- one advantage to growing up in a region where the first of the ancestors arrived in 1838 and the tail end, in 1867.

Thursday’s researchers were related to some of the oldest Washington and Cedar township families --- McKinley, Prather and Davis --- as well as the Larimers. And the principal researcher I think was a little overwhelmed by what was available, like a kid in a genealogical candy store. If only he’d been related to the Goltrys, too. It could have been a clean sweep.

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