01 January 2013

2013 is in the building

Shelton, Nebraska

Having once more taken care of that peculiarly Southern ritual of serving black-eyed peas, cornbread and green leafy stuff for luck in the New Year, we are looking out on a somewhat snowy landscape and watching the sunset in tones of blue. A little later today; we've passed the solstice and are heading into longer days. The light slants just a bit less today than it did yesterday, and will ease up another notch tomorrow. You notice these things up here, just as you notice the scent of snow. Yes, it has one.

The family genealogy project now includes records for over 16,000 people, on both sides of the family. Cousins continued to marry cousins, so the intertwining can be dizzyingly complex. I am finding that I am most interested in the ones who kept looking for the next frontier, the next promised land, the next homestead. There is so little left of their hard work, which is why those small structures on the endless prairies stop me in my tracks every time. They were not always so silent.

Today in ancestral history: Ambrose Cobb, 10th great-grandfather on the Brooks/Honnoll side, died in 1605 in Kent, England. He was 42 years old and didn't get out of Kent during his lifetime, as far as I can tell. At this remove of time, there is so little that we know about people who just lived their lives without fanfare. His descendants made up for it, though. His son Ambrose emigrated to Virginia, eventually patenting 350 acres on the Appomattox River. There is speculation that he first built an English-style small thatched house, followed by a mansion known as the Cobbs Hall. Ambrose and his line are ancestral to the Savages, Moons and eventually Nancy Ellinor Honnoll; Cobbs Hall is the burial place of Col. John Bolling, only great-grandson of John Rolfe and Pocahontas, to whom there is a whisper of a connection on the Shelton side of the family. I think I am related to everyone in the world at least twice at this point, and have just started calling everyone "Cousin Cousin" for simplicity's sake.

Ambrose's descendants didn't stay in Virginia long, not all of them, anyway. They moved onward, south and west, from Virginia to South Carolina to Hardeman County, Tennessee (named for, again, a family connected to the Shelton side of the family), and on to Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma. They lived in structures far more like the thatched house than like Cobbs Hall, including half-dugouts on the plains. There was always some kind of roof made out of the materials at hand, it seems.

Starting this week, I will be part of the city Historic Preservation Commission, which I hope will help me put these tiny architectural stories into a good context. If I have a philosophy about all of this, it's that one should learn everything possible about the immediate vicinity and the recent ancestors, while those stories can still be saved, so that we have images and sounds and accounts of the people themselves, not just the structures they left.

Forward into the past.....

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