Joseph (Introduction) – The Second of Three Remarkable People

family treeAlmost a decade ago I became interested in my family history.  I knew nothing beyond the name of my grandparents, that my grandfather had been the 7th Joseph Barnes in the family and that he had grown up an orphan after the death of his mother.  I knew nothing at all about my great-grandfather other than he was most likely a scoundrel from the wrong side of the tracks who abandoned his children after his wife died.  So, with curiosity aroused I enrolled in a free trial of Ancestry and quickly worked out my lineage on my grandfather’s side…at least what I thought it should be.  It really didn’t tell me much more about my family but I had gained a bunch of relatives that I had not known existed.  After that the free trial expired and I abandoned the search for several years.

One day while visiting my aunt I decided to Google his last name and found an article that discussed what appeared to be my ancestors going all the way back to the 1600s.  It was filled with facts, figures, specific names and occupations.  Could this really be my family?  Was this information true?  Could it be verified?  I checked with my aunt who recognized one of the last names mentioned as her great-aunt.  So, this was my family!  My interest rekindled, I organized the information into a timeline and started fact checking what was written.  I went back to Ancestry and signed up for a regular membership where I was able to find volumes of documentation.

In sharing my discoveries with my aunt I found out that she had been the caretaker of all the family pictures and heirlooms. She and my grandmother had gone through at least a half-dozen large boxes and identified almost every single person in each picture, dating from 1880s to 1950s. I also found a living person who knew my grandfather and grew up with my grand-aunt (his sister). He told me the farm and house that my great-aunt grew up in still stands, prompting me to take a trip to my grandfather’s home town so that I could document history that was still available. Over the course of the past few years I have confirmed quite a bit of that original article but there were also errors in it as well.

Whoever posted this document did many people a great service as it has often been referred to by other family historians looking for information about their families.  I have also been introduced to several new relatives that are actually living as a result.  This article was the starting point of my becoming our own family historian.  By giving me the stepping-stones to look in the right direction I have uncovered a wealth of information about my grandfather’s life, his struggles and opportunities…but mostly, the quality of his character.  I also was able to find out a lot more about my great-grandfather who was anything but a scoundrel.

My grandfather’s life was very complex and it would be too much to communicate in one writing.  I will be chronicling his life in parts over the next few posts and you will see why I think he is quite a remarkable man.

To read the first part of this series click here.