Disturbing the Dead, Annoying the Living

What calls us to find the ancestors? It goes beyond a simple curiosity. We are taken over, compelled, as if possessed by something bigger than us, begging to be revealed. There is one of us in almost every family called to be the scribe. I am but one of many in our clan’s long line of storytellers. Like others, I’m called to gather and assemble the ancestors; to breathe life into them again as far back as we can reach. We take what we find and chronicle the facts of their existence, remembering their names, who they were, and what they did. They are the sum of who we are. Without them, we would not exist. We greet those who came before us, restoring their place in line. We scribe their stories and their histories. We search for them in public libraries, county records, and weed-filled or well-kept cemeteries. We comb through yellowed newspapers, family archives, lovely old letters and photo albums. We find them! And in finding them, we find ourselves. Catherine (Clemens) Sevenau, Sep 2009 (Inspired by “We Are the Chosen” written by Della M. Cumming, ca 1943)

Catherine and Gordon Sanders, Montana 2006

Catherine and Gordon in Sanders, Montana 2006

Taking a sidebar from finishing a family memoir, I spent five years working on family genealogy with my brother—our research and records spanning from our ancestors sailings to America to our parents’ generation. We’ve done a commendable job of exploring our roots, bringing our ancestors together onto the same pages, compiling what would be a library shelf on the family lines. Gordon has been researching for years, I of late. But more important than what we’ve done, is our time together doing it. As he is fourteen years older, I never really knew him growing up, so I’m grateful for this relationship we’ve created. We’ve visited Minnesota: our father’s roots—and covered Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado: our mother’s history. We drove to Sonora where I was born, to Colusa where our parents met, to Brea where our mother is buried. We dug up information on our main ancestral lines, then put it all to rest—assembling and reuniting those no longer with us. I think it stems from my “keeping the family together” thing…  and then some.

FindAGrave logoIn the early morning and late at night I continue to research and add information to our lines. I make phone calls and send emails to unknown cousins. I search cemeteries. I track down pictures. Genealogy can be addictive, and being just a tad obsessive-compulsive, it keeps my fire fueled. I’ve created or contributed to over 6,000 pages of ancestors and related kin on Find A Grave, a kind of Facebook for the Dead, and have compiled five volumes on our Clemens, Chatfield, Hoy, and Chamberlin lines. Who’d have guessed that dead people would be my thing?

Find A Grave: Catherine (Clemens) Sevenau
Chatfield Heritage

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