One of the best sources for genealogy has to be the family Bible where ancestors recorded births, deaths, and if you are lucky, other bits and pieces of information. Generally, all you end up with is basic vital information with a dash between someone’s birth date and death date.
We use the dash as a form of punctuation to separate groups of words and symbols. In the case of those who have gone on before us that little dash represents their entire life.
One of my goals regarding what I do is to fill in as many of those dashes as I can with the details of an interesting life, so I can share it with you and make my research part of the public record.
I try to discover how the person filled their dash.
Finding vital statistics regarding someone is nice. Having a face to look at in a vintage photograph is wonderful, but knowing a few of the details regarding how that person went about their day is the ultimate goal, right?
It’s not easy in most cases since very few of our ancestors left behind a diary or letters, and by this time most personal effects are non-existent.
I often run across various listings in the newspapers published across the state that mention folks from Douglas County doing various things including visiting relatives, trips to Atlanta, etc. In the past I’ve tended to ignore them, but perhaps these newspaper blurbs have some value to help fill in the void that little dash can be, so I’m going to begin sharing them periodically online at my blog found at http://douglascountyhistory.blogspot.com.
Here is just a sample of the newspaper entries regarding Douglas County folks I have run across:
From “The New South”, March 21, 1901:
“Mr. R.J. Darnell was attending to business in Douglasville this week. Mr. Darnell says that he doesn’t feel like he can begin farming until he has cashed up for his newspapers and guano. He is one of the county’s most thrifty husbandmen and always makes his harvest fields yield him a profit.”
“Work on the new residence of W.T. Roberts was begun Monday morning and a number of carpenters are busy getting the structure in shape for occupation. It will have nine rooms and will be a handsome building. The foreman in charge will be Mr. Armstead of Atlanta.”
If I was related to Mr. Darnell I would be thrilled to know that little detail, and the Roberts home is still standing on Campbellton Street. Today it is the home for the Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville and Douglas County. Now we know that construction started on Monday, March 18, 1901, and we have the name of the builder, too!
If it wasn’t for these social listings in the papers how else would I find out about the Thursday Afternoon Club? The “Atlanta Georgian and News” for April 13, 1907 reported that the Douglasville ladies who were members of the club were entertained on April 4th by Harriet Whitley followed by a game of Progressive Forty-Two which was a domino game. The score booklets were covered in lavender ribbon, and I bet they had cucumber sandwiches, too!
I was also able to discover that during the first week of March, 1910, Mr. and Mrs. B.L. Renfroe of the Ralph Community had a few folks over. The men chopped wood while the ladies managed to complete two quilts. Those in attendance for the quilting were Mrs. A.N. Irwin, Mrs. E.Y. Hendrix, Mrs. W.T. Williams, Mrs. J.G. Hendrix, and Mrs. C.M. James.
I think future generations will have it a little easier to find out how you or I filled our dash.
Social media comes to mind.
Think of it — three or four generations from now a relative of yours will want to find out more, and unless your family knows to deactivate your social media accounts, your whole life will be there day-by-day for someone to poke through.
I wonder how the information regarding cat memes, various links, and drama filled status updates will be interpreted.
If that doesn’t scare you into cleaning up your online presence, I don’t know what will.
Getting back to that little dash separating a birth and death date — one day you will have a dash. You are working on filling it right now.
I don’t know about you, but I want my dash to be the best that it can be.
Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can also find her Facebook page for Douglas County history under the name “Every Now and Then,” and visit her website at lisalandcooper.com for even more stories.