Learnings and Experiences from this Search Keeping things in prespective

"My forefathers didn't come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat." (Will Rogers)

While thanking God for having given us such ancestors, each successive generation may thank Him not less fervently for being removed one step further from them in the march of ages." (Nathaniel Hawthorn)

Searching for our ancestors- their names, spouses, children, dates and places of birth, death, and marriage- has been and continues to be an interesting puzzle and learning experience. But it also has been much more than that. I've obtained a new insight and understanding of cultures, history, geography, and relationships. Initially I started with a brief outline of direct Winslow ancestors back to Kenelm (who some thought came on the Mayflower) and a little (2-3 generations) on the Burkes, Ovells, and Johnstons. The rest has been library hours, cemetery visits, and many hours on the Internet researching genealogy websites and sharing information with others with similar family interests. Now it's to a point that one new piece of information or picture is just as exciting as the first. Finding old pictures of Ebenezer Stephens (thanks Melinda), Mary Elizabeth Levan Burke (thanks Jodi), Andrew Johnston and family (thanks Helen), and the William K Winslow family- homestead (thanks Uncle Bill) have been great and pleasant surprises. Hopefully this genealogy story will provide you with a similar insight and joy. The following thoughts highlight some things I've learned and experienced during the process:

The ancestors and descendents of Bill and Gladys Winslow give us a full and rich involvement in the growing of America- from the Plymouth days in the 1620s to the present. We truly are a melting pot of experiences and relationships.

It's been interesting and informative to see how names (first, middle, and last) are passed from generation to generation (Kenelm, Burke, Winslow, Carpenter, etc). There are many other surnames and family lines that are just as much a part of us as the Winslow, Johnstons, Burkes, Stephens, and Ovells (e.g. Colburn, Hicks, London, Brumbach, Levan, Wadsworth, Keene, Alden, Mullins, Fullers, etc.). Spellings of names change for many reasons ( e.g. Wynslowe to Winslow, Burk to Burke, Johnstone to Johnston, etc). The calendar changes; county boundaries and names are changed. We have a heavy English ancestry, but also we have links to at least German, French, Swiss, Irish. Most of our American ancestors started in the Massachusetts/ Maine/Conneticutt areas and Reading- Philadelphia area. Many of their migrations were as early settlers to the wilderness areas like Pittston, Maine , the Conneticutt River Valley, and Benezette, Pennsylvania. Indian encounters- some peaceful; others quite the opposite- happened in each of these new areas (remember the French and Indian wars of the 1700s). One story of a Levi Hicks (his family connection is not completely proven yet) included a possible marriage to an Indian half-breed and later to the Battle and Massacre at Wyoming Pa (late 1770s) where he lost his life. Then there was another Indian war (King Phillip's War of 1675-76) where Job Winslow and John Stephens played a significant role. I'm not sure how sturdy and adventuresome we 21st Century "Winslows" are. Our ancestors had many ( 5-10 or more) children, some of which died in infancy. They needed children to tend the farms and their retirement I guess. Those that lived into adult hood lived to good old ages.

I've now visited the "Mayflower", the Cape Cod area, Plymouth Plantation ( a living Pilgrim exhibit/ town), the Alden home, and the Winslow homes in Massachusetts and "talked to Uncle Edward Winslow" about his brother Kenelm. I missed personal conversations with our Mayflower "ancestors" (Alden, Bradford, Brewster, Mullins) mostly because at that time I wasn't aware of the ancestral connection. "Uncle Ed" stated that Kenelm was the typical younger brother always in trouble and he didn't expect him to come to America. Lo and behold, three years later Kenelm comes over and has a spirited life in the early colonial days ( like a few days spent in court defending himself). This made some of those American history lessons come alive. Then there are history lessons of the Irish (as I've tried to check out the Burke ancestors) and the Potato famine and immigration. Also I've learned about the French Huguenots and their trials, tribulations, and immigrations (in 2006 finally connecting to the immigrant Levan family histories)

We also have many ancestors serving the American war efforts from the Colonial Militia, American Revolution, Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam era. The five Winslow brothers that initially came over in the 1620's and 1630s became split on their loyalties to England. The Kenelm Winslow side, for the most part, supported the American patriots while his brothers remained loyal to England. Many served in the Colonial Militia and battles (Lt. Job Winslow , Major General Humphrey Atherton,John Stephens, Love Brewster, Samuel Varnum, Philip Brookins, William Collier, Thomas Prence, Gamaliel Bradford, William Bradford, Phillip Nelson )and many more in the American Revolution (Major Reuban Colburn ,Samuel Callender, David Slawson, Manus Brumbach, James Winslow, William Keene, Cyrus Brookins, Edward London, Ebenezer Stephens, Reuben Brookins, John London, Carpenter Winslow, Hugh Polly, David Slawson, Wait Wadsworth, and others).

The Civil War has taken on more meaning with Robert E. Burke in the Union Army of the James (did you know Union armies were named after rivers; Confederate armies after States). I've visited the Richmond- Petersburg, Virginia area and battlefields ( in addition to many others now) where he was stationed (Fort Monroe, Hampton, VA) and fought for almost three years. It was not a very attractive lifestyle. And with my father's grandfather serving in the Confederate army, another perspective of the "War Between the States" comes into play. Grandpa Bill (W.A.) Winslow was excused from World War I service because of his previous injury where he lost his eye. I've heard the story that the recruiters thought he was faking the eye exam until he supposedly dropped his glass eye out and showed it to them.

The descendents of Bill and Gladys now reach four generations with great great grandchildren now coming into our family. In some cases, we can only go back 3-4 generations from Bill and Gladys . And, then, in some families we can span 12 generations or more to the 1600's immigrants. In one or two cases the family lines can go back another couple generations into England like the Winslows. When one investigates all these generations and their stories/ relationships, the old saying seems to come true- "there's dirty linen hidden in every family closet" . I'd prefer to say that we all are human and experience many of the same challenges to living no matter what generation we come from.

Finding some of the old family pictures has been a pleasure also. Based on personal opinion, which I think many of you will agree, there are some good looking women in the family. Pictures of Mary Elizabeth LeVan Burke , a young Nora Ovell Burke , and the other Burke- Winslow girls can verify these opinions. Good genes for the female descendents.

There's a lot of information ( most good, some erroneous) on the Internet. There are genealogy reports on many families. The early Winslows are heavily documented (including the Winslow Memorial) and also our Mayflower ancestors, Brumbachs and Colburns. The Burkes, Johnstons, and others are more difficult to trace, but we keep trying- it's a continually evolving puzzle of our family picture..

Visiting the final resting places ( e.g. Winslow Hill/Mt Pleasant cemetery, Hicks Run, Mt Zion, Rehobeth, Benezette, New Castle's Graceland) of our ancestors has come to be much more meaningful than I would have imagined while I was young. But there was one visit to a East Cleveland cemetery tracing my wife's ancestors which created the ultimate story. After becoming engrossed into finding many of her family's gravestones , we forgot the time , and as we were leaving we found ourselves locked in. Thank Heavens for the modern invention of the cell phone to call for help- after the police operator quit laughing.

I've met new cousins and friends through this effort. Kate Ovell Bennett is, to me, both a 3rd cousin on the Ovell side and also a 2nd cousin once removed on the Burke side. There is Pam Patton a 5th cousin on the Winslow line, Linda Valetta who is connected on the Hicks side (John Hicks), and Mildred (Winslow) Thorwart who grew up in Benezette with our "Winslow girls". Others now include Bruce Winslow Smith and his wife Cecelia, Bruce's sister Kathy Myers, Lori London, Joan Spargo, and Martha Breene. They've all been very helpful in this search, and its been fun getting to know distant relatives. And I must not forget my closest relatives: aunts, uncles, mother, wife, and cousins who have helped tremendously-- Bill Winslow, Mary Winslow Nay, Dorothy Winslow Roussos, Jeanne Winslow McNulty, Shirley Winslow Bloom, Kathryn Rhoads Nay, the Burkes-Jimmy, Keith, and Judy - and all their families. This has brought me into many interesting discussions with many of you regarding our family ties and sharing of information. Your relationships have always been important to me and always will be.

The following story probably is more for my benefit as it must be for anyone who takes an interest to compile a family's genealogy-- to remind us why we do this. There were times when someone would state that I must be obsessed, or crazy--- for why would I be interested in dead ancestors; I would hear we should not live in the past; the past is past; who cares what they did - they were mostly poor farmers; cemeteries are creepy, etc . This story helps to express (and defend) why we do this.

The Story Tellers...(author unknown) We are the chosen. My feelings are in each family there is one who seems called to find the ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

To me, doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the story tellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called as it were by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us: Tell our story. So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves. How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I told the ancestors you have a wonderful family you would be proud of us? How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? I cannot say. It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do. It goes to seeing a cemetery about to be lost forever to weeds and indifference and saying I can't let this happen. The bones here are bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh. It goes to doing something about it. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish. How they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family. It goes to deep pride that they fought to make and keep us a Nation. It goes to a deep and immense understanding that they were doing it for us. That we might be born who we are. That we might remember them. So we do. With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are them and they are us. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take their place in the long line of family storytellers.

That, is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and put flesh on the bones.

There are many reasons people search their ancestor stories. But one special reason occurs to me And that is the realization that life is short. That relationships are important. That knowing our ancestors gives us a better appreciation of our past life, our present life, and of our life to come. Not only is the destination important, but it is how one gets there that may mean the most. Enjoy your trip.

From a "Pilgrim" letter of their resolve on going to a New World:

" Lastly, it is not with us as with other men, whom small things can discourage, or small discontentments cause to wish themselves at home again."