On the road in search of our ancestors
Nyla Crawford Walsh
How many of you out there on the road have taken some time to look for your ancestors during your travels? We with RVs have a wonderful opportunity to do just that. It is exciting to visit those places your family set down roots. For many of us, our families, for generations lived and traveled across America leaving a trail of stories for us to find. With a little work you can plan an interesting trip of your own, following your ancestral trail incorporating it into your own journey of family history and discovery.
Before you go
Before you go, gather all the information that you can:
- Basic information: who they were, when and where they lived and the route they took as they emigrated around the country.
- Resources: Spend some time on the Internet finding where the historical societies, genealogy groups, libraries, cemeteries and even family who may still live in those areas. Get in touch with them and ask for help getting started with your discovery journey.
- Plan: Next plan your route so you are not jumping back and forth. Keep your schedule open giving yourself as much time as needed in each area you plan to stop.
Visit museums, Visitor Information Centers, places like bookstores and even antique stores. You never know where you will find answers to your questions. I stopped at a Visitor Information Center to ask where the Historical Society was located and ran smack dab into a Crawford! We stopped at a campsite for the night and found out there was an old house nearby that was called the Old Crawford place and many other helpful tidbits to look into.
Once, in Salt Lake City, I was sitting at a computer in the Salt Lake Genealogy Library when I overheard two ladies at the next computer talking about some of my ancestors! One of the ladies was a distant cousin! Go figure!
We’ve even traveled abroad. One of the more interesting findings happened when we were visiting the Tower of London. I found the name Crawford carved into the wall of one of the cells. At the time I laughed and said "So that's what happened to my Crawford's." Several years later, I found verification in the preface of a book Kansas in the Sixties, written by a distant relative. (See what it said a few paragraphs below.) So I say always keep your eyes open and your ears to the ground!
Here’s a warning: watch out for family stories and facts about you family that are not verified, they are not always correct! OK, one more warning, be careful you could become addicted to the "search."
This is the story of my search for my early Crawford's. I have compiled documentation back to 1750 when JamesCrawford was born in Augusta County, Virginia. There is no information beyond that that I have found. No father or mother, brothers or sisters. Some would disagree with me on this point, as there is a lot of "miss" information mixing other families with similar names, birth dates, living in the same area and the same time period. (Photo of an urelated Crawford's headstone.) It is said that do to the close knit family groups immigrating and settling in close proximity during this time, we may never be able to untangle the families. It appears that my James moved from Augusta County, Virginia, to Orange County, North Carolina in his early twenties and married Margaret (Fraser) Frazier, raised a large family and lived out the rest of his life working his land in relative comfort. It is said that he participated in the Revolutionary War. I have three versions of his will, all dating 1811 naming some of his family. These are similar in wording and were most likely given out to the family members mentioned in the will. (Thank heaven for copiers and scanners today) I have an 1800 census from Orange County, NC with his name on the roster. One clue here, the letters H R after his name, which some researchers have taken for his initials, I believe instead that they stand for where he may have lived at the time, Haw River. In the book Kansas in the Sixties, Samuel J. Crawford, the third Governor of Kansas and my James's grandson, mentioned his heritage:
The Preface, in part, reads:
The author of these memoirs was born in Lawrence County, Indiana, April 10, 1835; was reared on a farm, and educated in the public schools, the Bedford graded school, and the Law School of the Cincinnati College.
His parents, William and Jane Morrow Crawford, were born in Orange County, North Carolina, in 1788 and 1792, respectively; were reared on plantations, educated in private schools, married in 1810, and emigrated to the Territory of Indiana in 1815. His grandfather, James Crawford, was born in Virginia, emigrated to North Carolina, married Miss Margaret Fraser, served in the Revolutionary War, and lived to a ripe old age.
The ancestral line of the Crawford family is traceable to a remote period in Scotland beyond which it may not be prudent to go, since members of the clan, by reason of their clannishness, lost their heads in the Tower of London.
One would think that with this kind of information, it would be easy to find more family history but nothing is easy, especially since the Crawford's records, if there were any in the first place, were destroyed during times of conflict, fires, floods and the like. Not to mention that in the 1700's the counties of Augusta, VA and Orange, NC reached from the East Coast to the Mississippi River, borders changing all the time, no small area to search!
I have, for years, dabbled in the hunt for my ancestors. I have gathered family data, both fact and fiction, dug into countless libraries, court houses and all forms of historical collections from the West Coast to East Coast.
The highs of finding a tidbit of truth, outweighs the volumes of miss information that I have had to wade through over the years and more often than not have added more questions for me to answer.
I do not consider myself a "Genealogist" by any stretch of the imagination. I am just trying to solve the puzzle of my family. I look at genealogy as trying to build a puzzle with a zillion pieces, some that don't belong, some missing and only the slightest of pattern to help me solve it. How I love a challenge!
The summer of 2010 my husband and I made a trip to North Carolina for business. I made a promise to myself, this time, when we finished our work I would go on a hunt for some of my North Carolina "ghosts." I armed myself with as much information about the family as I could gather, taking me back as far as 1750ish in Virginia and North Carolina. I narrowed down the areas to which I believed they had lived and hoped to check them out. I also made a list of research facilities that I hoped to visit.
With all this planning I bet you think I made huge gains in my legacy hunt. You would be wrong. As so many before me, I hit the proverbial brick wall, stopping with James and Margaret (Fraser/Frazier) Crawford, my 4th great-grandfather and mother. Am I disappointed, you ask? No, not at all!
Here is what I did find. First and most important many beautiful, helpful people, some of which turned out to be distant cousins and some that work in the facilities I visited and have a keen interest in helping us to dig into the past and our families. At the North Carolina State Library I was privileged to hold in my hot hands the "original" Last Will and Testament of my James. Mind you it was 200 years old! What a thrill! I traveled the beautiful land where my relatives lived and farmed. I learned how these hearty settlers helped to shape our country. The history I should have learned in school long ago comes to life before me as we drive the back roads, visit cemeteries and the many historic sites connected to my family. I have found what makes me who I am today, by learning more about my family’s past.
On our trip back across country I made the point of stopping at a few of the places family members settled for at least a little while on their journey west. My branch of the Crawford's had traveled from Virginia to North Carolina, on to Indiana, Kansas, Colorado and California and finally my dad moved to Washington met my mother, married and raised their brood my two brothers and myself. I still live in the area today.
On our trip home we stopped in Indiana to visit with a "cousin" that I had met online, I had not met her in person previously. We had a grand visit and boy did she have a bunch of information on more of the Crawford branches. Now I know that some moved to Iowa and some to Missouri. I could not tie my branch to these states in the past.
We spent some time in Denver, my dad's birthplace, tracking down more family stories, most of which have lead to more questions than answers. That is what it's all about isn't it? The time I spent in Denver is a story in its self. It will have to be told another time.
Genealogy is our travel theme
RVers travel the country looking for many things, natural wonders, golf courses, quilts, antiques, farmers markets and now geocaching is popular among the traveling set. I find incorporating a search for my family history to be a great way to plan a trip. It takes us to wonderful places we may never have found otherwise and I learn more about who I am and where I came from. Give it a try you never know what you will find!
Now that you have read my story, take pity on me and scare up my missing ghosts! I know someone out there has the information to get me across the big pond.
Here is my direct Crawford line. If any of this rings a bell let me know and I can provide you with more in depth information.
|James Crawford Sr B=circa 1750 Augusta Co VA D=31 Dec 1811 Orange Co. NC M=Margaret Frazier|
|William Crawford B=30 Nov 1780 Orange Co, NC D=15 Aug 1845 Lawrence Co, IN M=Jane Marrow|
|John C. Crawford B= 23 Dec 1825 Bedford, Lawrence, IN D=16 Nov 1915 West Mound IN M=Mary E Plummer|
|Alfred Floyd Crawford B=15 Mar 1853 Bedford, Lawrence, IN D=28 Oct 1929 Placer, CA M= Laura S Eldredge|
|Edward Stephen Crawford B=18 Feb 1880 Smith Center KS, D=14 Jan 1948 Sacramento, CA M=Sarah L Watt|
|George Wilbur Crawford B=11 Sep 1910 Denver, CO, D=23 Feb 1993 Bremerton, WA M=Majel I Bates|
Sure would like to hear from some more cousins!
Nyla Crawford Walsh