Week 49: New Horizons

My ancestors never saw a horizon they didn’t like.  The horizon always called them. The only pattern I see in my family history is the pattern of change.  They were constantly on the move.

My ancestors lived in 11 of the 13 original colonies before the American Revolution.  None of my direct ancestors were still east of the Appalachian Mountains by 1840.

I wrote this poem about them a couple of years ago.

To the movers

To the people who couldn’t stay where they were, 
either because where they were was awful 
or because they couldn’t be who they were meant to be where they were

The movers were alike in only one way – they moved

Sometimes they moved alone
More often they moved with family or community

Sometimes they moved and took status with them
Sometimes they moved and left status behind
Sometimes they moved and created status 

Sometimes they moved and thrived
Sometimes they moved and failed
But if they failed they moved again
And tried again
And sometimes failed again

And then they moved again

They weren’t tied to place
They weren’t tied to people
They were tied to impermanence

Sometimes they moved because poverty drove them
Sometimes they moved because opportunity enticed them
Sometimes they moved because tragedy stalked them
Sometimes they moved because life bored them

But whatever the reason, they moved

They moved, and then moved again
  And again 
The objective was movement, not destination

They were the movers

They were my ancestors

To the movers
I also made this chart a few years ago to illustrate my family’s movement.  The best way to read this is from right to left.  I’ll walk you through the top row: My great-grant-grandfather Miles Arnold was born in Maine and lived in Ohio, Illinois, and Kansas before moving back to Illinois.  My great-grandfather Warner Lismond Arnold was born in Illinois and lived in Ohio, Illinois again, Kansas, and then Illinois again.  My grandfather John Arnold was born in Illinois and moved to Arizona.  My father Lloyd was born in Illinois, moved to Arizona, and then moved to Virginia.  I was born in Virginia and have lived here my entire life. I could spend the rest of my life researching and explaining all of the movement this chart reveals

These folks couldn’t resist a new horizon.  I know the reasons for some of these moves – the normal push-pull factors of migration were clearly at work in some situations.  But in other cases, I haven’t been able to identify the reasons for the move.  It was perhaps just a sense that something new and wonderful was just over the hill – just beyond the New Horizon. Or the Blue Horizon.


Author: iseekdeadpeopleblog

I am a retired high school history and government teacher. I've been doing genealogy research since I retired in 2012. I define what I do as "constructing a plausible narrative about the past." I don't claim to know everything about the ancestors whose stories I tell, but I try to imagine myself in their lives. I sometimes call it "creative non-fiction." I try to differentiate between what I know for sure and what I "think" I know.

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