Isn't that the standard beginning for the great American novel?
My weekend was not a work of fiction, although I wish part of it were so that I wouldn't have had to actually live through it, but maybe this will end up being one of those stories my family and I will all laugh about one day.
It was NOT a stormy night...not yet. But it was dark when I left my home at 4:30 in the morning, setting out for southeastern Ohio, specifically Gallia County. When my paternal ancestors left the finger lakes region of New York state, they made their way down to the Ohio River - somewhat bouncing around between Gallia County, Lawrence County, Cabell County (West Virginia), and even some in neighboring Mason County, West Virginia. I had never been there, and wanted to take the opportunity to see the area with my grandfather.
Really...my intentions and my expectations for this weekend were set pretty high. I was going to research my Hulbert ancestors...the son and grandchildren of Moses Hulbert of South Dansville, NY. When I plan these little field trips, I want to know as much as I can going in, so I can learn as much as I can while I'm there. I learn where they lived, where they died, what they did for a living...all aspects of life, or as much as I possibly can.
So at 4:30 on Friday morning, I started out down the road. I know that the NY state thruway system didn't exist in 1854 when my ancestors set out for their new home. But it was after I had been driving for a while that I had a brief moment where it hit me...I was driving from New York to Southern Ohio. My ancestors "drove"(?) from NY state to southern Ohio. Basically, I was having a real bonding moment with Great-great-great-great grandpa Lester Hulbert. And in the sudden bonding moment, it happened...
Yeah, that sudden orange ball that appeared over the horizon behind me really made the whole 4th great-grandfather/granddaughter moment that I was having.
Fast forward a bit - the drive south was easy and there were no major traffic problems (or minor ones either), and about 6 1/2 hours later, I made it to Marietta and decided to stop for a quick bite to eat and to top off my gas tank, knowing that my next exit would take me off of freeways and interstate roads, so who knew what lay ahead of me for food and gas options. (This turned out to be a REALLY smart move on my part - pats self on back.) I then proceeded on down the road, FINALLY making it to my destination...
With the Ohio river on my left side, I couldn't help but daydream a bit as I was driving along Route 7...did Grandpa Lester and his family come down that river as they made their way to Gallipolis in 1854? Or did they stick to the trails that had already been traveled by earlier settlers? And what were those trails? So many questions that I began to ponder as I continued driving.
I made my way into Gallipolis by 11:30 and immediately went to the Gallia County Genealogical Society. I would be meeting my dad and grandparents in only a few hours, and grandma already had her mind set on where SHE wanted to do her research. I had other plans in addition to hers. Upon driving down what I think was a one-way street (the wrong way...yikes!) I saw the infamous park bandstand on my left, the Kerr family fountain...and I made a mental note that I would be taking some photos in that park before I left for the weekend...then I continued on and located the GCGS on Court Street and officially began my genealogy weekend!
I walked into this building and was immediately caught up into my own personal heaven. Everywhere around me there were books and records, and this place was bustling with activity!! I counted four women hard at work photocopying, transcribing, scanning documents (with a new Flip-Pal scanner that is the newest rage among genealogists!), and I think each one of them stopped for a brief second to say hello as I walked into the door. One of them, Henny Evans, the president of the society approached me and I introduced myself to her - we had been in touch briefly via email, so I think she was expecting me...and we IMMEDIATELY went to work! What did I need? What was I looking for? Did I know about this obituary? Was there a specific piece of info that I was looking for? When I told her of a couple of wills that I was looking for, she located them for me as well as accompanying probate packets that the Society has been blessed to obtain from the Probate division. There were wills and court documents that I didn't even know existed regarding my ancestors that she brought to me and generously photocopied whatever I needed.
My favorite new revelation? I had known that Sallie Hulbert, a daughter Grandpa Lester, had died in Athens, Ohio. Silly me, I had no idea that when the death certificate reads "Athens Hospital", I should've known what that meant. Court records that were located within the Genealogial Society revealed the rest of the story...
Her brother, "Warren Hulbert, the undersigned, a citizen of Gallia County, Ohio, being sworn, says that he believes Sallie Hulbert is insane; that in consequence of her insanity, her being at large is dangerous to the community; and that she has a legal settlement in Gallipolis Township, in this County.
Dated this 20 day of May A.D. 1918"
Well this was new and interesting news! The file I now have goes on to say, among other things, that she believed the current day was Christmas (remember, it was May) and the "devils and hell disturb her." She had threatened homicide and claimed her mother and brother were also insane!! WHAT? There is definitely much more research needed to be done on this fascinating ancestor. In the meantime, I hope Mr. D. isn't getting any ideas on having me committed due to my intriguing family history!
(oh yeah, and Sallie wasn't the only Hulbert ancestress with "Lunacy" records from Athens Hospital...awesome.)
After a few hours with my new genealogy friends, I received the phone call that the rest of my family had arrived in town and it was time to meet them around the corner at the Historical Society. I hated to leave, but when grandma calls and has her mission in mind, you don't question - just smile and nod. I packed up the HUGE pile of photocopied records I now had in my possession and moved on to the next phase of the trip. Genealogy with grandma.
Arriving at the Historical Society, I found them fully engrossed trying to help grandma out. She was determined that she had seen an ancestor's will the last time she was there (6 or 7 years ago) Why she didn't photocopy or transcribe it then, I don't know. But she wanted it this time around, and unfortunately, it was not available at the Historical Society. (Lucky for grandma I was able to pick it up at my first stop.)
Our time at the Historical Society was seemingly short lived...grandma wasn't having a lot of luck in the research department, and I was anxious to do some cemetery legwork. We said our thank you's and goodbye's and made our way to our hotel to cool off and clean up from the day's travels...then it was off to the Parkfront Diner...which by the way, is an EXCELLENT place for some good eats!!!
As we left the diner, it was obvious from the sky overhead that a summer storm was moving in, AND due to the extreme heat we had been warned of the threat of rattlesnakes and copperheads that we may encounter at any of our cemeteries. Tired, hot, bellies full and grandpa not being willing to suck out any snake poison should I get bitten...we retired to our hotel rooms for the evening.
That was when the fun would really begin....