We had all sorts of ideas about what country living would be like when we moved here in ’87. Years of watching “Little House on the Prairie” had colored our view of rural life We wanted that sense of community, where people knew each other and respected one another.
Some months later I heard two fellows talking about how they hated all these “flatlanders” coming in, who moved to the county and tried to tell the locals how to live. I realized that this large “community” was really two or three separate communities, at least in the minds of those who had lived here all their lives. The newcomers were “transplants” and would forever be considered outsiders.
But I wasn’t an outsider, at least not in the strictest sense. When she heard we had moved to Floyd, my aunt mentioned that my great-grandparents were from Floyd County. Well, that was news to us, and apparently it was news even to my father. He’d grown up in Snowville, another rural community south of Floyd, and his grandparents lived in the same county, so he just assumed their roots were there.
Naturally that got me curious. My ancestors were from here? That was just the incentive I needed to start doing a genealogy. Researching my family tree wasn’t all that easy, however. We had five children aged 10 and under at the time. Finding anyone to watch the kids while I searched county records for family names wasn’t easy. Once in a while when my husband was home, I would have an hour or two and could dash into town and bury myself in the records at the county courthouse, or the library. I soon learned that many of the old county records could be faulty. Census records contained spelling errors, and sometimes missed people in a household, or included visitors or workers in the census.
So I found a way to involve the kids in my search for ancestors. Tombstones were usually VERY accurate records. So we would pile into the Suburban on sunny days and go on an “explore” together, finding back roads to travel down (this was back when fuel prices weren’t so outrageous). When we found a cemetery, we would stop and get out to hunt for family names. Dad’s grandparents were surnamed Shelor, Sowers, Bower, and Nelson. We roamed all over Floyd County, finding family names and interesting tombstones. I wrote down all the names and information in a notebook, and then took that home to compare with the census and courthouse records I’d copied.
It was fascinating to learn that 3/4 of Dad’s forebears were settlers here in Floyd County, with two of them serving in the Revolutionary War. Not only that, the old store in front of our house (probably the original house on the property) carried an inscription in the soapstone foundation that read “C.W. Sowers 1868” One of my great-grandfather’s relatives either owned or lived on the same property we bought, more than a hundred years later. And others in that original group of ancestors had started their homesteads within a couple of miles of our place. It was as though I’d been drawn “home” without any knowledge that this place had any sense of home.
Homeland by Dougie MacLean