In our family, we enjoy attending comic conventions; my husband is a connoisseur of all things related to comics. And, many comic book characters have origin stories – background context that provides details on the motivations and drivers that fuel the individual’s life and purpose.
Similarly, as a genealogist and family historian I have an origin story, too. My origin story centers largely on the lives and experiences my grandmothers – two women who were born and raised in small North Carolina towns just one hour apart from each other. The two women are my maternal grandmother, Alice (McNair) Robinson and my paternal grandmother, Cora (Lawhorn) Koonce.
Back in 1995, while I was in college and home for a summer, I interviewed both of my grandmothers and implored them to tell me about their families.
I can still envision those two specific days, even now, 25 years later.
I interviewed my maternal grandmother Alice in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was living in the same apartment complex as my mother, so visiting her involved no more than a brief walk a few buildings away from our apartment. As I sat in her living room, she shared many details with me that I did not know. We are related to the famous basketball player, Charles Barkley – what?! Also related to a famous boxer? Her grandmother had red strands of hair due to Native American ancestry?
I also learned that her own grandfather had 10 children with two wives. She gave me names of people I had never heard of before. And she shared stories about some of the family’s struggles and successes.
My interview with my paternal grandmother Cora was in Greensboro, North Carolina. On that day, I’d asked my father to take me to visit her at the senior living community where she lived downtown explicitly for the purpose of the interview. While my grandmother Alice always had a lot to say, my grandmother Cora was much more reserved.
I am forever grateful for this interview with my grandmother Cora. She allowed me to ask some highly personal questions about her upbringing, her marriage to my grandfather, and her relationship with my father and his siblings. She was open and transparent with me that day and I will never forget it.
As such that I was in college, at the time, I did not pursue the exploration of my family history any further. However, I did save my notes and they travelled with me year after year as I moved – graduated college, attended graduate school, moved to Washington DC for a fellowship, moved to Tennessee, met my husband, and had our daughter.
When our daughter was about a year old, one day I was cleaning up, came across those notes, and it made me pause.
It made me pause because when I came across them again in late 2005, 10 years after the interviews with my grandmothers had occurred, both were living with Alzheimer’s disease. Their memories were no longer what they used to be. Realizing that I would not be able to go back to them and ask any more questions, I made an immediate commitment to research their families, their lives, and try to document what I could of what they shared. Then I would capture theirs and my other family members’ stories, too.
From that moment on, I became hooked on genealogy. The pursuit of family history has been a cornerstone of my life almost daily since. My grandmothers’ memories may have no longer been accessible to me, but I was determined to capture as many other memories as I could.
My grandmother Cora passed away in March of 2006, and Alice in May 2011. At this point, all I have now of them are my memories and the memories of those that knew them. It is for them that I do family history. It is for them and all of my ancestors that I work diligently to research, capture, and re-tell as many stories as I can so that our present-day family keeps them all in their memories too.
I am dedicated in my mission to fully organize my findings, photos and all forms of digital content related to my family in the establishment a family history archive that future generations can turn to.
This is my origin story and I am excited by the potential that FamilyScrybe™ offers to help continue in this quest.