In these early level speeches for Toastmasters, it pretty much the sky’s the limit on what you can choose. I have started using our club’s theme of the week to shape my speeches around. This particular week’s theme was Trading Places. For those of you keeping score, this was the first speech I won, but even more important, I did NOT have any ah’s, um’s or other crutch words!!!
Good evening fellow Toastmasters. I was having trouble coming up with a topic for tonight’s speech so I looked to tonight’s theme for inspiration and came up with the subject of me! More specifically, where did I come from? Mark Twain said,”Why waste your money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponents will do it for you.” When I first started my genealogy research, I went to my granny and was asking her questions she would not answer. She advised me to not bother looking as I was going to find things I did not want to find. “What?” I asked. She said things like horse thieves and such. “Do you really think so?” She was not amused. The worst thing I found out about her? My grandparents lied about their ages on their marriage license. I jokingly asked my mom if that meant they were not legally married. My mom said to NEVER bring that up in front of granny. However, when I found that her 8th great-grandmother was hung as a witch at Salem, you can bet I brought that up! Granny said, see I told you you would find bad things. I told her I thought it was cool.
Both sets of my grandparents made it to 50 years of marriage and then one spouse died shortly thereafter. I asked the surviving spouses how they met their mates and/or decided to get married, but neither would answer me. This leads me into tonight’s theme of trading places. I am too enamored of today’s conveniences such as fast cars, fast food, and indoor plumbing to want to go back in time full-time, but I would love to be able to trade places for a day or even an hour so that I could interview my ancestors to get a feeling of what everyday life was like for them. I would love to know what made my grandparents decide to get married. I know that my paternal grandmother dated my great-uncle before she married his brother, my grandfather. Why one brother over the other???
First person I would like to meet is Elizabeth Wheatley. Not my great-grandmother Elizabeth Ann (Wheatley) Cramer, but her mother who was possibly Elizabeth (Karug or probably Craig) Wheatley. I started doing my research to prove Scottish roots and 15+ years and thousands of relatives later, I still have very little on Elizabeth Senior and no positive proof of Scots. What would I ask her? Where are you living? Where did your husband die? What happened to your kids? This would help me find death certificates and obituaries. I know their kid’s names and that she was supposed to be Scottish and he was Irish from County Wexford, but that is about all I know. This family branch is a brick wall for me and by getting just a few questions answered, I know I could tear down that wall.
I would also like to meet my great-grandfather Albert Nicholas Hark. I had the opportunity to learn a little about him from my great aunts. It seems that he was a talented man who could speak several languages and play several instruments. His wife, Elizabeth (Erhart) Hark, would not allow him to teach the kids languages or music. Not sure why on the languages, but his musical abilities were in demand and Grandma Lizzie did not want her children’s spouses to be wall flowers such as she ended up being at parties while he played. He supposedly had a sibling who ran a house of ill repute somewhere out west and I would love to track that info down as well.
I could go on all night. To see the poker hand that lost my second great-grandfather the family farm during a cattle drive or be there the night that the Jesse James gang spent the night with him would be incredible. To be a witness to the hysteria that got my 10th great grandmother hung as a witch in Salem would also be amazing to see, but it is the everyday life that interests me the most.Walking through small towns in Germany, I saw beautiful tall buildings with the years listed on them going back to the 14 and 1500’s and I thought why on earth would anyone leave this to go into the unknown wilds of the New World? Leaving a lot of your worldly goods and family to move to an unknown land with no support base where you are dodging Indians to chop down trees to build a crude hut and clear the land to farm so that you can squeak out a living. What was it that drove them? Religious differences? Escaping battlefields?? Younger sons looking to find a way to make a living???
Although I only had a short time to do research on my recent vacation, I was able to find several obituaries that helped flesh out my ancestor’s lives a bit. I was always jealous that I did not have pioneer ancestors that crossed the nation in a covered wagon, but then I read the obits and it was then that I realized that I did have pioneer ancestors in my line. When my relatives arrived in the town of Sycamore, Ohio in 1821, Ohio was the Wild West. It was covered with trees that had to be cleared before they could farm the land, it was not the sleepy little farming community that it is today. My Cramer ancestors came to Ohio from Maryland by stage around 1840 with no technology to keep the kids occupied. My 3rd great grandmother died of a cancer that caused her intense pain. Her husband died five years earlier after being confined to bed on his back without complaint for six months after breaking his leg. Both of those conditions treatable and probably survivable with today’s technology. Several more reasons to want to just trade places for only a short time.
Besides those already mentioned, I learned my Neikirk ancestors fought under William of Orange against the infamous Phillip the II of Spain in the Revolt of the Netherlands. I have a great-uncle who was a Secretary of State for the State of Ohio and he and his twin brother were 1819 graduates of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Carl Karcher, founder of Carl’s Jr., is a second cousin. I have several Revolutionary War patriots…plus a couple I think who fought on the other side. I have Indians and those who were kidnapped by Indians. I even have a few cousins who were murderers and some who were US Presidents, and as Twain predicted, it helped me greatly in my genealogy research.
Comedian Fred Allen said, “I don’t have to look up my family tree because I know that I’m the sap.” Although I might feel like that sap some days, I have recently found a quote from Benjamin Franklin that is inspiring me to transform into a better person. I hope it inspires you as well. “If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten; Either write things worthy of reading, or do things worthy of writing.” Thank you fellow Toastmasters. Susaannah (North) Martin reading in her jail cell during the Salem Witch Trials