Today my dad, Mycie, and myself are headed down the 5 to visit our kinfolk in California's Central Valley. We make the trip a few times a year, but usually not in the sweltering summer. The reason we pulled this together at the last minute was because I started researching my family history, or genealogy, in earnest recently and realized That I had to interview my grandparents, and their one living sibling apiece, while they're still with us. I am armed with a video camera and a slew of questions.
My research on one branch, the Camps, has been much aided by the fact that a book was published about my great great uncle, due to the fact that he was a sort of agricultural whiz kid in the mid 20th century and solved the longstanding problem of how to grow cotton in California. (And by the fact that there are about a million Camps out there, and perhaps as many websites and mailing lists).
That's him, Wofford "Bill" Camp, standing next to his father in front. In the back left, behind his mother, is my great great grandfather William. My great great great grandparents are John Clayton and Mary Jane Atkins Camp. This is them in front of the still standing house known as Camps Crossroads, in Gaffney, South Carolina. (Someday I WILL visit this ol' homeplace!). I was lucky enough to know William's daughter, Maggie Lorene (Camp) Hill, as a child. It is to the home her husband built in Shafter, California that we are headed today, where her son, my grandpa, lives with my grandma. The house pictured here is in where my grandpa began his life, and the house to which I'm going is where he'll end it.
I am so intrigued by Mary Jane, and really hope to find out more about her. Aside from raising 8 kids, she was the local midwife in Cherokee County, SC along with a black woman named Mealie Norris. This was the late 1800s and their family's friendship was a bit of a novelty in the post Civil War South.
John Clayton, or Clayt, looks so much like his male descendants! Hey there Gramps, hey Uncle Terry.
Here is an excerpt out of the book about how Clayt related the story of how he met Mary Jane to his son Wofford (Bill) as she lay dying of pneumonia:
Three days later, when her temperature was still much too high and her breathing still very difficult, Clayt Camp sat quietly with his sons and daughters trying to face the fact that his Mary Jane was going to leave him. He rose at one point and went out of the house with Bill to look out over the fields.
"You know", he said, "I fell in love with her before I ever saw her. I was sitting talking with some men in Gaffney and she was around the corner coming toward where we were and I heard the sound of her footsteps and I said out loud 'That's the girl I'm going to marry'. Before she'd come into view. Such a pretty pitter-patter."
I am so excited to spend the rest of my life researching my family history, and hopefully eventually helping others learn about theirs too. I encourage you to get as many names, dates, and stories from your relatives as you can. Then just start putting names into popular genealogy sites and see what comes up. It's a start. I traced two of my lines back to the 1500's just by going "click, click, click..." There's lots of info out there and it's almost a guarantee that some of your distant kin have already done the work of putting some of it online for you. (I have been in touch with 4 of my cousins so far!).
Just seeing the old names is worth it! So far my favoritely named ancestors are two couples- Napoleon and Obeline (French Canadian) and Absalom and Hanna Hosea (Southern).
It's such a satisfying endeavor, so deeply felt in the heart. Think about it- for each generation you go back, you double the number of ancestors you have. And if it weren't for every single one of them, you wouldn't exist.