Monday, October 27, 2008

The Cranmer Family (1885)

A photocopy of my family ca. 1885.


My dad, like many others in the 1970s, was inspired by Alex Haley's Roots and he began tracing our genealogy. He hunted through cemeteries and archives, collecting all kinds of treasures. Among them was a tin photo of our family from the 19th century. My dad had guessed the photo was taken in 1885 because the little girl, Margaret [sitting on her mother's lap], who was born July 8, 1883 appears to be about 2 years old. I.J. [standing behind his mother to the left] is my grandfather's father. It's amazing to peer into the face of a stranger and see yourself.

I remember my father telling me that when he was a young boy, he met most of the children in this photo, but is was his great uncle Charlie [sitting between his parents behind the two children in front] who had impressed him most. He recalled Charlie being a large man with big forearms and biceps from a lifetime of cutting wood. What made this so extraordinary to my dad was that Charlie was born without the use of his legs (someone had written the now non-PC word "cripple" on the photo).

In his research, Dad came across military discharge papers of the family’s patriarch, Alfred [sitting on the right], that show he served in the American Civil War and was wounded at Antietam. The Battle of Antietam was fought on September 17, 1862 near Sharpsburg and Antietam Creek as part of the Maryland Campaign. It was the first major battle in the Civil War to take place on Northern soil and came to be remembered as the bloodiest single-day battle in American history with almost 23,000 casualties. My great-great grandfather was one of fortunate soldiers to survive with, according to the records, a shot to the thigh.

A tale about Alfred's father, John, has been passed down the generations. The story goes that late one night, John was returning from a neighbor's house with an armful of venison when he suddenly encountered several wolves. Knowing that he couldn't outrun the pack, John jumped up on a stump and dispensed with the meat and then quickly left the wolves to enjoy their dinner. A small, insignificant story perhaps but it’s a piece of family history I don't want to be forgotten. And as I click on the publish button, these memories are now a part of the digital age.

22 comments:

Josh said...

its nice to know ones roots

Randy Johnson said...

I empathize. My family has traced back to the mid-1700s on my grandfather's side. There's even one line from a several great-grandmother going all the way back to Scotland.
It is interesting to see where one comes from.

sandra seamans said...

I've always believed that a family history isn't complete without the stories. Collecting all the dates and places is great, but it's the stories and pictures that really bring a family's past to life. It makes tracing our family tree more than a history lesson. Thanks for sharing, David.

Charles Gramlich said...

I only found out about 3 years ago that my family ancestors actually fought for the NOrth and moved to Arkansas after the war.

David Cranmer said...

Josh, I’m thankful my dad did this research… and amazed that he did all before the days of computers, which was had to be quite time consuming and difficult.

Randy, My dad was able to trace it back two generations before this family picture. He also found some information that says we’re descended from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s brother. Making the link between the two will be the challenge.

Sandra, you’re so right. I recently started jotting down little phrases that my grandparents or parents said that I’d like to remember and one day pass along to the next Cranmer generation. Some are silly, others are poignant, but each one contributes to who my brother, sisters, and I are.

Charles, it's amazing to me how quickly our heritage can become lost. All the family members in this photo were still alive 90 years ago. Some of them lived into the 1950s and the last died in the early 60s. I came along just a decade after that, yet sadly, I only have a few scraps of information about them. Alfred Cranmer also fought for the North, I wonder if perhaps Gramlich and Cranmer fought together... good thing they didn't die together or we might not be conversing now :)

Barbara Martin said...

David, I agree that the stories are important in family histories. A cousin traced my mother's side of the family back to 1460 in England. Thanks for the look into the past.

David Cranmer said...

1460 in England! That's quite amazing. I need to get on the computer and do some more research. Like I mentioned, my dad was doing all this pre-internet and had to write different organizations and then wait for the responses which took forever. I remember he use to call other Cranmers he spotted in the phone book and even wrote to the Mormons in Utah who have quite a large index of information. As I am writing this I realize I'm quite a slacker. I need to get on the ball!

Barrie said...

I love old photos! Do you resemble anyone in this one?

ARCHAVIST said...

That's a wonderful post and has inspired me to do one along the same lines. Thanks for that.

Reb said...

David, this is wonderful. My sister has been tracing our paternal grandmothers line and has found so much information. She has made connections with several many times removed cousins who are involved in the same search. She was sent a photo of about 3 times great grandmother and daughters and you are right, it is weird to see yourself staring back.

Our paternal grandfathers line has been traced back to 15th century Sweden. One of mom's sisters was researching their paternal line, but I don't know how far back they got.

David Cranmer said...

Barrie, I think maybe I resemble the guy sitting to the matriarch's left a little even though I'm actually descended from the man standing behind her to the left.

Archavist, I'll be interested in seeing your family photos. My line started in England and hopefully one day I will return for a visit.

Reb, I need some of your sister's enthusiasm to continue what my father started. I'm so intrigued that people are able to trace their genealogy to the 15th century... hopefully I will be able to do the same if I get in that mode!

Clare2e said...

This is really cool. My husband's family has a genealogy hound, but my mothers's side is mostly gone and my fathers's side is too estranged from each other for storytelling. I think it's fantastic that you have even what you do, and with pictures! And here I was going to harass you about not supplying Tuesday sentences. I'll just take that wolf story in trade.

Lana Gramlich said...

How interesting! I'd like to research my family tree, but unfortunately I was a black market baby, so that's out.

David Cranmer said...

Clare, I have been meaning to contribute to Tuesday sentences and now you have shamed me. Standby next week I will attempt to make my debut!

Lana, I bet if you dug deep you could unravel some records. They have made it a lot easier by opening up old files.

Ray said...

This is great stuff, David.
Researching the family tree was something that I did when we first went on the internet.
Actually my wife Sandy started doing her tree and she got stuck - so I did my best to help her out.
Doing my tree got me through a 'fear' of the Internet. A couple of the wife's lines go through to the 1500s - whereas mine has only got as far as the early 1700s.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

David,

This is really terrific stuff. I did some genealogy (should get back to that) but only got into early to mid 1800's Ireland. My ex husband's brother did their family research (the way your father did--no computer- letter queries) and traced one line back to the American Revolution. These will be nice records for my grandkids to have someday.

You are right, the stories ar the most important.

Terrie

David Cranmer said...

Ray, What a great way to get used to using the Internet. Wow… the 1500s! If I could get that far back, it would be enough to try to make the link with the Archbishop of Canterbury’s family.

Terrie, That’s wonderful that you have so much family history to pass along to your grandkids. So far I only have part of my dad’s side and I have a lot to do if I want to trace my mom’s side too.

Ray said...

David - there is a free site at www.familysearch.org that has a lot of records for both USA and UK.
Might prove useful.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks Ray. I will give it a try. I need to kickstart the research again.

Amber said...

Wow! What a wonderful post! Genealogy has always fascinated me, as well, but its been very complicated to find many answers. I believe it takes much hard work and dedication, and reading the other comments have been inspiring.

By the way, I love the photo! There's something about old photos that I could just look at them for days.

Thank you for sharing!

Elisabeth Grace Foley said...

What a wondeful photo! I'm really interested in tracing my family history too, but haven't been able to find any photos further back than my great-grandparents. So far I've only had success tracing one line on my mother's side (back to 16th-century England). My great-great-great-great-grandmother had four brothers in the Civil War; one was killed in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Ron Earl Phillips said...

From my maternal grandfather's side on his mother's side we are linked back to a cousin of John Adams. Be cool to clip out that cousin part, but well, it is what is is.

My great-great uncle was a Deputy US Marshal and was essential in ending the Hatfield and McCoy feud across the WV/KY border. This was on my maternal grandmother's side. We also have service record of a great uncle who was a drummer boy during the Civil War. For the South.

My father's side is a quagmire.

Personal family history is a fascinating thing, too bad I didn't care much for it when I was younger.