So, why would anyone want to spend time "playing with their dead relatives?" Well, perhaps this smacks too much of the modern day mentality found in America's corporate world, but we have created a mission statement, of sorts, for our efforts as family historians.
All efforts have their origins somewhere and ours began with the author's trip to Oklahoma, as a teenage boy, in the summer of 1972 to attend the first and last known Roberson family reunion. The author was fascinated to find an elderly gentleman there, in his 90s, who was the oldest child of the oldest known Roberson in our family tree - George W(ashington) Roberson. Many stories were told during this reunion, but there was one lingering question voiced over and over, with no answer available. What was the name Roberson? Where did we come from?
Elsewhere the author has written in more detail about his experiences that day, but the effort, upon arriving back home, to answer this most basic of questions, was largely futile. After graduating from college in 1978, the author embarked on a journey to Oklahoma with his young wife, to try to find more answers to our family history. The good news was the author managed to meet with 4 surviving children of George W(ashington) Roberson, yet not one of them could tell the author much of any real value about their own father's family. He has never forgotten that. And 30 years later, he still has failed to push his knowledge of his own surname beyond this man.
He vowed this will never happen in his family.
So, what began as a search for an answer to the simple question of where the Roberson name came from has been expanded to a search, ultimately, for our national identity. As Americans, we know that our land has its identity wrapped up more in the set of principles that has brought and continues to bring people here from all over the world, rather than any common bond of the flesh that goes back into ancient history. Most of us can trace our national identity back over a relatively short period of time to immigrations of people from other countries. Who are they? And where did they come from?
Goal: To trace our family origins back to the "immigrant ancestor" in as many of the branches of our family tree as possible. To create the "skeleton" of our family tree.
What the author really was not even aware of, let alone understood, in the beginning of this effort, was much how is involved in the simple question - "who were they?" He is unapologetically Christian in his worldview and the Bible clearly teaches us that men are conceived in sin and that:
"... He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished,
visiting the iniquity of fathers on the
children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."
[Exodus 34:7, NAS]
There are many jokes in genealogy circles about finding "skeletons in the closet" and uncovering the odd horse thief here and worse there. But, in reality, these things are no laughing matter, for they have an inevitable impact upon the histories of our various families. So, the search for the truth can uncover some unpleasant surprises, but ultimately this knowledge should help us in our efforts to better understand ourselves.
All of the information we can uncover puts "flesh on the bones" of our family tree and begins to bring it to life. We find not only some dark secrets, but we uncover wonderful stories of courage, perseverance, and successful struggles against all the challenges life has to offer. In the end, this knowledge really, truly helps us understand who we are.
Goal: To research as much as reasonably possible the lives of our direct ancestors, to bring the past, to a reasonable degree, back "to life," so that it may be preserved for future generations. To create the "heart" of our family tree.
So, whatever the personal emphasis of future generations of our family and others, in knowing something of our origins, our work will lay a foundation upon which we can build a much clearer and deeper appreciation for who we are. We have set ourselves no small task, but trust that the judgment of future generations is that it was an effort well conceived and well done.
Author: Roger L. Roberson, Jr. Last updated: 06 December 2009