I've been thinking about circles, of patterns and connections, of details that connect people in the different families I've researched over the years. Little things that absolutely fascinate me for no reason other than they hint at the community of our past, rather than the individuality.
So here's a list of quirky facts. It's not comprehensive - just the favorites that astonish or delight me.
Shoes. We all wear them but I have shoemakers on both sides of my family. My father's immigrant parents worked in a shoe factory in upstate New York. My grandfather, a state policeman in Europe, spent the last half of his life as a leather cutter. One of my Tennessee great-grandfathers was a cobbler. I have two of the shoe molds he used on a bookshelf with family photos. My cousin uses his cobbler's bench in her living room as a coffee table.
Mountains and rivers. I come from mountain people on both sides of my family - one family from the Carpathian Mountains and one from the Smokies. And both my grandfather's grew up next to rivers - the Nolichucky in Tennessee and the Rika in today's Ukraine. Toss in the Rappahannock river in my husband's family background and there's a theme developing.
Virginia's Northern Neck. My Conway and Turner ancestors lived there. So did my husband's Palmer, Meredith and Lee ancestors. Some of them were 17th century neighbors, witnessing documents or suing one another.
Booze and alcoholism. The gift that keeps on giving. Both my husband and I have raging alcoholics in our background - some of them almost legendary. It would be hard to say who gets the prize - my uncle who firebombed the church or his uncle who rode almost naked into town chased by imaginary ghosts.
Kansas. Somehow we keep cycling through this state. My Tennessee great-grandmother lived there for 3 years as child when her father claimed a Civil War land grant. Her brothers were born there before her parents quit and went back home. My husband's great-grandfather homesteaded there before moving on to Wyoming in the early 20th century. His grandfather was born there. And our daughter was born there when my husband accepted a job in Wichita. Like our family before, we moved on, but I have a soft spot for the state where we started lives together.
Avery. At one time I thought my husband and I were Avery cousins - umpteenth times removed. (I now believe we aren't, that my 4th great grandmother was the second wife rather than the Avery first wife of my gggggrandfather.) And our children both went to Avery Elementary School. I know there are probably tens of thousands of Avery descendants, but it still amazes me.