Aiming and putting down roots

Putting down roots isn’t a random decision.

The place we choose to settle and put down roots has far reaching (no pun intended) consequences. It’s the community our children call home. It’s the environment in which they form their worldviews. Frequently, it becomes the place children and grandchildren choose to start putting down roots. In other words, it’s something that will matter to future generations. But it’s often a story left untold—especially when it comes to our ancestors.

Explaining Your Own Story of Putting Down Roots

For us as well as our ancestors, economics influence or initial decision to move. However, there’s more to it than that. And, when there’s more to it, there’s a story.

Did you choose the only place you could afford? Did you painstakingly research school districts, job opportunities, ethnic diversity, or proximity to family? Was it meant to be a temporary relocation? Sharing those stories doesn’t just mean future generations won’t wonder. It will help connect them to their geographic and community origins.

When my husband and I moved to the Detroit area from Germany, we looked at over 70 homes before we bought the one we’ve been in for the last 20 years. I still remember getting my first glance of the yard. I fell in love with the 100-year-old cottonwood that greeted us on our approach, the stream, the yard, and the pond. I conjured up visions of my future children climbing trees, building forts, and wading through the waters.

Of course, the story isn’t just why we chose to live here.Our story of putting down roots is why we’re on year 21 of the 5-year-plan.

Untold Ancestral Stories of Putting Down Roots

My ancestors chose the colony of Virginia and stuck with that choice. Every once in a while, records indicate that someone strayed across a county line, but, often as not, it was the line that strayed. Only during my parents’ generation, did individuals start to cross state lines.

However, my husband’s (and thus my children’s) ancestors past is rife with mysterious (to me) uprootings and momentous moves. My brain never tires of wondering how those decisions came about. And, irritatingly, these forefathers and mothers left few clues as to the motivation for their resettling.

Putting down roots in Wisconsin

For cabinet-maker Richard “Faulky” Falkinham, putting down roots in Wisconsin meant building a soddy.

These untold stories frustrate me. Surely understanding their stories of moving across the budding nation and of putting down roots in a new place would give us great insight into the people they were. For instance:

In the 1770s, three Hitchcock brothers moved from Baltimore to Guildford County North Carolina. Even today, moving house is an ordeal. I can only speculate why they would move during that part of our nation’s history. And why, once they got there, did their name permutate from Hitchcock to Hedgecock?

Again, in the late 1840s and into the 1850s, some Hedgecock’s uprooted again and headed to the western territories. Again, I wonder. How hard was it for them to make those decisions? How hard was it for them to leave family behind? What role did their faith and the pacifism of earlier generations play in their move? Were they happy with their choice in later years?

Likewise, why did a seaman from England living in Philadelphia choose to migrate to Nebraska? Did he long for an open sky once his Navy career was over? Alternately, did he shovel so much coal into ships’ steam engines that his health required wide-open spaces?

Why did a successful cabinet-maker in Boston choose to move to Wisconsin? Did he possess a pioneering spirit or did he long for land of his own? How did he feel when his cabinetry skills were put to coffin building when others didn’t manage to make it through the first winter?

Of course, we can research, study historical migration routes, and make suppositions. For instance, perhaps those landowner farmers left temperate North Carolina for places like Nebraska over the slavery issue.

But, usually, we won’t know.

Ancestral Lessons:

I see the lesson as “Don’t leave your story untold.” The true lessons, whatever they were, are lost to their progenies. Don’t let your stories–or if you know your ancestor’s, theirs–get lost.

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