Wednesday, October 14, 2015

New Birth, Old Ancestors, October 14, 2015

A new baby is like the beginning of all things -- 
wonder, hope, a dream of possibilities.
~Eda J. Le Shan

Greetings to all of you from the good ole U.S. of A. where Cindy and I have returned after our extended travels to Northern Ireland and Scotland on what was, at least partly, a genealogical journey to the homeland of many of our ancestors. Not being able to stay put, today we happen to be in Tucson, Arizona where we are visiting with some friends for a few days.

Insights From A Genealogical Trek. I learned a number of things about family history from our most recent trip to Europe. First, that there is not really a lot to discover about our ancestors from visiting the actual places from whence they came. This is especially true when we are talking about ancestors of many years ago, like our most recent European ancestors who came to this country about 200 years ago. Almost all of what I know about the Irish and Scottish immigrants in our family tree I learned by sitting at my computer in San Diego. The online world has opened up genealogical research to a degree never before experienced. While we were in Northern Ireland, I did visit the very impressive Public Records Office in Northern Ireland (PRONI), which is a major repository of historical records. It was an impressive place and I wish I had spent more time there. But the fact remains that much of what is available there in person is also available online. 

However, there is no doubt that visiting the actual places, in person, that our ancestors came from has merit that cannot be denied. There is a sense of personal connection with the towns and streets and local people and historical sights that has real value though it may be very subjective. When in Northern Ireland, for example, we walked the streets of the little town of Antrim, where ancestor William Gray (1771-1865) was born and raised in the late 18th century. 

Among the local places we visited in Antrim was the Antrim Round Tower, an impressive structure that was there when our Gray forebearers lived there over 200 years ago. The first picture I am including shows the Antrim Round Tower with Cindy in the foreground. When William Gray was a child in the town of Antrim, this tower was already 700 years old! Even at that time it was a relic of the past, just as it is today.

When we visited Antrim we walked about a mile from the train station to the Round Tower which today has a beautiful grassy field all around it, which functions as a public park for families with kids and dogs, and for passing tourists like us. The Tower was built just about 1,000 years ago as a bell tower for protection from raiders and is known locally as "the Steeple". It is 93 feet high and 50 feet in circumference at the bottom. It was just as much an attraction in William Gray's time 200 years ago as it is today.

New Shepard Baby! Congratulations to  Jessica Bell and my nephew Christopher Shepard on the birth of Finley Grace Shepard early Sunday morning, just 3 days ago. Finley is the most recent birth in our family, and the newest descendant of my grandparents William and Bura Davis Shepard AND Leroy and Nola Shannon Gower.

Finley's birth is also the 4th grandchild born to my brother Darrell Shepard and his wife Mary in the last 2 years! "When it rains, it pours", as they say. Best wishes to Jessica and Chris and both their families. By the way... Finley being a good Irish name (as is Kellan, another recent birth in our family) just goes to show you that our Irish heritage continues to have its influence on us today!

Thanks to Grandpa Darrell for this picture of Finley, taken at just a few hours old.
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Steve Shepard

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