I had an extraordinary telephone conversation last night with a woman who I have never met before but, I learned late last week, is a distant relation. I began my genealogy in a casual way several years, beginning by sitting down with my father one summer evening to make sure that what he knew did not get lost to the sands of time. His health was in decline for several years and it was obvious his time was coming soon. With mom it has been more of a process. Let’s just say she is not the reflective type who enjoys putting the pieces together one by one. Getting details from my mother is done surreptitiously, usually a quick text or email to see if she can flesh out the outline of a life that to me is nothing more than a record on my computer. Done in this manner I have been able to get a fair amount of information. And at the risk of getting her mad I would dare say she enjoys it when kept to a minimum.
Some of you know that I am in the beginning stages of a biography of Union general Joseph Roswell Hawley. Hawley was a captain in the 1st Connecticut, a ninety day unit, and later a colonel and brigadier in the three-year 7th. Seeing where he fought at First Bull Run this pat Sunday was something special. He was something of a Zelig, always turning up where events were taking place. After the war he was the governor of Connecticut, and eventually a congressman and senator. The whole reason I found Hawley was because the urban legend in my family was that we were his direct descendants. If the legend had been true I would have been his great, great grandson. The short version of the story is that I am not.
That brings me back to the phone call last night. The reason for the family legend was that we indeed have Hawleys in our family tree, on my mother’s side of the family. We just never knew anything about them. As it turns out it was the other side of the Hawley family to which we are directly related. I had wondered how part of the family ended up in Nova Scotia way back when. From last night’s conversation I know that they were Loyalists during the Revolutionary War and that they fled shortly after the upstart colonists declared victory. I would label my own proficiency as a genealogist as high-beginner. I had put it aside for awhile, even letting my Ancestry account lapse early this month, because I had hit a wall. Sometimes when you least expect it the door opens again.
The biography is still very much in the early stages but is proceeding nicely. It is a story worth telling, and one that fell into my lap wrapped in a bow imploring me to tell it.