Genealogy — family history — is ever but a small rear-view mirror on the collective history that brought us all here, now. Like the small mirrors on the sides of cars, the objects reflected to us through the “mirror” of Fam-tracking may indeed be closer to us (in time and importance, in this case) than they might appear, or seem to be, given their being framed, not only as “the past”, but even more so, as our personal and individual(ized) *family* history. I think most people perceive the pursuit of family history (genealogy) as quite self-absorbed, and it’s perfectly self-evident and not at all shocking why and that they would. But even though it might be admitted that by 15 to 20 generations back, one’s ancestors are entirely no longer merely one’s own, but shared with 100s of millions of others (and thus genealogy skeptics might admit that studying them pretty much equals studying history), because of the characteristic tight focus on individual lives it’s easy to forget that everyone — parents, grandparents and our grandparents’ grandparents — was and in their lives’ doings enacted events, trends, material culture and more that define and describe the history that gets studied and continually rewritten in the halls and annals of academe.
And so this post begins a bit of a summary of the movements around America of my surname-sake 3X-grandparents and their kids. They launched from southwestern Pennsylvania in 1830 (two years after Andrew Jackson was elected 7th US President), crept across the Midwest and landed in southwestern Wisconsin 14 years later, (two years before Abe Lincoln was elected to the US House of Representatives). As these two parents’ choices to change life & work venues correlate to A, B & C aspects of widespread goings-on in America, so, too do the subsequent movements of their sons. Two of the five relevant kids left to California at first opportunity, starting in 1851, and the three others all ended up leaving the family’s landing spot in southwestern Wisconsin after making hay for as long as they each could, departing in 1869, 1879 and 1880, to California, Colorado and northern Wisconsin, respectively. (A previous post details the one and only reuniting of those three in Colorado in 1905.)
Again, the facts tracing these isolated individuals turn out to be illustrative of qualitatively and usually comparatively quantitatively similar facts and characteristics of altogether larger and generally widespread trends. So even though there are perhaps only 500 to 600 or so people alive today descended from this particular guy and his particular wife, (Geo Campbell & Rachel Bilderback) there were about 194,000 other people who moved from some place in America to the same place they did — Wisconsin — at the same time.
I’m a very poor mathematician, and thus no statistician, but going on very rough guesstimates, if we assume about half of those 194 thousand (domestically born) people added to Wisconsin’s population from 1830 to 1850 were kids, that’s about 97,000 adults. And dividing that # in half to account (very roughly) for married couples, we come up with about 48,000. (Which turns out to be incredibly close to the actual figure of 44,190 males of voting age and right in 1850 in Wisconsin. What ever accuracy my guesswork held would be a function of my having spent far too many hours with this kind of material over the years…so that you don’t have to! lol )
So even though only 500 to 600 or so people are descended from the man and woman in question, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 to 25 million living Americans are descended from the people who were doing the same thing in the same place at the same time. And since it also turns out that this story correlates to the populations of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois at least, we’re talking about the lives of more like 215,000 people back then that share general reflection with these particular gr-gr-gr-grandparents of mine.
In other words, their story is relevant to roughly 107 million living Americans, or about a third of our country.
So just *listen*! 😉
It’s the story, after all, of how we got here, now, all of us. Cuz even those also here, now, who come from people who came here later and/or differently, they arrived in to circumstances resulting from what was engendered in America by the grandkids etc of the people I’m talking about. We are all connected.
Ok, the historico-demographic rant is over, now on to the meat!
George and Rachel, as reflected in previous posts, are a pet project within my wider and general genealogical interest. They’re the source of my last name, they’re the 1st ones I sorta knew about, so I feel some weird, semi-arbitrary affinity for them and their goings-on.
We don’t know the details yet of George’s origins. But a meticulously kept and copied “family record” consistently shows him having been born just after xmas, 1800 in Pennsylvania. A bio of one of his sons in one of those late-19th century county boosterism books relates that George’s dad immigrated from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and this is corroborated in a hand-written note from another of George’s sons.
We know more about his wife. In the same “family record”, Rachel’s related to have been born in mid November in 1812 in Washington County, Pennsylvania. And indeed there’s a lovely record of her dad getting a 250 acre plot there in 1809. They appear to have married on Aug 16, 1829, and about 10 months later become parents to a baby boy in the same location. And indeed, the 1830 census shows them living as the next family after Rachel’s dad, Thomas Bilderback (and after whom that 1st baby boy was named). I think it’s safe to assume that they were on his property. And this assumption comes after having had the chance to briefly visit the area, and w/ the later help (admittedly) of GoogleEarth, to note that there are only a certain number of places anyone can have a house or farm, cuz the area is really hilly and wooded.
However, thanks to the availability of records from the General Land Office, we have (I believe) accurately located their next homestead in Indiana where their next two sons were born, George P.B. and Columbus (1835 & 1838).