Working on your family tree is not just a list of names and dates but rather serves as a spring board to investigating and finding more out about each individual — a grandmother, a great uncle or great grandaunt.
Each ancestor has a story to share with their descendants. The experiences, adventures, problems, hardships and celebrations helped shape that ancestor and also future generations. It can demonstrate to those descendants, that whatever happened to an ancestor (good or bad) they made the best of any situation. The ancestor’s path of life would become the core of each descendant’s identity, whether they realized it or not.
When you find that an ancestor was skilled in a certain area (music, art, woodworking, design, etc) and years later there is a descendant with a similar skill it all comes together in understanding the family lineage. But unless family stories are shared, written down and enhanced with more details, the knowledge of an ancestor’s life story can be lost forever.
Finding those life adventures can be difficult but not impossible. Looking for any journals or diaries done by family members is a good start. Another excellent resource is investigating newspaper articles from an ancestral hometown. It was common practice for newspapers to write about just about any happening to its citizens, almost on a daily basis. Also contact a family’s home county or town for its historical and genealogical societies and local museums. These type of groups will carry many different photos, papers, or news articles on its local citizens.
Here is an example of a story I located on my great-great grandfather who lived in Frederick, MD. Using local newspaper articles I was able to put together this one aspect of Joseph Groff.
“In December 1884, Frederick, MD had its first all new roller rink on East Patrick Street. The owner and operator was W. L. Kendig. He saw that all types of races, prizes and contests were held at the rink. He brought in special skilled performers on skates to put on demonstrations and shows for the public. Kendig had special benefits with all proceeds going to “poor of the city”. Only he did not allow the colored Frederick population admission. It was then Joseph Groff saw a new potential business.
So Joseph had one of his buildings, Groff Hall at 21st St and West 4th Street in Frederick, redesigned as a skating rink for the ‘colored people’ of Frederick. He partnered with Mr. Davidson to create; “Frederick Colored Rink“. As Groff expressed it; “in order they may enjoy the sport which is the thing above all things now in the minds of their white brethrens.” The skating floor surface was 101 feet long by 44 feet wide. A special gallery for spectators was also constructed, one on each side of the rink. The goal stated by Groff was; “I intend to make this rink a great place of resort for the orderly colored people and I don’t intend to allow its reputation to wane.” They opened their doors in early February 1885.”
Photo: 1885 advertizement of the ‘Frederick Colored Rink’
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