A Sisters Quest for Family History

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The green, rolling hills of Missouri and Kentucky were home to our family.

Last summer, my two sisters and I did  a 22 day genealogy odyssey. The main purpose of our trip was to try to find some clues and answers to our Hunter family genealogy. We crossed state lines 17 times and saw beautiful country and many small towns and areas were our ancestors settled and then packed up and moved on. We saw lots of cemeteries and searched through a few of them. We visited small libraries and even smaller local genealogical societies. We met wonderful, helpful people that provided us with lots of information. We got lost several times, visited historic sites, quilt shops, and we laughed a lot.

We didn’t find the answers to all of our questions. We still don’t know the maiden name of James Overton Hunter’s second wife. We didn’t find missing birth, marriage and death dates, well maybe a couple of them. We didn’t find any photos of our direct ancestors and we didn’t find all of the graves.

This is what we did find:

  • Our Hunter ancestors were hard working, very religious, and brave farmers. They were for the most part, illiterate or at least very private. (That translates to “few written records”.) But in every community they lived in,we they were the family that built at least one of the churches in that area.
  • The men usually outlived the wives, so there were multiple marriages and many children.
  • We found out that our 5th great-grandfather lived to be 102 years old. He was a second generation American that never learned to speak English until he ran away from home when he was 14 years old and found work with a Revolutionary War veteran named Captain Wood.
  • We found that for the most part, our southern family (direct line) did not fight in the Civil War for either side. And that our ancestor Peter (Yeager) Hunter worked as an overseer in his younger days, he, nor the rest of the family, didn’t have slaves.
  • We learned when new areas opened up for settling, they would pack up and move on, always searching for a better place with more future.

As we drove through the lush green areas in Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Alabama and East Texas, we felt their love of the land and the spirit of pioneering. We realized why our Dad and his father had such a talent for planting and growing things, even though neither were farmers.

We learned lots of things about our family, brought home interesting stories to add to our genealogy files, and we definitely grew closer to our paternal side of the family.

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Bacon Creek, Hart Co. Kentucky,

Happy Birthdays ~ February 23

George Frederic Handel - Hulton Archive/Getty ImagesFebruary 23rd – Interesting day in the history of music. On this day in 1685, George Frederic Handel was born in Halle, Branden (Germany). In 1940 a baby boy was born to the Guthrie family-Woodrow Wilson Guthrie in Okemah, Oklahoma. A dichotomy of back grounds and style, but both of these men have given us such treasures of great music and talen.

George Handel was born to a fairly well-off family, his father was a barber-surgeon. Though in the beginning, Handel’s father discouraged his son’s music, pushing him to study law. Handel had to wait until his father was asleep and then sneak up into the attic to practice his instruments.

A child prodigy, he played violin, harpsichord, and organ. His father died when he was 11 years old and in 1702 he enrolled in the University of Halle to study law. After one year, he left the University and headed north to Hamburg where he played in the opera orchestra.

Moving on Germany, Italy and finally to England, Handel wrote scores for orchestras where ever he lived. In 1741, at the age 56, he was asked to write a score to be performed in Ireland. He decided to compose an oratorio for the performance. It is reported that he worked for 25 days with little or no rest and skipping most of his meals. He gave the world “The Messiah”. He is quoted as saying at the end of this period “I think that God has visited me.”

He was truly inspired by God to have created so masterful and remarkable, a score like this.

Now to the opposite side of the music world. Woody Guthrie young years taught and shaped his life. He said of his early years in Okemah-

“Okemah was one of the singingest, square dancingest, drinkingest, yellingest, preachingest, walkingest, talkingest, laughingest, cryingest, shootingest, fist fightingest, bleedingest, gamblingest, gun, club and razore carryingest of our ranch towns and farm towns, because it blossomed out into one of our first Oil Boom Towns.:

Excerpt from “Pastures of Plenty” by Woody Guthrie, Edited by Harold Leventhal & Dave Marsh.

Many of Guthrie’s have been sung by many vocal artists, some are ingrained in our minds and memories. Perhaps one of the most well-known is “This Land Is My Land”. It is said that he wrote the song after hearing the sentimental patriotic song written by Irving Berlin and sung by Kate Smith, “God Bless America”. His travels all over the United States, time in both the Army and the Merchant Marines gave him a real knowledge of this great land, it’s ribbon of highways and majestic views. For more information about Woody Guthrie, his life and his music, visit his biography page here.

Happy Birthday to two incredibly talented men.