While genealogy can be described as family research and locating records, it is also about trying to make a connection to early family members in order to uncover the story that is ours. If we don’t pursue it, that story may fade, perhaps lost forever, and it’s too important to let that happen.
Karen Childs was just 18 when her grandmother died. It was then she realized how little she knew of her grandparents’ lives and family members that came before them. To begin gathering family information, she wrote a list of questions on paper (using carbon paper to make additional copies), and mailed the sheet of paper to aunts, uncles, and other family members. She recalls “it took months to get their answers back“.
Since then, Karen has done an incredible amount of research, covering all 50 states to research both her and her husband’s lineage. She has compiled 12 generations of the Childs family (in America) through records, letters, photos and maps. She continues to work with 2 professional genealogy researchers to overcome numerous brick walls and obtain additional information that will ultimately enable her to publish a family history book.
Karen Childs has been a member of the Siuslaw Genealogy Society for 12 years, a member of the Portland chapter of Germans from Russia, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS). She utilizes many genealogy websites for information, and Family Tree Maker to compile her data. She spends time at county and state libraries while RV travelling with her husband to visit ancestral locations viewing records to further her research.
A Family Story
The first week of December is the anniversary of one of the worst floods of the Willamette River. The year was 1861. A cold, wet November created a greater than normal accumulation of snow on the Cascade mountains. A warm December resulted in a devastating runoff and a fast rising river. One survivor and his family floated 3 miles down river on the roof of a log cabin. Karen Childs’ great, great grand uncle, Edgar D. Towl described his story of survival in a letter to his mother:
“We had been given up as lost by our friends, not one of them thought it possible that we could live; and I must admit that when I saw how high the water had been I thought it rather marvelous myself. In a few days I went to the [saw]mill and found that all our cattle, horses and hogs were drowned. We had just killed about a thousand pounds of pork, all of which was lost. Our large barn did not float away, although the water was over eight feet deep in it. Some of the cattle and horses drowned in the stable. Our houses and barn were swept off; in fact, we lost everything we had but one ox, our saw mill and our books and accounts, those we saved. The horse which would not swim and which I tied up, strange to relate, lived through the seven days without one morsel to eat.”
To read his letter in its entirety click here.
[This article was originally printed in Historic Marion (Volume 43, No. 1, Winter 2006), a publication of the Marion County Historical Society, now part of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon.]