Sarah Howard

Remember a few weeks ago when I had to do that big Heritage project with/for Harrison? One of the things his teacher wanted was some kind of family artifact.

I don’t know about you but I’m not good at artifacts; what I’m good at is giving things to the Salvation Army. You wouldn’t think it was a problem unless you were married to me and periodically wanted to know things like where that box of 80’s CD’s you had in high school went (I swear, Sweetheart, I didn’t know).

But somewhere along the way someone in my family who is probably related to my father (you don’t even want to know how many rotten tires he’s got out in the barn) realized that some things do, in fact, have value.

Hence our Letters from Sarah.

Recently my father and sister got their hands on about 15 letters written by my Great Great Grandmother Sarah Howard and my GG Grandfather (who’s name I can’t recall and am too lazy to look up) during the Civil War. These letters are kind of awesome.

Sarah and granddaddy moved their family from the East Coast to Missiouri in the 1800’s to settle on a little farm and make a life. Then the Civil War hit and Missouri was a super hot spot. They lived in a teensy one room cabin with eight kids (it had a loft which was way less charming than the ones you see on HGTV), and the only reason they didn’t move out of it into something more comfortable was because Sarah didn’t want the Rebels to think they had pushed them off their land.

I love this woman.

We know a lot about Sarah because of the letters they wrote back and forth with their Pennsylvania family members. Reading about her struggles and worries and life or death moments makes me feel like I’m reading about a relative or something; there are so many strong personality traits that dominate our gene pool.

For example, the war was a scary time but her family was determined to hunker down and hold their ground. One particular day the fighting had surrounded them all day long, cannons and guns close enough to set your teeth on edge as they huddled together in their little piece of shelter. Talk about cabin fever.┬áThe power in my house went off for an hour yesterday afternoon and I found myself microwave/TV free with hungry grumpy children. That was irritating enough, I’m sure adding cannons and half a dozen more kids with nothing to do but poke each other and whittle from dawn till dusk and you’d find one seriously on edge mother.

Finally in the afternoon Sarah looked out the window and saw a group of armed soldiers approaching the house. As they neared the gate my grandmother stormed out the front door, marched right to the edge of her yard, and yelled, “If you boys are Rebels you can just turn around and get on out of here!” Luckilly for her and her pulse they were Union boys.

Frankly, after the kind of day she’d experienced she was probably half hoping someone would just shoot her and put her out of her misery already. There are days when I’d take a group of Rebel soldiers over my rebel children with pleasure.

*This week I got an email from a buddy asking me to check out a new program they’re working on for FamilySearch is kind of the family history buff’s favorite tool, but for those of us who aren’t good at or particularly interested in name hunting it can be overwhelming. On the plus side, FamilySearch is completely free, has always been free, will always be free. and some of the other impressive family history sites are awesome, but you can only do so much before they want a credit card number.

So FamilySearch recently got smart and is now developing a brand new kind of free family history experience for people like me called Kinfolio. Instead of diving in to collect names, this branch simply starts with you. It’s set up to give you prompts and to recognize and suggest people who might be related to you. But the best part is that it’s not all about the dead guys. From what I understand it’s like a living family history vault (no really, FamilySearch has a big huge granite vault buried in some mountain somewhere that the nukes can’t get to so it will keep all your information safe after 12/2012 when the world ends).

Or if you’re into the dead guys and have some really cool Civil War letters, it gives you a safe place to store or print them for future generations.

They are still in the design phases but are looking for people interested in a place to store and print and save pictures and memorabilia and oh yes, even blogs. I like to think that four generations from now (if December goes well) some GG granddaughter of mine will be able to find my blog on a site like Kinfolio (stored for free, so cool) and see that yes, we are related because she sometimes wants to kick her husband in the knee caps too.

If you’ve got a second and this is at all interesting to you, check them out and punch in your email. Trust me, some day when blogger goes down and the internet crashes we’ll be glad we didn’t put all our eggs in facebook.

*FYI, this is not an advertisement, I just think it’s a really cool idea.