Emma Ewers Taylor Hopkins was responsible for my start in genealogy, even though it didn’t happen until 24 years after she died.
Becoming a genealogist was the last thing on my mind when I picked up my maternal grandmother’s fill-in-the-blanks family tree book in 2002. I hadn’t seen it since I looked at it around the time she died in January 1978. I didn’t give it much thought at that time beyond “that’s sorta interesting.” More than 20 years passed before I looked at it again. And that time, it grabbed me.
While the book was fill-in-the-blanks, Mamaw didn’t always put information in the proper “blank.” As I tried to decipher the margin notes, the crossed out/revised responses, and the sometimes difficult-to-read handwriting, I decided there must be some kind of software I could buy that would help me sort everything out. And, of course, there was.
That second time reviewing the book, I paid more attention. Besides immediate family, I knew many other names—my grandparents’ parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and some cousins. But there were also names I’d never heard.
Mamaw wasn’t a really a researcher. Most of the information she recorded in that book was what she knew personally or had heard from family members. I started the project of transferring her data to a family tree software program with the unconscious assumption that everything she had written was accurate.
But it wasn’t.
Recognizing that the things she remembered or heard weren’t all correct was a lesson that served me well as I began researching. If I could find mistakes in Mamaw’s work, I certainly couldn’t trust anything anyone else wrote without question.
If not for this book, I may never have gotten interested in the family history. Without this book, I wouldn’t have known a number of things about my grandparents and their families, including the information outlined below.
- My grandfather’s youngest brother died as an infant. (I’ve since learned his name was Walter, and he was born and died in 1906.)
- My great-grandfather, James Arton Hopkins, was the son of Stephen Wolfenbarger but went by Hopkins because his maternal grandparents raised him. (I’d never heard this story until I read it in the book and started asking questions. There is a lot more to the story, and I’m still not sure if it’s true or not. But we have some interesting DNA matches that may finally shed some light on it.)
- My grandfather, Elmer Dennis Hopkins, began working for L&N Railroad 15 Dec 1915 and retired 28 April 1960. (I knew he worked for L&N but, short of finding employment records, wouldn’t have the dates. I remember the day he retired—because we rode part of the way on the caboose with him on his last ride—but that’s another story.)
- My 2nd great-grandfather, John Covey Howard, was a distiller and extensive trader in addition to being a farmer. (I’d forgotten about the distilling until I was reviewing the book for this post. I need to look into that.)
- My 4th great-grandfather, Stephen Hopkins, had a wooden leg and was called Granddaddy Wooden Leg.
- My 3rd great-grandmother, Rachel McFarland Hopkins, died of a nose hemorrhage. She snuffed salt up her nose trying to stop the bleeding.
- My grandparents’ first three cars were a 1925 Ford Model T, 1927 Dodge Touring Car, and 1930 Erksine Sedan. She listed seven other cars after these but only by make, no model or year.
- The cherry china cabinet I remember from my grandparents’ dining room was made about 1820 by my 3rd great-grandfather, Littleton Morris.
- The coverlets made by my 2nd great-grandmother, Polly Morris Howard, were made in 1870. (My mother cut those two coverlets into three pieces to split between her and her two sisters after my grandfather died.)
- The mandolin I remember hanging on the wall in my grandparents’ living room was a gift from Mamaw to Papaw for Christmas in 1920, the year they were married.
Somewhere in the process of sorting out the information in this book, I became hooked. Fifteen years later, I’m still trying to answer a couple of my early questions.
Written for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge from Amy Johnson Crow.