Earlier this year, I attended a family reunion mostly composed of descendants from my 2nd great grandfather and his two wives. Because my grandmother was getting a new shoulder at the time, I alone was the representative of my 2nd great grandfather's first wife while the other 60+ people there were descendants of his second wife. This was my second time to attend this family reunion, the last being four or five years ago.
Part of the reason I wanted to attend this particular reunion is because I was finally able to find the smoking gun that conclusively linked this family to the Chickens. The family surname was Chicken until my 3rd great grandfather for reasons unknown decided to change the surname to Baker. During his time, some fought the change and kept the Chicken surname which lives on to this day, but other branches, mine included, adopted more generic surnames.
By request, I brought along my research and spent much of the reunion talking about how we were all Chickens. It was so well received, that it inspired me to write down all this information in a story format which I have since completed and sent out to those I have email addresses for. It was a lot of work but made easier by many of the stories already written in the archives of this blog. It was very satisfying to have people read it and comment on how much it meant to them to have all of it written down.
It got me to thinking. Is there any better validation of your life than to have your name written down somewhere in a book for someone else in the future to find. I suppose that is why genealogists like myself, spend hours tramping through graveyards to find that tombstone with the family name on it to validate that yes our ancestor lived and here they now lie a mere six feet away. However with a history book, it means something more. It meant that they meant enough to someone else that they were mentioned in a book. These thoughts weighed on my mind for awhile until they forced me to go down to the library in our basement and retrieve a book.
The book is The History of Buffalo County 1885-1985, Gann Valley, South Dakota. I bought it several years back when I was doing research on my 4th great grandfather Joseph Chicken who moved out there to prove up on some land later in life. In fact, it was after his son's death, my third great grandfather and the one who changed the family surname to Baker, that he moved out there and eventually owned 320 acres of land before his death. When I first got the book, I checked the index of family names and to my disappointment, his name was not listed. I flipped through it looking at pictures and such but never same a records of him in it. It had eventually found its way to my shelf and has been there ever since, until recently.
The first part of the book is full of first hand written accounts of life back in the late 1800's during the time Joseph Chicken lived out there. I started reading these accounts to get a sense of the life Joseph led and quickly realized that these stories were full of surnames not mentioned in the index. Last night as I read through one of these stories, I finally found the name Joseph Chicken mentioned as being a respected old settler in the county. Though I have been to his grave and seen his name chiseled in stone, I felt a sense of validation that he existed and was known. Known well enough that his name is forever printed on the pages of a book for all those such as myself to discover well after he was gone.