We left Missoula, MT this morning and headed to Hamilton, MT to check out some of my husband’s family history. The weather for the morning and late afternoon was mostly cloudy with 100% of the 30% chance of rain in the middle. Gratefully the rain held off while we made our way up the steep hills on dirt roads into the Bitterroot National Forest in Hamilton. The vistas were incredible and my husband hiked part of a trail called the Blodgett Canyon Trail. We also visited the family cemetary from some of the town’s early settlers, to whom my husband is distantly but directly related.
The family history thing amazes me since I started researching his and mine. When people ask me about my heritage, I tell them I’m a “mutt.” My ancesters came to this country during the time of great waves of immigrants to work in New England’s mills. I guess that means they’re part of the economic backbone of this country. I had one set of great-grandparents who came from Sweden and another who came from French Canada. On the other side, my grandparents came from Poland. At least that’s what I was told when I was young. They spoke Polish. I had cousins in Poland. Turns out my grandmother was probably Austrian and my grandfather was Russian. So there’s a great DNA soup running around in my cells. No wonder my interests and talents are so varied. Maybe I should start saying my heritage is eclectic. Everything else in my life is.
My husband, on the other hand, has only two nationalities in his background: English and French Canadian. The French Canadians came down around the same time as my ancesters did, but they settled in Massachusetts while mine went to Rhode Island. But his English ancesters came early on. Not on the Mayflower, but in the next wave of boats that came the next year. Instead of hanging around in Plymouth, they started moving out. They were among the early settlers of Waltham, Mass and Lexington, Mass. Then the family split – one branch heading up to be pioneers in New Hampshire, the other branch included in the first settlers of Stafford, CT. They continued to be pioneers, heading from both groups to each new area to be settled – upstate New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, across the plains to Salt Lake City, UT, up into Montana and Idaho, even making it to California. I swear that everyone with the same last name as my husband came from that very first family that brought it from Stowmarket, England in the 1600’s!
I think that’s where my husband’s love of travel comes from. I tell him he either has really courageous adventurers for ancesters or really anti-social folks that decided to move out every time it got a little too crowded in the area they had recently settled.
I have to confess that I’ve relied on the work of many others to track his history. Kind of made it easy. When you have that kind of history, people want to keep track of it. It follows the history of this country – subduing the land, fighting in the wars from the Revolution through the Civil War to the present, moving across the country to explore and find new space. It makes history more real when you can think of your great-great-great-great … grandfather doing the things that helped create this nation. Not some stranger but the person responsible for your existence somewhere along the way.
I guess I’m going to have to work a whole lot harder to track my family history. I go back one or two generations and find myself in foreign lands. The French Canadians were pretty good historians because of the church, which kept all the records. I understand the Swedes have good records if I can figure out where they may have started out from. But the Polish/Austrian/Russian side is going to take a lot of work, which you can understand if you have any understanding of the history of those nations. Lots of upheaval. But definitely a strong people – something to be proud of.
Well, back to Montana. The trip from Hamilton to Kalispell was wet and didn’t do justice to Flathead Lake. The weatherman says the days should get warmer (50’s today) and dryer. That ought to make our first venture to Glacier National Park tomorrow a little more fun. Hoping to see some wildlife other than ravens and magpies. Hoping that global warming has been slow enough that the glacier is still there. Hoping for good weather to use that new camera!