an elongated column of family trees covering an
extensive string of webpages
compiled and edited by P. S. Ehrlich
My first exploration of "lineage" dates back to 1971, when my grandfather F. S. Smith showed me a number of old family records and chronicles. Seeing my interest, he turned to my grandmother and in a solemn voice announced, "Mom: I want Paul to have these when I Go." By which I thought he meant when he went home that evening. (So much for solemn moments.)
In 1983 my mother asked me to rebuild her photo albums, which led to my extracting Family Forest—"a thick growth of family trees and underbrush covering an extensive pile of paper"—from the Smith and Ludeke lineages. This was followed in 1984 by Further Family Forest (thicker growth, more extensive paper) and then by the purely pictorial Leaves from the Family Forest in 1985. The Forests in turn reactivated an Ehrlich family history project I had let lapse a decade earlier, but which reached full-length completion in 1986 as the book To Be Honest.
After To Be Honest’s publishability proved dubious I returned to the world of fiction, ultimately producing the Skeeter Kitefly novels (as described in "Compactification"), launching her/my (our) website in 2002, and seeing most of the novel chapters published on the Internet in e-magazines. As the supply of available excerpts dwindled in 2003, I began expanding the website beyond Skeeter to feature other projects, new and old—including To Be Honest.
It then belatedly occurred to me that I had never checked the Web for further details on the Smith and Ludeke lineages. Doing so, I hit immediate paydirt in some places; but was annoyed at not being able to turn up anything further on the Burnses, family of Granddad Smith’s mother Mila. They had handed down a legend of being related to Robert Burns the Poet, and I had conjectured a Burns Connection through the poet’s cousin William, of whom nothing was known after 1789. POSSIBLY he could have emigrated to Virginia in time to sire Mila’s grandfather William Burns.
Finally I hit upon the right combination of Web browser keywords, locating Mila’s parents and grandparents in the New Carlisle Cemetery, Bethel Township, Clark County, Ohio. With this added data I was able to "crack the code" and uncover a remarkable entry on Mila’s grandmother Jane Marshall Burns, including her and husband William’s complete birthdates, deathdates, and marriage date; the full roster of their children; the date they left Virginia for Ohio; and the names of William’s parents—William Burns "Jr." and Magdalena Van Metre.
Armed with the happily uncommon name "Magdalena Van Metre," I quickly proceeded to find an entire book about the Van Metres online at www.vanmetre.com. Before long I noted the mention of Berkeley County, [West] Virginia—already associated with Jonas Hedges, great-grandfather of Granddad Smith’s half-sister Mellie. And then a whole heap of Burnses and Hedgeses galloped in to intermarry (to an altogether astonishing degree) with each other and the Van Metres. I wondered if Jonas Hedges had a place in this tangle, and eventually I discovered it—but not before finding a place for Jonas’s wife Elizabeth; they turned out to have been second cousins.
In due course I tracked the intertwined Van Metre, Hedges, and Burns lines back to three "patriarchs"—Jan Joosten (c.1625-c.1706); Joseph Hedges (c.1670-1732); and William Burns (1718-1806)—beyond whom lie mostly mystery and mythology. Some Creative Thinkers would say that Jan Joosten was the great-grandson of Sir Jacobus Van Meteren, publisher of the first Bibles translated into English; others, claiming that Joseph Hedges was the grandson of wealthy Sir Charles Hedges, once employed Henry Clay himself to investigate this (with an eye to any fortune awaiting them in England).
As for the Burns Connection, it pretty much got scotched. William Burns is another patriarch without a past, having been born "allegedly in Scotland" near Edinburgh, and assisted in emigrating to New Jersey by an uncle who "bought him a great coat." Since William was born in 1718, he would have been a contemporary of Robert the Poet’s father William (born 1721) and uncles James (born 1717) and Robert (born 1719)—but those three and their father Robert all spelled their names Burnes and lived in Kincardineshine, far to the north of Edinburgh.
In exchange for nulling-and-voiding this legend, I hope Fine Lineage will shed some welcome light on those generations occupying the outer limits of my family forest. Obviously this sort of investigation and documentation could go on indefinitely, thanks to the boundless resources offered by the Internet. As I stated in the original Family Forest twenty years ago (and in longhand, back when I could do this legibly):
I hope some time in the future to collect further details concerning the Honorable Ancestors listed herein ... so as to build up a mighty oaken woodland from the original squirrel-compiled and -edited acorns. Then if some compassionate 21st Century genealogist should want to rewrite the Thing in a smoothed-out fair copy, he or she might have the way already prepared. It also enables me [sic] from getting lost in the Forest of my own compiling, and starving to death among the other squirrels.
I will be tracing assorted lineages from the earliest patriarchs—and, where possible, their matriarchs—down to the 1913 Ohio flood that sent Francis See Smith (at not quite 17) out of the Dayton YMCA and on his way to Kansas City, MO (ultimately to produce Us All). Ninety years later, four generations of F.S.'s offspring are scattered from one coast to the other, with daughter Mila Jean confounding the odds to stray the least furthest from her birthplace. If any compassionate future genealogists should feel like picking up the tracework baton and carrying it further onward, they will be welcome to it.
As we make our own ways through a 21st Century nothing like the one promised to us in The Jetsons, it may be helpful to catch a glimpse of the lives led by people so far removed from us it takes awhile to count all the "greats" prefixing their grandparenthood. Dwelling in bona fide wilderness with so few neighbors near at hand, their children must have had little choice but to marry their own cousins—this in time becoming a habit of Good Breeding: lucky for us there were no hemophiliacs in the gene pool.
Then like now, many kept moving from one place to another—to Missouri from Ohio; to Ohio from New Jersey and Delaware and [West] Virginia; to Pennsylvania from Germany and Switzerland; William Burns from Scotland (allegedly) and Joseph Hedges from England (ditto) to Delaware to Pennsylvania to Maryland to [West] Virginia to Ohio—
—all the way back to Jan Joosten and Maycken Hendricks in 1662, exchanging Holland for the New Amsterdam "that flowered once for Dutch sailors’s eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world"—before being borne back, ceaselessly, into the past.
P. S. Ehrlich
July 4, 2003
● In 2003 I found Family Forest® to be a registered
trademark of FamilyForest.com; so I changed my own title to
a term frequently associated with dog breeding, but which was also cited in
Woodrow Wilson's address to Swarthmore College on October 25, 1913: "After their
own day is gone their spirits stalk the world, carrying inspiration everywhere
that they go and reminding men of the lineage, the fine lineage, of those who
have sought justice and right."
● Most sources will appear in chapter Notes in boldface abbreviated form; Internet sources will be indicated by tildes (e.g. ~internet). A complete list, alphabetized by abbreviation, can be found on the Sources page. Due to the transient nature of Internet entries, only a few hyperlinks will be provided to outside webpages.
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Last updated May 30, 2009
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Copyright © 2003-2009 by P. S. Ehrlich; All Rights Reserved.