Sunday, March 21, 2010

Correcting Past Mistakes

In the summer of 1991, my grandmother, Pauline Cole Root, funded a family reunion trip to Jonesboro, Arkansas. Every year in Jonesboro, the Coles of Cole hill and the vicinity round about that corner of the state, continue the tradition of reuniting family. My mother and I had written two books on the Coles and their allied lines and were asked to give the most comprehensive presentation they had heard up to that point.

I remember the trip well. My Grandma Root, my Uncle Tom and Aunt Julie, my step father and mother, Grant and Kathe Hollingshaus, and my baby son, Adam, and I piled into a rental van and drove the long miles from California and Arizona to Jonesboro. My grandmother’s whole family made the effort to come from all over the United States for this special occasion. Once there, we all slept on the floor of a cousin’s empty house, and I enjoyed getting to know many people I had never met and seeing all the family sites for the second time in my life.

I had written the reunion address based on the information my mother and I had gleaned over the years concerning the Cole family. I put together slides with music which I would show while I narrated our family history. Mom created a beautiful family tree with pictures to present to my grandmother, and we brought several boxes of our books to sell to family members who were interested. I also wrote a family newspaper called the “Bear Facts Gazette” recalling the story of my grandmother’s early years in Jonesboro with her brothers and sisters.

Since that reunion, much to our dismay, we discovered that the first Coles in America were not those we had presented in our book. My mother has expressed many times her regrets and how she wished we could have corrected the false information. Unfortunately, genealogy is a puzzle. The fact that our ancestors lived in a time when records were often poorly documented or destroyed in the carnage of the Civil War, the time and effort we take to piece the puzzle together can be haphazard at best. When new information is found, we must backtrack and veer onto a different path to discover our past—thus, the reason I have decided to compile another Cole History, using the current information I have from my mother and my research.

I know my mother would want me to do this. But in order to present the most accurate information to date, this project will take a collaborative effort from the Cole family.

I ask that all family members who read this blog peruse the information I present and leave corrections and additions in the comments section after each article. Hopefully, as we join forces, our efforts will allow me to compile a wonderful book for our posterity.

Knowing who we are and who came before us unifies the family of all men. It reminds us that we are children of God. One of my favorite passages from William Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” sums up my feelings about who we are.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home.

As more people join this blog site, I hope to hear your comments and learn from your intimate knowledge of the family.