Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Why Did I Get Started?

That's the question that's been passed among the member's of the APG mail list recently. This morning I read one of the most wonderful answers thusfar. I think it would be especially enlightening to the younger members of our group. Especially those who think of genealogy as "an old person's hobby".

And so with his kind permission, I am putting APG List Member, Craig Kilby's answer to the question "What Got Me Started". [Believe me, this is definitely worth the read!]


re: "What Got Me Started ....and When Can I Stop?"

What Got Me Started?

Most toddlers ask why the sky is blue, or why the sun shines. Not this tike. I already knew that the sun shone and that the sky was blue. That was obvious. As to WHY the sun shone, or WHY the sky was blue, I didn't care. What I wanted to know was where I came from, and how and when. (And still don't know all those answers.) I think that's what gets us all started. Natural curiosity.

My young imagination was fueled by the fact that my father was 20 years older than my mother, he had ancient aunts and uncles who would visit on occasion from some far distant place with tales of yore. The biggest thing of all--ancient photograph albums just begging for answers to a very active imagination. That my father was raised by his grandfather--an authentic civil war veteran from Culpeper, Virginia (wherever that was, but it sure sounded grand to a little boy growing up in St. Louis) and could keep all of us boys regaled for hours with his story telling....well, it didn't take much more encouragement to start seeking answers.

By age 13, I had figured out how to use the St. Louis telephone directory to find people not remotely related to me. I wrote letters to the only two other Kilbys in the phone book. One wrote back to say they were related (well, guess what?....) and one wrote back saying she was my grandfather's first cousin and had a huge Kilby chart and photograph album to show me. At the same time, I figured out how to write NARA and they sent me my great-grandfather's full civil war military service record. (Even THAT impressed my father!)

Well, this young boy could not have been more excited to learn he had a cousin who lived on Park Avenue in St. Louis with a big chart to give me. My father had a very rare occurrence of speechlessness, only saying when the letter arrived, "My God! Is she still ALIVE?." Yes, I could answer, she certainly was, and may I now please call her, father?

Now knowing how to use the phone book,, I called this woman up (long distance, and with permission of course.) My mother drove me down to the city one day soon thereafter. Park Avenue was not like the GREEN ACRES show in New York. It was a flat in a plain old mediocre high rise. I had never been to the city before, but Ava Gabore she was not.

But what did I know? I was all dressed up, , hair neatly combed, best shoes on, and met "cousin Robbie" who was ever-so- properly dressed herself. Lemonade and cookies were prepared. She had never been married, she informed us, "though she had many offers." She was a retired beautician but the best part was her talking parakeet, who was named "Pete". I may have been precocious in some ways, but I never got her joke about her name. "Pete" and "Repeat." Still isn't that funny, come to think of it.

After all the treats and niceties were over, cousin Robbie finally pulled out the 1940 Kilby Family chart made by Hubert St. Clair Kilby (father of St. Clair Kilby of Texas Instruments and silicon chips fame).

THAT was my epiphany. All drawn out on a huge chart--just waiting for me to discover it.! It was like Paul on the way to Damascus and getting hit by lightening. Or whatever that story is in the bible. It was like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls (though I did not know what the Dead Sea Scrolls were then.)

Now, here, dear lady friends, you are getting to a jolly laugh. And if you don't laugh, then you have no sense of humor or at least don't understand boys.

At the point where cousin Robbie rolls out this chart on the floor, I got down on my hands and knees to really look at this treasure. When cousin Robbie made a comment, I looked up at her and saw the most AMAZING sight of my tender years!

This pristine fine lady was wearing undergarments I could not possibly comprehend. My mouth fell open, my eyes went wide, and my mother started laughing. I must have turned 13 shades of crimson. Remember, this is around 1973 and old ladies still wore those "things." Girdles, snaps, garters, and all manner of contraptions that I could not even form into questions. I was literally agape and must have looked like the ultimate fool.

When my mother got home that day and company came over, she was still laughing hysterically, and couldn't wait to just telling all about it. (Why do parents think their children don't hear what they are saying about them?)

Oh, moving on from that. My TREASURE was a big hit the brothers and kids over that night. I was really SOME BODY, because I had FOUND this magic chart!

That started a fad in the whole neighborhood, and even my own mother became addicted to genealogy.

So, that is the long and short of "how did I get started."

Your Friend,
Craig Kilby
Lancaster, VA

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