It’s a Small World After All

My three-times-great grandfather, Isaac Dudley, 1805-1867. Click to enlarge.

We all know it’s a small world.  Most of us have had one experience or another that reinforces how close we are to each other, how little separates us.

Family history proves the point again and again.

The retrospective angle of vision that the study of family history allows reveals the ties–past, present and future–that bind us all together.

Recently I stumbled across one of these.  My mother’s great-great grandfather Isaac Dudley was born in New Jersey in 1805.  Like so many of his generation, he moved west along the pioneer trails in the early 19th century, ending up in eastern Indiana.

My father’s great grandfather Lewis K. Harris was born in Indiana in 1836, already a third-generation westerner.

Joseph Iliff

As it turns out, Isaac Dudley’s next door neighbor had a son named Joseph Iliff.  On the 1850 census, Joseph is 5 years old.

Joseph would later volunteer in the Civil War in the 69th Indiana Infantry, under Captain Lewis K. Harris in Company F.  Joseph and Lewis served together for almost three years, during some of the toughest fighting of the Civil War.

I wonder if Joseph ever talked about his neighbors the Dudleys during the long nights and endless days of the war; or if after he returned home, he ever spoke to his neighbors the Dudleys about his commanding officer, Lewis K. Harris.  Chances are good Lewis met the Dudleys, if not through their common friend Joseph Iliff, then through their common bond as Quakers.  Isaac’s wife Ruth is buried mere steps away from Lewis in the small, Quaker cemetery called Ridge in Richmond, Indiana.

Lewis K. Harris

Lewis K. Harris, my great-great grandfather. Click to enlarge.

There was no way for anyone to know that Isaac and Ruth’s great-great granddaughter would  marry Lewis’ great grandson, some one-hundred and eighteen years after that census was taken in 1850.

But it makes me look at my neighbors a little differently.  It makes me think about the people I go to church with.  It causes me to consider: who among the people I now know may someday be grafted into my family tree.

— — —

To see a picture of Joseph Iliff and Lewis K. Harris together as old men at a reunion of the 69th Indiana, see my previous blog post These Men Were Heroes Once.

To learn more about Isaac Dudley, see my previous blog post A Love of Books and a Life of Challenges.

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8 Responses to It’s a Small World After All

  1. This post gave me the chills! 🙂 I simply love connections like these. You must have worked really hard to put this together. What a pleasure to read.

    This line, “There was no way for anyone to know that Isaac and Ruth’s great-great granddaughter would marry Lewis’ great grandson, some one-hundred and eighteen years after that census was taken in 1850” was one I had to read a couple of times to understand. How on earth do you keep all this straight?

    And what an interesting idea: that people we cross by in the street may someday be “grafted” onto our family tree. I think of that often, in a slightly different way. Whenever I’m at the playground with my kids — I look around and think — will one of these little ones marry one of my little ones someday? Maybe it’s silly, and it’s definitely impossible to know. But perhaps in the future, I’ll have some random picture of a kid in the background of a photo, and he or she will then be part of my family?

    Fun to think about, anyway.

    • I, too, think about my kids and the potential future relationships. My boys are 10 and 11 now, and over the years I’ve watched them at school, at church and in the community to see what other families might end up someday being grafted into my own.

      It is fun to think about. And it always makes me reflect how different life could be by the simple changing of any moment or any instance in the past. The intricacy of life is really quite incredible.

  2. Katherine Blake Scattergood says:

    Thank you for your blog. It makes me think/wonder about the lives of my ancestors who settled in the Richmond, Indiana area. We share Ferree, Hollingsworth, Jones/Kinsey, Shaw and Wright family ancestors. I have some other early Richmond Quakers (Plummer, Laws) and an interesting character-Alfred Tullidge, owner of the Old Gray Goose (now “Little Sheba’s”). I found that some of my ancestors were neighbors before they became family – though much sooner than your family did. A generation ago, genealogical research was done by mail, how fortunate that we can find/share information and make connections so quickly today. Thank you again.

    • I’m glad you came across my blog. It sounds like we have a lot of overlap in our family histories! I hope you noticed that I have written about almost all of those families on the blog. In fact, I already have other posts in mind on a few of those families.

      If you are a descendant of Edward Shaw (1815-1908), keep your eyes open. I hope to post about him soon. In the next few days, I’ll be purchasing another (I have several) liniment bottle with his name on it. One of these days I hope to tell the story of Shaw’s Railroad Liniment in depth on the blog.

      As far as the changes in genealogical research, I share your amazement. When I started doing genealogy in the 1980s, I literally got typewritten responses to my letters that I sent through the United States Postal Service. Now so much of what we do is digital–scans, emails, blogs, websites, ancestry.com and on and on. It is a wonderful new world, but I find myself yearning for faster digitalization–I wish more records would come online faster, so I could research more from my desk and feel less anxious about all that I’m missing because I don’t have the time to travel across the country and world to do research.

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. bronxboy55 says:

    At the risk of endlessly repeating myself, you have a gift for bringing history down to such a personal level that, as a reader, I am instantly intrigued — and always wishing to know more. Thank you, Kevin, for your tireless research and attention to fascinating detail.

    • ArborFam says:

      Thanks, Charles. I appreciate your consistent encouragement. Too bad real life is too busy for me at the moment–but I’ll be back again before long.

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