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.
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.
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.
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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.