My second great grandfather, Levi Henshaw Gorrell, must have been an interesting guy to know. He lived a long , active life that’s well documented in the Iola, Kansas newspapers. Even at age 99, he was out working the farm, riding horses and being a worry to his children! He was at varying times a blacksmith, a veterinarian and held numerous civic positions. There are so many news clippings about him. He’s a genealogists dream. Almost. You see, there’s something about his age that just doesn’t make sense. In 1922 the Masonic Home in Wichita Kansas was home to both the oldest and the youngest residents of Masonic homes in the state. That’s Levi in the photo, at 100 years old. They even threw him a big birthday party that made the paper. He made the paper again on his 104th birthday. The problem is that Levi died on June 23, 1926. In his obituary, his birthday is listed as Oct. 8, 1832. That makes him 94, so in 1922 he would only have been 90. Still, pretty darn old for the era, but not exactly a centenarian.
So far, I’ve not found any documentation on his birth but what I I have seen include census records and newspaper articles with various dates; 1822,1831,1832, 1833,1838. Now, I know our ancestors sometimes played fast and loose with dates, just like the spelling of names but this is just silly. I keep looking for a birth record. One day it will turn up. In the meantime, I think of him as having a good laugh at us in 2014 trying to solve an old man’s birth date.
Family history became important to my grandparents as they grew older. Both sets of grandparents spent a great deal of time and money on genealogy research. They made field trips across the midwest to visit homesteads and hunt for long forgotten hand dug wells. They paid researchers to create lineage documents and relied upon their credentials as professional genealogists.
My grandpa, Russell Darnold, thought he and my dad, Wendell Darnold, were two of only five or six male Darnold’s alive during the 1970’s. He’d have been shocked at the truth! Thanks to the ease of document sharing and source verification that our technological age provides anyone who wants to know more about their family history has a free pass to get started.
One of my grandmas, Opal Gorrell Darnold, had an expensive and exquisite lineage that proved her family line going back through the kings of France and England. Not that it made life any easier, but it was fun to think about being “royalty”.
I’m glad she’s not here today to learn that not only are we not descended from royalty, she was caught up in one of the biggest genealogy scams going… at least according to a columnist in one of the family history magazines. Despite that, I do think she’d ultimately come to agree with me that the true stories about our ancestors are grand enough as we share immigrants, patriots and pioneers who all played their part in a greater American story.
This blog is how I’ll help keep my family history alive for generations to come. I’ll share the stories I’ve heard from my parents and grandparents as well as the history and details of my ancestors gleaned from researching. I inherited a great deal of material from my grandparents. Not all of it is documented and updating the family tree with provable facts has become one of my goals. I’ll share some of my process as I work to correct errors in my family tree and expand the scope of their work.