|Why spend hours pouring over
impossible-to-read ancient hand-written records? Why travel to
libraries, court houses, historical societies, cemeteries, and
anyplace else that might possibly have a trivial bit of information
about a name? These are questions I ask myself at times, and
questions I've been asked by my wife!
I grew up hearing stories about some of my ancestors - stories passed down verbally through my parents. One ancestor in particularly always attracted attention - my great-grandfather, Aaron Deemer. My father grew up living next door to his grandfather, a veteran of the Civil War. I'm sure these tales must have captivated him. I know they did me. But he was always a bit of a mystery. At the age of 13 he left home and enlisted. He never returned home. Why? Who were his parents? Where were they from? These questions couldn't be answered since there was no one living who knew.
My mother's family was less mysterious. She could trace her father's family back several generations. They'd all lived in the same place where she'd grown up and she knew hundreds of relatives.
Then one day around 1981 the phone rang. The caller identified herself as a resident of Deemer, Mississippi. (No kidding!) Her town was celebrating its centennial and she was seeking descendants of the town's founder, Elias Deemer. She was calling every Deemer she could find in Pennsylvania. The information she shared led me to suspect that Elias might be one of Aaron's brothers. I later learned I was wrong. In fact I've never found a link between Elias and Aaron. But this was the start.
As soon as she hung up, I called our local library and was astonished to learn that Elias Deemer was in the history books. This got me started. Fortunately, because I was school teacher (now retired), I've had a lot of time during the summer months to do research. Since that phone call I've visited many places and communicated with many people. I've made fascinating discoveries. Thanks to my parents and grandparents who apparently never threw anything away I've accumulated a great collection of photographs, documents, and other artifacts from my ancestors.