I searched for my grandfather’s name on a whim. While designing books about other people’s family history, I had started to wonder about my own. Growing up, I was told little to nothing about my family heritage. Only as an adult did I learn about my great-grandparents. My grandma’s dad ran a carnival in a mall for a time and her mom immigrated to the United States from England; she is the one I’m named after. Their pictures now sit a on a bookshelf in my home along with a card she wrote shortly after my birth. My grandpa’s dad was an evangelistic preacher and pastor and his mother was an immigrant from England as well. Knowing I am also in ministry, a cousin mailed me one of my great-grandfather’s ministerial certificates – a gift I treasure. But this is all I knew of my dad’s side of the family and I wanted to know more.
I started with typing in my grandpa’s name into Google and the first thing to come up was a genealogy chart listing him as the fourth generation of William and Rebecca Hoggatt – my great-great-great grandparents. Taking William Hoggatt’s name, I found him with matching dates on another website and then backtracked from one generation to another, quickly coming to a page that made my jaw hit the floor. As it turns out, the Hoggatts are one of the pioneering Quaker families who came over from England to help William Penn with his colony and they helped found many Quaker meetings along the way. They spread out from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, Illinois, and Oklahoma. For most in my family, I imagine this would just be interesting information to know. For me, it is incredible. The church I speak and write for are the Quakers, a group I joined as an adult without knowing any of this background. What I thought I’d stepped into was a place already carved out for me.
Knowing this history of my family has changed the way I see myself. Instead of a name with no meaning, I now have pride every time I sign a receipt or autograph a book. Instead of standing by myself in the dream of different faiths working together in brotherly and sisterly love, I now stand with all the grandparents who came before me and who worked for such a dream. Instead of coming to the Friends church on my own, I now come with a ministry to carry on that is already my own and is my inheritance.
Where I live in the Northwest, most people don’t know who their ancestors were or don’t talk about them. It’s just not important. But for myself whose only heritage up to this point was one to do better than, I now have something to aspire to. I have roots that can help bolster my wings.
Now when I work on designing books about people’s ancestors, I better understand why people put in the time to research their family history and where they came from. It’s like a mystery puzzle that just goes on and on and keeps getting better and better. Amidst that search of where we come from, we learn about ourselves and find we are not alone. All those people who came before us mean something. History becomes our own. We have a past, which, if we take the time to discover it, will help us live into the future.
What has surprised you in your genealogy search?