My First Hometown Visit….As a Family Historian

The first time I went to my hometown of Newport, Arkansas with the specific purpose of doing some genealogy research was in the spring of 2010.  Newport is where most of my memories had been made.  My father and his brother still lived there, so I went to Newport all the time.  But this was the first time I was visiting with the eyes and ears of a family historian.  I really didn’t have a plan or any idea of what I was doing back then.  I hadn’t read any genealogy reference books at this point.  All I knew was this was where I was born and this was the place where my parents and grandparents were born and had grown up.  So this had to be where I needed to start.  This was also the first time I had explained to anyone other than my husband about my genealogy journey.

I called my father and told him we were coming to visit.  And told him while I was there I wanted to visit the cemetery to take pictures of my grandparent’s headstones.  My father knew something was going on when I told him that.  Just a little background information about me, I have always hated going to the cemetery.  The only time I went to the cemetery was if it involved going to a funeral.  I always felt like I was walking on people.  Cemeteries and I have never gotten along.  So my father asked me why are you so interested in going to the cemetery, and why do you need to take pictures.  I explained that I wanted to start researching my family history and thought where better to start than the place where all four of my grandparents are laid to rest.  I’m sure he just thought this was a phase or something I was going through.  I’m sure he didn’t think seven years later I would be still researching and be as passionate about it as I am now.

odd-fellow
Odd Fellow Cemetery in Auvergne Arkansas.  This is where all four of my grandparents are buried.  (Photo by arkansasgraves.org)

My first stop on that Saturday morning was the Jackson County LibraryI wanted to find obituaries from our local newspaper for my grandparents and my great-grandmother.  I remember all I had with me was a manila folder with a copy of my family tree and a pen.  I went to the research room and requested the microfilm for the dates that I needed and sat down in front a microfiche machine for the first time since I was in high school hoping I remember how to use it.  Since I had all the dates I was researching, I was able to find the obituaries rather quickly.  Less than an hour in I had what I had come for, so I decided since I was there I would look for my parent’s wedding announcement as well as my own wedding announcement.  Again since I knew the dates, I was able to quickly find what I was looking for.  I remember saying to myself I should make copies of these.  So I went to the reference desk to inquire about photocopying.  Then I remembered I didn’t bring any money with me.  So I had to go back to my car and gather all the loose change I could find.  I was able to find enough to make all of my copies I wanted.  I walked away thinking this was easier than I thought it would be.  I was able to get all the newspaper articles I had gone looking for plus some.

Later that day my dad, my husband, my son, and I headed to Odd Fellows cemetery in Auvergne, Arkansas.  All four of my grandparents are buried in close proximity to each other, so I didn’t have to go too far into the cemetery.  My husband took the photos that I needed.  When we got back home I looked at the copies I had made at the library thinking what do I do next?  I had no idea.  So I threw those copies in my bag and continued visiting with my dad.  And I wouldn’t look at those copies again for about a year so.  During that year that passed, I started to read genealogy reference books to learn how to research. 

Coming home as a family historian has changed the way I visit Newport.  Not only do I go to visit my family and friends, now I’m always looking and asking for more information about my parents and grandparent’s lives. Information that has helped me learn about additional generations of my family and has helped my family tree grow with many more branches.  And this is why my journey continues…..

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