I’m at it again this year … 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, thanks to Amy Johnson Crow. The theme for week one is “Start”. Oh, so many ways to interpret that. But we all start somewhere …
The Start of it All
I was 11 years old when I fell in love with history – specifically the American Civil War era – in large part due to historical fiction author John Jakes and his Orry Maine.
It wasn’t so much the history we’re taught in school … dates, places, and names of important (at least important to someone) people. Rather, the way people lived throughout history; their daily lives, the food they ate, the homes they built. We call this social history today. I don’t think it really had a name then.
At age 15, I was introduced to genealogy. Suddenly, I had a way to make history truly meaningful. That was the year my high school French teacher assigned a family tree project. We were to research our heritage, in part, to see if any of us had French ancestors. It was her way of making a connection between us students and a subject far away from anything significant to our teenage lives.
I announced my new project at dinner that evening and the look on my dad’s face was priceless. He started telling stories about people I hadn’t heard of up to that point. Oh … the stories he told … of fur trappers and Sioux uprisings … and our French heritage.
Yep … French heritage! I was one of the few in my French class who could trace their ancestry beyond the first line of greats, certainly to French ancestors. I’m blessed now, but then … I was just dumbfounded that we had all this family history and a lot of it recorded in family bibles.
The Man Who Started it All
His name is Joseph LeMaitre. He is my 3rd great-grandfather. Joseph – Joe – was born on January 28, 1831, in France – Paris or Sainte-Menehould. I have records that say each. Something to sort out eventually. He died at age 39 in 1870. I’m forever searching for “why” or “how”.
Joe married Veronica Voirol on December 24, 1852, and they had 7 children who lived to adulthood. I descend from their daughter, Adeline Isabell LeMaitre.
I’ve written about Joe before – and will likely write more about him this year. He’s one of my favorite ancestors. I think because he is, to my knowledge, the progenitor of the Lemaitre line. He also had a fascinating life, one that I’ve greatly enjoyed reading and learning about.
He opened my eyes to genealogy … to what it means to be part of something bigger and greater than myself. He introduced me to a fragment of American history of which I had little knowledge – the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862.
Little did I know it then, but Joe Lemaitre started me out on a journey of a lifetime … many lifetimes, really. And for that, I thank him.