History is full of really big events, mainly because they’re the ones that remain in our collective conscience. All you have to do is search Google for ‘History Timelines’ and in a nanosecond there are 118 million results. Part of the current interest in genealogy is its ability to create a historic timeline of our ancestors; a way to trace historic event through our own lineage. Along the way, there may be some big events, but more often than not, there are many, many little events. For better or worse, these ‘little’ events are things like birth, marriage, and death.
It’s the everyday folks from our family trees that made (and make) the world go round; they were born, grew up, went to work, cared for their families, did (nearly) all the things we do, and passed on. Finding out about some of the little historic events they were part of is what makes genealogy so compelling. From our perspective, the perspective of one or two – three if we’re lucky – generations, there are hundreds of little events that have occurred between then and now. And if we’re luckier still, there are remnants of these little events. Two of those remnants can be found in the Town & Country Public Library Historical Collection (pictured). Individually, they connect with the personal aspect of history, but together they create a compelling and poignant story.
The first item is a diary written by Miss Emma Sheldon, “in the 1st of the New year 1874.” Emma was born in about 1856, the daughter of Samuel and Matentha Sheldon who resided in Blackberry (now Elburn) along with their four children. She was about 18 when she started her diary, which at first glance it is very dry. She writes about her day-to-day events such as school, helping her mother and going into town. It’s only a year long and not very detailed, but still there is an impression of her created through her own words.
The second piece is short and concise, but having ‘met’ Emma through her diary, very jarring. In its entirety it states, “Irving Kans. June 5, 1879 To whom it may concern This is to certify that Miss Emma Sheldon was killed by the tornado which devastated Irving Friday May 30th ult. Levi Chase M.D.” Emma’s death at the age of 23, and the story of those devastating storms, is more graphically described on the following site, from which Emma’s place in history was confirmed: Tornado Legacy: The Irving, Kansas Tornado in 1879.
This little event, Emma’s death, was part of a very big event in its time. But, if the event doesn’t stay with us, does the history die too? There is no way to separate history from genealogy, because the ‘history’ we speak of is human. Perhaps that is what we’ll remember.