The Unfinished Jigsaw Puzzle
When I was fifteen, our class had to write an autobiography, and it was to include something about our roots, and we were to visit with the oldest family member for some historical perspective. That person was my paternal grand uncle. He told me how to pronounce names, where ancestors were buried, and other bits of information I wrote down and kept. My surname was Reichard and there was little doubt my dad’s family had German roots. All the years I worked, moved and raised a family I longed to get back to looking for my ancestors. My dad’s brother George had an interest in researching the family, and did some library work when I lived in other states. However, despite having some possible first names, we definitely had some brick walls, and lacked maiden names of wives.
Then, 3 years ago, I hired a well-respected family historian who lived near Allentown, Pennsylvania, my birthplace. His research was life-changing for me, and his reports and digital images uncovered a paper trail of courthouse documents, including Wills, Inventories, names of heirs, and other valuable information help to put my paternal puzzle pieces together. The most astounding things I learned were: my father’s family was in America much earlier than I suspected – the earliest known arrival in 1739; many of my relatives were in the Revolutionary War, a few in the War of 1812, and later in the Civil War.
When I felt I went as far as I could for the present on my dad’s side, I concentrated on my mother’s Carter line from Tennessee, and this proved to be the real hurdle. While I was growing up, she said little about her family, and only offered that she thought her roots were “Scotch Irish.” Born in 1914, she was killed suddenly in a car accident in 1970. I had a few old photos and a page from her father’s funeral book listing his parents: I.B. Carter born in McMinn, Tennessee in 1859, and his wife, Nancy Alzar Carson, born in Meigs, Tennessee. As I delved more and more into her family, I realized why she said almost nothing about her Carter ancestors: Isaac Buchanan Carter and Nancy died before she was born. Her parents both died before I was born. She was an only child. I had so little to go on, but had what would become a valuable clue: the name “Henegar.” Ultimately I bought Family Tree Maker, an ancestry.com subscription and some ‘hints’ appeared on my ancestry .com tree. Slowly but surely, I put the pieces together, and kept searching. The more I searched, the more ideas and hunches I had. The name “Henegar” turned up in a census; the names Levi and Jesse occurred often throughout the generations – more clues and more facts surfaced. My 3rd great grandfather, Levi Henegar Carter, and his son Robert in the wrong place at the wrong time and were both murdered in Bradley County, Tennessee in 1863. Her grandmother Nancy Carson is a current huge roadblock, but I won’t stop looking for new information. I can’t help thinking how proud my mother would be to know I’ve made such huge strides on putting part of her Carter family back together.