Saturday, January 25, 2020
Off the Shelf: The Tenmile Country
Well, make that a book off someone else's shelf. But now I can say it is safely on my own bookshelf.
I mentioned, after coming home from a week of classes at SLIG last week, that there are some things you just can't plan in advance. Like coming down with the flu. Or getting a surprise contact in response to an old forum post.
You realize, of course, that my list of those unexpected occurrences is far longer than just those two examples. I had another sweet little surprise during the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. And that is why I can now say the book I'll tell you about today is actually coming off my shelf, and not just from a library shelf hundreds of miles from home.
See, during SLIG, we have a wonderful break area called, predictably, SLIG Central. That's where the much-needed coffee break is held after the first session of class each day. SLIG Central is a large meeting room set up with comfy chairs for sitting and chatting with other SLIG attendees over tea or coffee, or tables large enough for a group to meet over a brown bag lunch. The major genealogical accrediting organizations have representatives at tables there, too, for those of us who want to discuss the process in detail. And, of course, there is a photo-op booth for group pictures and other fun activities, right next to the tables with "SLIG Swag" from the sponsors of the week-long training event, the Utah Genealogical Association.
That, however, is not all that happens at SLIG Central. A full third of the amply-sized room is dedicated to a large spread of genealogical books, courtesy of Maia's Genealogy and History Books. I usually find some gems to take home from Maia's during each SLIG, but for some reason, this year I hadn't stopped by until nearly the end of SLIG.
This time, I hadn't found much of anything to tickle my fancy, so I hadn't bought a single book. If you suspect books are my weakness, you would be rightly surprised to hear of my stellar resistance. And yet...
On this last pass through the shelves and shelves of books, once again, I found...nothing. For some reason, I decided to circle around just one more time. This time, I bumped into a friend and started talking, and ended up by a solitary push cart with the sign "Used" affixed to the handle.
Almost immediately, I broke off the conversation when I spotted a big brick of a red book on that used book cart. As I reached out to grab it—quick, before anyone else realized what I had found—my eyes confirmed the item was indeed what I was hoping it was: historian Howard Leckey's The Tenmile Country and its Pioneer Families.
Now, you may be wondering, what is the Tenmile Country—or, more precisely, just where might it have been located. (Of course, you might also have wondered just why I might have cared about such an unusual title.) This, of course, takes a little 'spaining.
As the subtitle of the book continues, the Tenmile Country is a region in the Upper Monongahela Valley which, translated into today's terms, comprises the areas around present-day Greene and Washington counties in southwestern Pennsylvania.
You may be wondering if my family had a penchant for settling in the southwest region of whatever state they called home, and you might be on to something. However, in this case, the beauty of Leckey's book—to me, at least—is that those nearly eight hundred pages show me the history and geography of the region where my mother-in-law's Gordon line once lived. Even better, there are several pages of entries on her specific Gordon line, an amazing find when you consider the odds.
I had found the book decades ago, thanks to an interlibrary loan—something most jurisdictions no longer provide—and though I had taken copious notes (and photocopies), there was just not enough time to absorb all the background information that provides the rich contextual setting so valued in recreating the stories of our ancestors' lives. Of course, once I realized how much I wanted to get my hands on that book again, the opportunity was long, long gone.
Until that last day of Maia's book sales. When I snapped up that one copy of Leckey's book. Honestly, I don't think I even had to take a look at the title; it's size and cover give it a distinctive appearance. But I took a second look, just to be sure.
And, as I've said before, so much for plans. While this is to be the year of pursuing my mystery paternal grandfather's line while constructing a solid paper trail to link my mother's line back to the Mayflower, I guess I'll have another task to insert in the plans for 2020. I'll certainly be wringing every detail I can from the Leckey book to polish the details in my mother-in-law's tree on those Gordons. After that, I'll scour the index for any mention of other lines I subsequently discovered from my mother-in-law's roots.
The best news about all this is: after I'm done with that project, I won't have to ship that book back to any distant library by the due date. There is no due date. This brick of a volume is mine to keep, this time.