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Start at the End

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

When I first started documenting the family tree, I had an advantage. My cousin Belinda had created a GEDCOM, the file type used by most genealogy software packages, and had printed a copy of her research for my mom. Although most of the information from their research was correct, parts were missing. As I read through the names and comments on the printed files, Mom launched into stories about one cousin or the next all the while making corrections. I took notes as quickly as I could but realized that, for my mother, the exercise wasn't about documenting facts. Mom wanted me understand these distant relatives and to do so meant putting down my pen.

The sweat from the ice melting in my glass of sweet tea lay a pattern on the table cloth as we talked. Her father was Tillman Hicks from Tennessee. A young man who'd made his way to Missouri looking for work, Tillman settled in Orrick living and working on the farm of William J Pigg and his wife, Julia Ann. Julia was the daughter of Joseph Roy (Roi) and Mary Louise Challifoux, French Canadian fur traders who had originally settled Fort St. Louis, and later, the Egypt valley. Lifting my glass, I reflected on the small rivers branching outward from the imprint in the table cloth. Each seeking its own path.

It begins at the end, this genealogical journey. We start with ourselves and branch outward, then turn and reflect. My mother wanted me to know the Roy family were pioneers. Risk takers. Joseph also had to be a good businessman. His clients were the native Osage Sioux, settlers, and investors from the east. His brother-in-law, Joseph Revard, joined Louis and Clark as they passed through Fort Osage enroute westward.

October 31 of this past year, my husband Walt and I drove to Orrick to place a marker in South Point Cemetery for my mother. The marker lies midway down a steep hill at the foot of her father's grave. Next to him, my grandmother, Frances Dudgeon. Above her, her parents Thurman Dudgeon and Julia Pigg. And as you look to each side, you find great aunt Eliza Potter and her husband, the Elliots, the Tuckers, McMullen cousins all winding upward to a stand of oak trees shading a wrought iron plot with my distant grandparents Joseph Roy and Mary Louise Challifoux.

Sometimes when I reach a roadblock in researching one of my ancestors I stop and listen to the rustling of the leaves on another part of the family tree. As I was writing this afternoon about the Roy family, I received a call from the administrative assistant of a church in New Haven, CT. On a hunch, I'd written to all of the churches in the area searching for a clue that might lead me to Ellen. Christ Church called back. Her last name was Holt.

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