Tracing a family’s history
By Robin Ferruggia
As a child, Julia Magee travelled along with her parents to almost every state west of Missouri, but one day, when she was 9 years old, she saw something that changed the direction of her life forever.
“The highway wound to the left, but wagon wheel ruts headed west toward the mountains,” she said. “I didn’t want to take the paved road. I wanted to see where the wagon went.”
Always a curious child, Magee decided to find out more about the pioneer ancestors she’d heard bits and pieces of stories about from her family.
“My maternal great-grandparents were born in the late 1880s. From an early age I heard about them actually driving cattle and walking − from Indiana to south central Kansas − alongside their covered wagon.”
She decided to find them by following their trail using a narrative written by her maternal great-grandfather and the genealogical research resources at the Berthoud Community Library and other area libraries.
“I am the fourth generation and present family historian,” she said.
Her maternal great-grandfather, Walter Young, a cowboy, railroad man, and teacher who was born in 1868 was the first family historian. His wife Anna walked across the Kansas plains alongside her parents’ covered wagon to Sumner County, where they homesteaded. Walter and Anna met at college where they were studying to become teachers.
Walter collaborated with a distant cousin to write “Kith and Kin,” a 15-page history of the family.
“I hope that it may be of some benefit to the children and great-grandchildren of my relatives,” said Walter when, at 81, he was still working on it.
“Among his sources of information were the center pages of family Bibles where family births, marriages and deaths were written,” Magee said.
She has been researching family history for 21 years and learned a lot about the resources of libraries while working as a shelver on and off since the eighth grade.
“The Berthoud library has been a great source and springboard for local family history. The microfilmed Berthoud newspapers have been an excellent starting place. Berthoud’s staff, especially Elizabeth ?, is interested in helping us utilize the computer programs specific for genealogical history.”
Those resources include two free websites, [email protected] and USGenweb, she said. History books and microfilmed newspapers at libraries in Longmont, Loveland and Fort Collins also provide helpful information.
She learned that Walter was the oldest of eight children. His father William worked laying westward track for the Santa Fe Railroad: “Handling a spike maul 10 hours a day. Many times work had to stop for the herds of buffaloes to cross the track.” Walter worked for the railroad until 1938.
She learned more about Clyde Young, Walter’s oldest son, born in 1893. Clyde was her maternal grandfather. His wife, Julia, a teacher, was the descendant of early pioneers in Garfield and Jefferson counties.
“During the 1976 ‘Colorado Centennial’ and the nation’s ‘Bicentennial,’ Clyde and Julia participated in their local historical societies’ family history project,” Magee said. “The members wrote their individual biographies and gathered data from the local residents. Their oldest daughter, Emalie, born in 1922, is my mother.”
While doing her family history research, Magee also discovered a “genealogy history community” in the area that enjoyed networking, sharing resources and information. She enjoys sharing what she’s learned with them and making new friends.
“My parental ancestry was unknown to me until I was 18,” she said. “I have since learned that my paternal lineage stretches back to Norway and Wales. I have even found the name and location of their original family farms. I now know most of ‘the rest of the story.’ I have read their narratives, heard their stories, and understand them better. They have taught me that perseverance, tenacity, seeking knowledge, and travel are important in my life’s journey. What a gift.”
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