Gazing Into the Past

Ancestor Poem


Your tombstone stands among the rest

Neglected and alone.

The name and date are chiseled out

On polished marble stone.

It reaches out to all who care.

It is too late to mourn.

You did not know that I exist;

You died and I was born.

Yet each of us are cells of you

In flesh, in blood and bone.

Our blood contracts and beats a pulse

Entirely not our own.

Dear Ancestor, the place you filled

One hundred years ago

Spreads out among the ones you left

Who would have loved you so.

I wonder if you lived and loved

I wonder if you knew

That someday I would find this spot

And come to visit you.


~~~ author anonymous


* * * * * *


Questions I often ask myself a lot are – Where do I come from? Who were my people? What were they like? Do I physically resemble them?


I think we wonder a lot about these things whether we’re conscious of it or not. In some form or another we all want to know about our past and how it affects us. Genealogy is my other passion and I can spend days and weeks on end searching for pieces of the puzzle. The Internet has made it so much easier than it used to be. There are millions of genealogy sites with huge databases.


In most families there is one designated person whose job it is to poke and plod through those old records. In my family I’m the one who got stuck with the job. I don’t mind though. I love a good challenge when I have the time. And I have a deep curiosity to find out about my ancestors. I want to know what they were like.


But with a last name of Clark on my mother’s side and Smith on my father’s, it’s an unending, very frustrating search. Finding a needle in a haystack is about the gist of it. Through family members, old photos, and old Bible records I’ve researched back to my great grandfather on my mother’s side who was William Jackson Clark. He and Kathryn Goldsberry Clark had four sons. One of the sons died when he was 21. Henry had a habit of chasing other men’s wives. Rumor has it that he was killed by a jealous husband, although I don’t know that for sure. William Jackson Clark himself died at the early age of 39 but I’ve been unable to find out the cause of death. He left Kathryn to raise those four little children by herself. She never remarried and was buried in a pauper’s grave at the age of 69.


Kathryn’s father and uncles fought in the Civil War on the Southern side. I know she loved her sons with every bone in her body. She was a hard-working woman. She worked other people’s fields for a little of nothing, barely enough to scratch out a living. She was strong and tough, never knowing what it was give up.


I wonder if I’m like her. I hope so. I hope that she’s the one who instills the drive in me to sit at my computer long into the night telling my stories. I hope she’s the one who gives me my stubbornness. And I hope she’d be proud of me. I wish I could’ve known her.


Are you into genealogy? Do you have questions that burn, yearning to be answered? If so, we’re all in the same boat.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

37 thoughts on “Gazing Into the Past”

  1. I am very interested in genealogy! I ask myself and other family members the same questions..and will sometimes get funny looks! Knowing your genealogy can answer so many questions about the way we look, certain characteristics, maybe talents, and most importantly are health! I could go on and on, but I’ll stop now 🙂

    What a great topic! Thanks for sharing Linda!

  2. wow I am fascinated by it, my brother done alot of research before he passed away a few years ago(still don’t know his actual cause of death) and i’ve wanted to ask if i could go threw his paper’s they shoved in boxes, but i didn’t want to inconvience anyone oh, sorry, I won’t go there today. I know he talked to several members of our family before they passed away getting info and alot on the internet I think it should be mandatory for everyone to keep a journal to pass down to the next generation I am easily fasinated at other people from long ago. When i look at old pictures of people that i don’t even know i wonder what their life was like, what they enjoyed, who loved them. Kathyrn sounds like she was a remarable lady and so are you Linda. Enjoyed your post this morning.

  3. I’m interested in genealogy. One of my uncles on my dad’s side has been working on the family tree, picking it up after the deaths of my grandpa and great uncle, who had been researching it for a long time. I dabble in it when I get a notion, but it’s overwhelming, especially my mom’s side because a lot of records burned in a fire years ago, so I get to my great grandmother and can’t go back any further through her side.

    Supposedly, somewhere back in there through my dad on my grandma’s side, she’s a very distant cousin to John Dillinger. And further back still through another branch, we’re supposedly related to Sir Issac Newton, but I’m not sure about that. I have a copy of a newspaper clipping that my grandma sent me of the obit of one man, who had been in the Civil War.

    I too wonder if I’m anything like my ancestors. Who do I take back after the most? Who do I look like? What did they think and feel? What would they think of our world now? And us?

    Wonderful post, Linda. I have no doubt that we all, without even knowing it, take back after those who came before us.

  4. Hi Linda,
    Such a timely post for me. My cousin has the honors of tracing back our heritage. She loves it and knows so much about our family history. I’ve never had that particular passion. But she recently went to Europe and met with people she’s been cooreponding with for an entire year … she claims she’s found some of our not so distant relatives. She met with them and has stories to tell. It will be fascinating to learn what she found out about my father’s family. Where we came from exactly, and who is still alive.
    A really great post today!

  5. Kathleen,

    We share a similar passion. Sometimes we have to look at the past to see our future. Glad you enjoyed my post. Hope you have a wonderful day!

  6. Good Morning, Lori

    I’m so glad you enjoyed my genealogy subject. And you’re absolutely right about making it mandatory that one person in the family researches and keeps a journal. What an excellent idea. I was the one appointed by my family to find out all I could. It’s just really hard though when a family has such common names. It’s worse than looking for a needle in a haystack. But, it sure is a lot of fun. And when I find even a small nugget, it thrills me to death.

    Wishing you lots of smiles and happiness!

  7. I’ve been trying to research my mom’s side since some other relatives did my dad’s side and put a book together. Unfortunately my mom and her sister aren’t the sentimental type so they didn’t save anything over the years that would help (like my grandmother’s adoption papers). I’m luckier in that the last names I’m researching are a little more unique (Seegert, Younglove)but it still gets frustrating though I did find Mom’s great aunt she didn’t even know existed. I do know I look just like my dad’s mom, I have pictures of both of us as little girls and we could have been sisters, almost twins.

  8. Linda, saying it’s your job to plod through the family geneology is funny because my family has one and my husband’s family has one. It is so true. Except we didn’t designate them, they volunteered.
    My sister had done a huge geneology study and found so many great stories. I have an ancestor who came to America in 1638, that’s 18 years after Jamestown.
    ON my husband’s family there is a weird obsession almost with the family history.
    Here’s an interesting fact…anyone…ANYONE in American whose name is spelled like mine CONNEALY, is related to me.
    And not that distantly.
    If you ever find one, you say Nebraska they’ll say, Oh, my great grandfather came from Nebraska. There were two brothers…that’s it. The only Connealys who came EVER. I’d think is was a weird mispelling at Ellis Island except there’s a Connealy River in Ireland, my brother in law saw it and saw the sign, spelled correctly.
    The family is insanely proud of it’s name for some reason, unspellable, unpronounceable, still, they love it.
    Chances are you’re spelling it RIGHT NOW wrong and pronouncing it wrong.
    In fact, if anyone EVER gets it right I know they’ve known someone with that name in their lives because no one ever picks the correct pronounciation.

  9. I love old family stories, and have used ancestor names for characters. One of my aunts is the geneological expert in the family with my mom helping her when she could. They found lots of interesting constantly renewed connections between their two families as they moved west from the coast. Now she’s working on whether an ancestor was on the first Mayflower arrival or a later one.

    Mary–what a hoot about your name. I’ve lived my whole life with names no one could spell (how could you not spell shaver?) or pronounce (is struble really that difficult?) I’d love to find out more about my bio dad’s family, but I’m pretty sure their name was ‘Americanized’ when they came from Germany. (How’s Stumphy for a name?)

    Any wonder I write as *lizzie starr? 🙂

  10. My mother in law is an Everett (big deal, I know) but they settled the town my mil grew up in and she’s really proud of that. Her mother has all the paperwork to be a DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution.

    My father in law is the Connealy and his people came to America during the potato famine. So fairly recent immigrants and far distant past.

  11. Hi Taryn,

    Wow, your family has some neat ties to it! Sir Isaac Newton and John Dilliger are worlds apart, yet it’s neat to find someone we’re related to. Several months back it was in the news that Senator Barack Obama was a distant cousin of Dick Cheney. I found that odd, but interesting.

    Yes, it’s frustrating that so many records burned in various ways. It sure stops the research cold. That’s one of my problems too. The census records I need got destroyed in a courthouse fire. Also added to my misery is that Quantrill’s Raiders burned everything in Kansas and Missouri, the two places my ancestors lived.

    Good luck in your searches! 🙂

  12. Charlene,

    I’m glad you enjoyed my post and that it came when it did. I know you’ll be thrilled to see what your cousin learns from her trip. Lots of interesting stories come through researching family history. I’ve used several things from my genealogy in a story once. Made it so much more real – at least to me.

    Have a great day! 🙂

  13. Hi Lynn/Elsandra,

    You sound like the curiosity bug has gotten you. That’s where it all starts – the questions you have that need to be answered. I understand your frustration, but isn’t it so exciting when you uncover one little nugget of information? You want to run out and tell the world.

    It’s neat that you’re the spitting image of your dad’s mom. Wow! You’re lucky to have that picture.

  14. Hi Mary,

    I’m glad you had someone volunteer to be the sleuth on both sides of your family. Yes, I’m the one who took on the job and it was because no one else wanted it and I had a burning desire to know all I could about my past. Guess it’s the writer in me.

    How fascinating about the Connealy name! It makes the job really easy though when it’s so unique. My last name (and this is the truth) is a made-up name. My husband’s grandfather made it up and changed Broka to Broday because he wanted to disguise his German roots during WWI. You see very few Brodays and if you do, they’re related. I’ve seen some spelled Brody, but none Broday. And like you, no one knows how to pronounce it. Most say a “day” ending but it’s really pronounced “die”.

    I’m curious though. How DO you pronounce Connealy? 🙂

  15. Hi Lizzie,

    A lot of immigrants changed their names when they arrived in America. As I was telling Mary, my last name was made-up. It didn’t exist. My husband’s grandfather changed the name from Broka to Broday to disguise his German roots during WWI. I think a lot of immigrants just wanted to fit in. And with a name like Stumphy they’d stick out like a sore thumb. What nationality is it?

    I love the name Lizzie Starr! It sounds like a writer if I ever heard one. Anything you want to share on how you arrived at it? And are you any relation to Belle Starr who was a lawless woman?

  16. Mary,

    I’m impressed that your mother-in-law could join the Daughters of the American Revolution. I’ve wanted to find a connection of a Smith or Clark that was related to me so I could join. I think that’d be awesome.

    And, I’ve tried to find some connection to William Clark, the explorer. It is rather a coincidence that he settled in Missouri where my kinfolk came from. Maybe some distant relation if only I could prove it.

  17. Connealy…the closes rhyming word is Oh Really.
    That’s the accent but the first syllable isn’t a long O is’t more cuh.

    don’t ever forget it. There WILL be a quiz.

  18. I’m huge into genealogy and have traced all lines of my family history. In doing this, I’ve met several relatives and have gained a real closeness with them ~ I’ve also gained numerous stories; some humorous, some sad, but all of them a part of my family tree. I’ve even solved a few genealogical mysteries that I’ve been very proud of.

    My German, Norwegian, and Danish trees I’ve got traced all the way back to early 1500’s. My Irish tree? Not so much. With a name like Hughes, I’ve only got to the early 1800’s in Pennsylvania. I have no idea where in Ireland they were from and have no clue as to get started. Hughes is such a common Irish name. It’s a mystery, but one I’m hoping to get to the bottom of.

  19. Mary,

    Thanks for clearing up the pronunciation! I never would’ve gotten that. I’ll try to remember so I can get it right on the quiz. Too funny! The things we learn about our Filly sisters. 🙂 Just don’t rap my knuckles with the ruler if I get it wrong.

  20. I think it’s fascinating. My husband’s uncle has gone back hundred’s of years and now that he is retired he works on it full time – visits graveyards, libraries, and belongs to groups that help him connect people. He even did the DNA testing that helps a lot. My husband doesn’t really care which is too bad. We had some relatives in another state that did my father’s side and we were to get a copy but it never happened and since my dad has passed there is no real contact.

  21. Hi Dev,

    I congratulate you on your German, Nowegian, and Danish research! That’s great and you SHOULD be very proud because that’s hard work.

    I didn’t know that Hughes was such a common Irish name. I never would’ve thought it. I suppose you’ve checked the immigration records. But I think I’d start with census records in Pennsylvania where they settled. You might get lucky there. Also, the Mormon Church has compiled a huge genealogical database of everyone in the U.S. You might try there. is another good source but they charge you to look. GenWeb is free and they have census records and information on each state.

    Good luck with your research! 🙂

  22. Hi Jeanne,

    I’ve wondered about that DNA testing and how successful it is. I’ve seen it advertised and have wanted to try it. I think it’s great that your husband’s uncle has taken it on himself to find out where the family came from. Someone needs to care, and yes it’s too bad your husband has no interest. But then, not everyone is curious about their family.

    I think the reason people do the research comes from the wish to belong and to know how they fit into the past. It helps see the future in a strange way.

    Keep trying to get that information from your father’s side. You never know what you’ll find out.

    Have a fantastic day!

  23. I love genealogy, Linda. I really, really wish I had more time to dig.

    The year I sold my very first book, my family (or most of them) went to Sicily to meet some of my dad’s relatives. At the time, it was more important to me to wear my First Sale ribbon at National, so I didn’t go.

    Needless to say, I’ve regretted that. Now my parents don’t want to go back to Italy anymore–their age and they’ve been there so many times–that I suspect I’ll never get another chance.


    Interesting that you come from Clarks and Smiths. LOL. Yeah, I bet that IS tough finding information!

  24. What a wonderful blog, Linda. My family’s genealogy on all sides has been done for generations back, so I can just enjoy knowing who they were and thank the folks who did all that hard work. It’s a fascinating pursuit and I wish you luck with yours. Love the old photographs.

  25. well…I am not really into genealogy…BUT, I would love to know about my ancestors! I have no clue where my family came from to be honest!!!

    Very interesting blog Linda…loved looking at the photos!

  26. Pam,

    What a missed opportunity. I know you’re kicking yourself that you didn’t get to make a trip to Sicily. Meeting those relatives would be so neat. But you couldn’t be two places at once and there’s nothing like wearing that first sale ribbon at National. Well, maybe someday you can go over there and meet everyone. Don’t give up on that yet.

    Yeah, the Clarks and Smiths are awfully common. And I forgot to mention that my paternal grandmother was a Jones. No joke. Talk about making genealogy hard! 🙂

  27. Elizabeth,

    You’re really fortunate to have your family history mapped out and tied up with a bow. How neat to have all that and without the headaches. Whoever traced your ancestors deserves a round of applause. That’s great.

    Glad you liked my photos. I laugh at those old ones where they never cracked a smile. You’d think they were fixing to be executed or something. Too funny. 🙂

  28. Melissa,

    I’m glad you came by. I was missing you. 🙂 Bet those girls are keeping you busy since school’s out.

    So, you haven’t been bitten by the bug to see where you came from. You just don’t know the interesting stories you’re missing out on. Maybe one day out of the blue you’ll decide to start looking. If your grandparents are alive, that’s a great place to start. Ask questions while you can, that’s what I always say. Once those grandparents are gone it’s too late.

    Hope you’re having a wonderful summer!

  29. Have you ever heard that all the presidents are related? I’ve heard that.
    But then, like my sister studying Geneology, it turns out that there’s just no end to the directions you can go with it. All the trails backward fork and fork and fork.
    So maybe we’re ALL related.
    Have you heard Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are distant cousins?

  30. Mary,

    I have heard that of presidents. Strange, isn’t it? But, I guess since all the people of the earth sprang from one man and one woman, I guess the argument can be made that we’re all related somehow. Still, I think it’s really weird that Barack Obama and Dick Cheney are kin. I heard that on the news a month or so back. There was also another pair that came out that same time that was even more unbelievable. Wasn’t it Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond?

  31. My cousin, Jasper, is the family genealogist and
    has traced his mother’s family back to the first
    mayor of San Antonio and the Canary Islanders who
    settled the city. He has traced our mutual family
    back to our great-great-grandparents in Mexico and

    Mary, I read that recently. In fact several months
    back, some one had a chart up that showed who was
    related to whom(?) I wish I had printed a copy of
    the chart!

    Pat Cochran

  32. I love my family history. I wish I could research the background more, I just don’t know how are have the time. There’s nothing more important and fascinating to me than what were my “people” like.

    It always makes me sad to see old photos in antique stores, I always wonder why the family wouldn’t want them. Pictures are so important to me, I have them all around me. In a way I feel connected to these people through their picture.

  33. I remeber Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond. there’s your odd couple.

    My sister really works hard on the geneology stuff. She has given each of the graduating cousins their own copy of the family geneology, plus she had a copy printed up, like POD or vanity publishing, you know? So I bought a copy of it for $35.00. Hard cover.
    It’s a really neat thing to have. Plus we’ve got a hard cover Connealy book, written by Father Mike Connealy. And there’s Everett book. Plus I’ve got all my MIL’s DAR stuff so my daughters can join…should they ever wish to.

    I once told a neighbor whose mom was insanely into geneology that my ancestor came to American in 1638 and he says, “That’s nuthin’ my ancestor came to blah, blah, blah, what ever it was was before 1638, but after he finished talking I said, “You know what? That is too something. Shut up.”
    I mean, c’mon! Just because another family goes back a long, long, long ways, doesn’t meam my family hasn’t been her a whole stinkin’ long time.

    By the way, My sister darn well better buy three copies of my book.
    Here’s what’s weird. If Obama’s father is from…? where ever? Zimbabwe or somewhere, right? And his mom was never…to my knowledge a connected or weathly person.
    Then what’s the connection to Cheney. Because implicit in the idea that all the presidents are related is this notion that there is a ruling class in America. NO, we don’t call them royalty, but the usual suspects are running things.
    Where does Obama’s single, low income mother fit into that? I think we’re back to the ‘everyone’s related’ idea.

  34. Linda,
    I am actually on 1/2 of a vacation right now!! LOL

    My oldest is with her granny in TN for a little while…having a blast!

    So, I still have the 2yr old with me…she misses her sissy though!

    My 1/2 brother actually has been doing some genealogy..I need to get with him about it!

    So, anyway…I have been busy learning how to do some really cool stuff in my new Photoshop program and boy is it LOTS of hard work…but very fun and rewarding to make something for someone who just loves it!!!!!!!

    Hope you are having a great summer as well!

  35. Hi Pat Cochran,

    It’s amazing what we learn when we trace our roots. I love it that you’ve found out you came by way of Mexico and Spain. Just amazing!

    * * * *

    Hi Sherry,

    Yeah, I know what you mean about the old photos in antique stores. I’ve wondered the same thing. Didn’t their family want to pass them down to other generations? Just is so strange. And sad. I always feel like crying that they’re not wanted. Pictures are definitely a good way to stay connected to family and feel a closeness.

    I hope you get to trace your ancestry one day. I know you’d be entranced by what you’ll find.

  36. Mary,

    I don’t know what connection Obama has to Dick Cheney or where their lives might’ve crossed paths. Very strange. I wish someone would come out with a book that explained all the cross-pollination of our presidents. I’d sure buy it just because I’m dying of curiosity.

    Go tell that your neighbor to suck a lemon. He sounds like a hateful person. And be proud of who you are and where you came from. Love it that you know your relatives came to America in 1638. Not too many can say that.

  37. Melissa,

    Just enjoy some peace and quiet and give your 2 yr old some private time. I’m having a good summer. I took a short trip last week and that’ll probably be all the vacation I get with the price of gas like it is. I’m just working on my new novel and trying to keep out of trouble. Ha!

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