Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Visit to Cousin Elsie
In 1994 I began my research into my Tipton family genealogy. For many years I had wondered where my father came from. All I knew was that he was a “hillbilly” from Pigeon Roost, North Carolina. He and his eight brothers and parents moved to Pennsylvania around 1929, when my Father was nine years old to work as tenant farm labor on their Uncle Don Byrd’s farm near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. Two more brothers would be born in Pennsylvania. As anyone who has studied their family tree knows, the first place you start is to ask your parents questions. What were their parent’s names and when were they born? Then you ask what were your grandparents’ names and when were they born? Well, my dad didn’t even know his grandparents names. Early on, I learned when one road comes to a dead end, you go down another road. In this case I asked another relative, my Uncle Ed. He knew the name of his grandfather, my great-grandfather (it was Hiram Tipton born 05 Mar 1852 - died 1933.) Thus began my long quest to find my roots. Over the years since then I have sometimes devoted much time researching my family history. However, there have been periods of time in which my job so consumed my life, that I had to take a leave from family genealogy research. Then I had the problem of selling my house in Pennsylvania and moving to my retirement home here in Delaware that ate up over two years of my time. What happened, before I realized it, 10 to 12 years had slipped by. During that time, some of my older relatives passed on, thus ending the most valuable source of information that any genealogist, amateur or professional could have. One such missed opportunity occurred in 1996 when I discovered that my Mother’s aunt was still alive. She was 96 years old and lived in West Chester, only six miles from where I lived and worked in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. My grandmother died when my Mother was only two years old. Here was an opportunity to talk to my grandmother’s sister and find out what my maternal grandmother was like. Also, it was an opportunity to find out about that side of my Mother’s family of which I knew very little. I called her and she was clear of mind and anxious to talk to me. Alas, I was so caught up in my work that by the time I got around to calling her again, she had died. I tried not to make that mistake again. I had several interviews with my Aunt Peg (Mrs. John Henry Tipton, born 14 Jun 1915 - died 15 Jan 2006), before she died at 90 years old a few years ago. Before she passed on, she loaned me several priceless old family photos, including one of my great grandfather that I had never seen before. I scanned those photos into my computer and now some of them are posted on the Internet for posterity. Last week I called my Father’s first cousin, Elsie Mae Gouge Kilby (born February 24, 1922.) Mrs. Kilby is also clear of mind and asked me to stop by “anytime” to visit her. That is what I did today. She lives in Kelton, Pennsylvania, right over the border between Delaware and Pennsylvania. Ironically, her house is just a short detour from the route I take to my Mother’s house in Pennsylvania. Bill and arrived at the agreed upon time, 1 pm. She lives on a heavily traveled turn on Rt. 796, Jennersville Road in a house that is over a hundred years old. Her divorced son lives with her and is her caretaker. Coincidentally by Mother also lives with her divorced son who watches over her. Elsie Mae Gouge Kilby is the daughter of David Gouge (born 05 Mar 1881 died 1946) and Cynthia Abigail “Abby” Tipton born 29 Aug 1880 died 30 Apr 1971). Abby Tipton was the older sister of my grandfather Fieldon Jacob Tipton, Sr. (born 04 Jun 1884 – died 08 May 1939).
Mrs. Kilby welcomed Bill and me into her 100 year old home. She introduced us to her son, Robert “Buster” Kilby. We got settled into our seats and I took out my family lineage sheets for her family. I read dates to confirm with her. She corrected me on some dates, and added dates that I did not have. She shared some anecdotes with me like the time she and her husband eloped to Elkton Maryland with my Uncle Ed Tipton and his future wife Mable Thompson to get married. They wanted to keep it secret but the news of their marriage was in the newspapers the next day so the "secret" was out. Cousin Elsie told me that "back in the day" one got married "first." Then she produced a reprinted picture of her father David Gouge as a young man when he attended Milligan College with his first cousin, David Edwards. This was exactly what I was hoping for. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an original picture but a poor ink jet copy. I asked her if I could borrow the original copy so I could scan it into my computer. She said she would have to “dig the pictures out” and asked if I could stop back because she couldn’t do it now because she was recovering form a recent fall. I gave her reprints of pictures of my grandfather, grandmother and her brother. She did loan be two old pictures, one of her brothers and sisters and mother taken in 1963. The other picture was of her and her sister Mary with their mother taken about 1918. What I’m really after is that picture of her father looking handsome and majestic in is suit along with his cousin in their official college picture. Another cousin, Anne Tipton (born 21 Aug 1935), had loaned me a picture of her father, George Britt Tipton (born 31 Mar 1897 – died 28 Dec 1969), son of my grandfather’s older brother Dove Tipton (born 11 Nov 1875 – died 22 Jul 1951) that was also his official Milligan College student photo. Finding these grand old photos of these handsome young men and beautiful women is one of the great joys of discovery when doing genealogy research. While I like adding dates of birth and death and marriages and children, the special treats are when old photos are discovered. With these old photos I can scan them into my computer and eventually post them to the Internet so these individuals will never be forgotten. I add these photos to my family tree and now I also add them to the web site Find A Grave.com. That is the true joy for me in genealogy. First I discover my roots. Secondly, by permanently recording this information I leave a legacy for future generations. It is a good feeling. Today was a good day. I’m looking forward to my return visit to Cousin Elsie.