No one would know me, but I decided to go anyway. This family reunion has been held nearly every year for seven decades. I am seventy years old, but I have never attended the reunion. My parents attended a few, the only one I knew for sure was 1985 because they have photos to prove it. According to information on some of my mother’s family group sheets, I think they may have also attended the reunion in 1983 and possibly 1988, perhaps others. However, we lived on a dairy farm a couple hundred miles from the reunion location, attending the reunion wasn’t usually feasible. My first cousin attended the reunion last year. When she got her notice of this year’s reunion, she sent me a copy. I immediately signed up. Though many of the family members originally lived in Marion County, Iowa, and later moved north to Kossuth County, many kept moving north and ended up in Fairmont, Minnesota, the location for current reunions.
Organizing Data: My preparations for this event took a couple months, and I wasn’t even on the committee. Some time ago I sorted all family groups sheets and other information that I had on this family. My mother’s family groups sheets were less than organized, in fact she often had multiple sheets for an individual with various pieces of information.
Data Entry: I could not be sure of what Mom had until I reviewed all information on all sheets. I did this as I entered the information into my genealogy program. This took many hours, since some of the families had many children.
Portable Printer: As I was working on the families, I realized that I needed a way to share information at the reunion, and perhaps some of the people would have information they would share with me. I have a laptop computer, but did not have a “portable” printer. We ordered one, so I could print information “on-the-spot” for interested people.
Scanner App: Dave has an app on his iPad that he often uses to scan materials. He took it to scan anything that other attendees might bring of interest to us. I also have the app on my iPhone, but knew I’d be busy with other things at the reunion.
Photo Albums: Mom and I had Saxton photo albums, some of the photos were duplicates, but others were not. My father had identified as many as he could, but I wanted to see if people at the reunion could help identify more. I collated the photo albums into one, organized it by descendants of the primary couple, and clearly identified the sections of the album.
Family Tree Chart: Finally, I used a new (to me) charting program to produce a 24-page descendant family tree that showed where the earlier generations (prior to about 1985) fit in. We taped the pages together so it could be laid out on a table or taped to a wall.
We arrived early and we were immediately presented with a 438-page, 1991 printed/soft-cover, bound book, Family Tree of Charles Bartemus Saxton and Lury Matilda Stilwell, compiled by Ferne Saxton Brimmer. Awesome book!
When I tried to explain my descendancy, however, I was met with blank stares and the comment “you must be from the other side!” At first this was confusing; then we figured out what they meant. Supposedly, two Saxton brothers came over from England on the same ship and upon arrival decided to go their separate ways. The reunion attendees “assumed” we were from the “other” brother.
We posted our very long family tree chart on the wall and several people were interested in finding their names on the chart. Some people asked me to print off their family group sheets which they would update and send to me, so I was glad I had the printer.
I thought maybe some of the attendees would remember my parents, especially my father who always took his guitar with him and entertained with singing and yodeling. In fact, one of the pictures from the 1985 reunion was of him playing. I had enlarged several of the pictures from the 1985 reunion. One of my parents with a favorite Saxton woman. One of a large group of the attendees. Fortunately, one lady could identify many of those people for me. However, no one remembered my father or mother; it has simply been too long.
The reunion organizers had representatives from the children of C.B. and Lury Saxton stand and tell everyone of family updates. Then, the organizers looked at us and I moved to the front.
I introduced us (me, my cousins Nancy and Irene, and my husband) and told them that we all descend from the same side of the family tree. I explained that the parents of the C.B. and siblings are buried at a cemetery near Knoxville and I had even visited the cemetery earlier this summer. I explained who all of C.B.’s siblings were and which one I am descended from. I explained that one brother ended up in Maryville, Missouri, and I have visited his grave. I asked if anyone has visited Colville, Washington, where the youngest sister went. No one had. I explained that I hope to be visiting that area next year at this time.
One question everyone had was, “how are we related to Ida Saxton, wife of President McKinley?” I told them I’d have to research that. When I got home, quick research indicates that proving this relationship will be difficult, if not impossible.
One woman who had travelled from eastern Montana to attend, told me that it was very nice to meet a good genealogist. I smiled.
In the end, my efforts were not fruitless. I got my files organized and data entered into my genealogy software; there is nothing like a deadline to get something done. One person brought a scrapbook with obituaries and funeral folders, which Dave scanned. And now I am updating my records with the information in the 438-page book of C.B. and Lury’s family. I’m glad we attended.