I was born and raised in central Ohio and for the most part, I enjoyed living there because that’s really all I ever knew aside from multiple trips to Walt Disney World in Florida. We didn’t really go, well, anywhere. In my family it seemed like once you were in Ohio, you stayed in Ohio. Small town life there wasn’t especially exciting but it was “acceptable”. My parents, my in-law, our daughter & my sister’s family all still live in Ohio.
While it’s nice to go back and visit Ohio, I always feel the draw of New York on my heart for my home. You see, my husband threw a wrench in my life in 2009 by joining the military and we were subsequently stationed at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY. I wasn’t exploring my family tree then and I knew little about the deep roots that lie waiting for me, quite nearly, right under my very feet.
My very first moment at West Point, driving down the huge hill of Stoney Lonesome Road and catching my first glimpse of the Hudson River, took my breathe away. (If you haven’t visited, you surely should!). Within the week, I was positively smitten with Orange County. I oddly felt right at home and that this was were I was supposed to be all along. It was an odd sensation to come to a strange state only to feel more comfortable than you did even in your home state surrounded by immediate family but I really did. And it wasn’t just me. My husband echoed my feelings by proclaiming that he could live here forever. So when he decided that it was nearing time to separate from the Army, we began looking at houses in the Vail’s Gate/New Windsor/Cornwall area about 15 minutes from West Point. Rich in history and with sweeping views of the Hudson River, it is idyllic and picturesque. (bonus: lots of wineries nearby!)
Then when I began looking at my family tree and researching, I assumed the first reference to an ancestor living in my neck of the woods in New York was just a “little coincidence”. But then whole gobs of families began popping off my tree to settle in Orange County! How exciting! As I dug even further, I realized that a massive amount my family came here, settled, helped build these river towns and then made a complete lives for themselves right here in my very backyard. There are some buried right nearby!
As I continue to pour through the Jayne, Woodhull, Wheeler and Archer lines, I am amazed and delighted by how so many of them called this part of New York home as well. I often wonder as we are driving around, if they too, traveled this same stretch of road. It happened to me as well, walking around West Point and the last Continental Army encampment, when I realized George Washington had stood directly where I was. Shivers! Real shivers ran down my back and neck. (some day I’ll discuss my admiration/slight obsession with Washington)
Digging around the web, I found references to ancestors being town clerks and the likes, which spurned me to start checking into to local history in Orange County and I’m anxiously awaiting my appointments with a town historian and a local history librarian next week to see what all the can help me uncover as well. Access to these local treasure troves are by appointment only.
When I realized that so much of my family history began here, I began to wonder if that’s not why I immediately felt “at home” here in New York. I know it sounds silly and a bit “fluffy” but how serendipitous is it to grow up 600 miles away in another state and then move to New York only to find out that you’re residing in the very place your family helped create? Is it weird to call it serendipity? *shrug*
Whatever it is, right now, I am feeling so genealogically blessed.