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going home

by Deborah K. Millemaci
(return to genealogy)

While this article does not deal with Italian genealogy per se, it does relate to our multi-ethnic roots that is an important part of our ancestry that so many of us share.

Last October we came back from the first �vacation� I've had in seven years. We went down to Kentucky to visit relatives and get in touch with our mother�s roots. The last time I went to Kentucky with my family was when I was a young child...I have a few memories of that time I will treasure, but what I experienced on this trip was more than I ever imagined.

On the road
The family all met at my house around 11:00 pm Friday evening with bags packed, snacks and drinks in the coolers, blankets and pillows in the back seats, and it appeared all was ready. We were taking two cars and as we begin piling into them when we discovered that the kids were hungry! So, we stopped at the supermarket, picked-up some ready-made items and once all was consumed, we all piled back into the cars to begin our journey.

My brother is a genius --shhhhhhh...don�t let him on that I know this - he had a set of small walkie talkies with him so that he and my daughter were able to communicate between the two cars.

We made a 2 hour stop in Columbus to have breakfast and visit with my Aunt Jane and Uncle Bob (Hicks) at a local restaurant. Then, we continued our journey to the bluegrass state. We finally arrived in Ashland around 3:30 Saturday afternoon, checked into our motel rooms and rested a little before visiting with our cousins.

I brought my large notebook that was filled with information I had spent months compiling on our family - along with photographs of family members, blank forms, note paper, and of course my camera. I was determined to obtain as many facts as possible on this trip!

Shortly after we arrived at my cousin�s home we had a visit from Mr. George Wolfford, noted historian and author in Carter County, KY. He had been instrumental in helping me obtain information on my great-grandfather. We wanted to meet him and personally thank him for his assistance - he was most gracious.

Cemetery at the Summit
Sunday afternoon we drove up to the cemetery at Summit. This cemetery rests high on a hill and although it is a small private family cemetery, it�s location is on the grounds of a federal prison. The cemetery itself overlooks the town of Ashland and isn�t close to any of the buildings within the prison. Once we made it up the hill, I was totally unprepared for the feeling I experienced.

Directly in front of me was the grave marker of my great-great grandparents Jesse & Parlee Hicks. Around them were their sons and daughters, yet all I could do is look at their marker and remember all I had learned about them.

We had our cameras and took pictures of the gravestones, being careful not to photograph any of the prison itself as this is not allowed. After our visit to Summit we went to nearby Rose Hill Cemetery to see more relatives some of us barely remembered as children. The kids were taking pictures of family headstones, markers and scenery, while we were explaining a little about each person we had come to see.

One of the most memorable moments for me occurred later Sunday evening when we visited my 92 year old great-great-great-aunt Carrie. She was gracious and made everyone feel right at home. She discussed family members with us, told us some stories, and just being in her presence gave all of us such a sense of awe. Never forego the opportunity to meet with an older relative, it can be an incredible experience!

House hunting
On Monday the kids were under the weather so my mother, cousin Doris and I drove up to Willard, which is near Grayson in Carter County -- we were told by family members that the Taylor side of our family founded Willard, but I am still trying to locate the town history to verify this. As we were driving, my mother was telling me about some of her memories as a child. On the corner of this one road was a small elderly abandoned building without a door. Across from it was a long road leading up into the hills, but just before that was a street sign - �Taylor Branch�. My mother told me that from where that small building stood, all the way up the road as far as you could see - up to the No Trespassing Sign was land that had belonged to my great-grandfather! Mom, her sister, and two brothers called him �Poppy� which was the special name they had for their grandfather.

We slowly drove up the one lane road, and as my cousin honked the horn to warn other drivers of our presence, the gravel on the road crackled under the car. The land itself was a sight to behold. Acres and acres of trees in different shapes and sizes were beginning to wear the colors of the fall season. There was a trailer on the left of the road and another larger trailer where my great-grandparents house to be. Still standing to the left of the second trailer was my grandmother�s root cellar which was about the size of a small garage. My mother told me that my great-grandmother had her homemade jams and jellies as well as homemade canned sausage, and apple butter (made by the women of the house) stored there for the winter.

The old smokehouse and the small barn are gone but to the left there is a large remnant of my great-grandfather�s larger barn and the fence that surrounded the property is still the original that was erected in the early 1900�s. (Before leaving I managed to have my picture taken with that barn majestically behind me).

The missing house
Next we were hunting for the large Taylor homestead which was a white and light blue (decorated with a lot of gingerbread) house that my great-grandmother lived in but it was no where to be found! We couldn�t imagine what had become of this house in which my mother, aunt and uncles spent so much of their childhood. There were a couple of houses across the road and we decided to see if anyone might have any information that would lead us to the �missing house.�

We talked to a friendly gentleman who informed us that the house was moved about two years ago to Grayson which was not far from where we were in Willard. He also remembered my grandfather Jake and great-granpa Mart. While we were talking to this helpful gentleman, my mother decided to walk up the road to see if there was anyone else who could also help us. She came across a young woman who lived nearby - she was friendly but hesitant when my mother first approached her.

We found she and her husband were the last owners of the house and sold it two years ago to the Grayson Historical Society. Apparently it had been handed down from his grandfather and his father, and as we later found out, my grandfather had originally sold the house to his grandfather! Upon further investigation it was discovered that underneath the aged white clapboard was a log house! Intentions are to restore it as much as possible to its original state. My mother thanked the woman for the information she had been given and riding back to my cousin�s we tried to figure out what our next step would be.

Tuesday morning I spent the better part of two hours playing telephone tag. After many referrals the last telephone number I called was the one that we had been waiting for. The lady I spoke with is the director for the Dept. of Tourism in the town of Grayson and explained to me what their plans were for my great-grandmother�s log home. She was excited about my phone call because she was under the impression there weren�t any living relatives and now we could also be involved in this project too!

We have also been asked to provide them with as much information about family members who lived in the house, along with folklore, personal memories and the like so it can be included with the history of the home. The entire restoration is expected to take about two years to complete and our family has already begun contributing to the project. We are compiling data, photographs, and personal memories which will become an essential part of the restoration process. Once completed, we will all be invited to attend a dedication ceremony.

Our involvement will secure our family ancestry for future will be just like going home - again..

©Deborah K. Millemaci - November 2002
No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.


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