How do you get anything done with a brain that short-circuits like mine does? To prepare my English class lesson plans, I googled celebratory dates and found out American Indian Heritage Month is coming up in November, which reminds me of our trip to the Badlands and visit to the Red Cloud Indian School in South Dakota. That enticed me to read about the Battle of Wounded Knee. While admiring photographs of famous Native American Chiefs, I kept seeing images of my grandfather’s weather-beaten, chiseled face with his high cheekbones and prominent nose. Convinced that we have some degree of Indian blood, I am off on a wild goose chasing missing links to my ancestry.
One thing led to another. In the online census report of Madison County Iowa, I discovered my great grandfather, John, was part of a family of 14 children. John’s grandfather, Aaron was born in Osage Indian Territory of what later became Kentucky. His first cousin also named Aaron later lived on the Osage and Kaw Indian Reservation in Oklahoma, a stone’s throw from where my grandpa grew up when great grandfather moved his family West. Naturally, I filled in the gaps of history with my imagination, convinced mighty warriors are part of my ancestry.
Sound crazy? Not if you knew my grandpa, a.k.a. Coach Mac. If Coach Mac took off his glasses, folded his arms across his chest and replaced his baseball cap with a headdress, he ‘d look just like the Indian American, Afraid of Bear – proud, sage, ageless. How many white folks do you know with 40 second resting heart rate, like grandpa? And he was afraid of bears, too!
One fact is sure. The census report answered a question that has perplexed my family for years. My grandpa, never sure of his birth date, thought he was born in early October. Well I found proof – Ralph Clyde McKinzie born Oct. 1, 1894. He had a middle name, which he never knew about either. No wonder. Imagine having the nickname R.C? Like the cola. If I had a middle name like Clyde I might tend to forget it, too.
As if working for the missing persons bureau, I spent a weekend cruising the web genealogy files. On Monday morning, when the class bell rang, I wondered where the heck did I put my lesson plan? I’ll have to confess to class that I got lost navigating the Internet looking for my McKinzie lineage.
My Grandpa Mac defied age by remaining active by coaching college football in his nineties. He died at the age of 96. He would’ve been 117 years old today; I still celebrate his life.
Have you discovered skeletons in your family closet? Do you have any links to genealogy search engines that you could share with readers?