July 21, 2008


About me…

Hello, my name is Phil Baker of the Hardeman County, Tennessee Bakers; son of Robert Wayne, son of Neely Seymour, son of Moses Alexander, son of James Henry, son of Moses. I am a fifth generation Hardeman County Baker.

About the title…

I’ve always hated it when someone says to me “That’s before your time” meaning I don’t, no, can't have an appreciation for what they’re talking about because I was born too late. Perhaps I hate this because I’m the youngest in my family and have an inferiority complex. Whatever the reason, I can always learn about the past and have just as much of an appreciation of any subject as anyone older or younger. It’s more likely that the speaker of that phrase will be unable to have any appreciation for things that I will because they will be “after their time.” Take, for example, family. I’ve recently began researching and learning about my family, becoming an authority on all things Baker that are “before my time” while employing techniques and tools that are, to some of my family, “after their time.”

About this blog…

I used to hate going to family reunions. They usually took place in some community center or club house that had nothing but tables and chairs in them. There were a bunch of old people there who I didn’t know but somehow knew me and wanted to touch and even kiss me. Ewww! There were all kinds of Aunt This’s and Uncle That’s but all I wanted to do was go outside and play. Yet, I’ve always been interested in history; especially my family’s history. Pictures from the 70’s or 60’s didn’t interest me much but open the Hardeman County history book and show me the entry for the Baker’s and my mind was sent wondering.

It wasn’t until 2004 that I began to actively record my family tree. I began by purchasing one of the many family tree software packages on the market and filling it in with as much as I knew off hand. Then, I began talking to my parents. They seemed surprised that I couldn’t just rattle off all my grandfather’s brothers and sisters. “Oh, you remember Aunt Pearl from the reunions!”

“Well, Mom, I remember a lot of old ladies at the reunions and I remember you talking about an Aunt Pearl but I had no idea who she was or how she was related to me.” Now that I know who Aunt Pearl is, it’s too late. Many of these people are gone and I find myself looking at photos from those reunions, wishing I knew then who they were. Instead of playing outside, I would have crawled into their laps and asked them to tell me stories of what my grandfather was like as a child or what my great-grandmother cooked on Christmas or if my great-great-grandparents spoiled them.

Today, my family research has gone far beyond my parents’ knowledge, although I still find myself asking them for details of some great aunt or uncle. I still can’t rattle off all my grandfather’s brothers and sisters from memory. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t know them. But at least I have them written down now. I know where they’re buried. I have pictures of them. I know who their children and grandchildren are at the reunions.

No one’s ever said to me “That’s before your time” at a family reunion but that’s part of what family reunions are about; remembering the past and that we’re all connected. I don’t understand people who don’t have this interest in their family history. It has given me a greater understanding of myself, my immediate family, our place in history and our connections.

The purpose of this blog is to share some of my experiences and adventures in digging up my past and shaking my family tree. I hope you find it entertaining and, if you’re also into genealogy, helpful.

By the way, my great-aunt Pearl is in the photo behind the title. She’s the baby in the arms of her mother.

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