Last weekend, my daughter and I, together with my mom, sister, nephew, and best friend, took a roadtrip to a place that is both very beautiful and of historical significance to us: Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. Fortunately, it is also a lesser known national park, as we were visiting during fall break.
In the past year, I have developed an interest in genealogy, stemming from a DNA test through Ancestry.com that my mother gave me for Christmas last year. I had always had some curiousity about my ancestors, and the digitalization of records overcame my impatience to research in the previously slow and painful way of visiting individual record offices or writing back and forth.
As I had the ability to quickly research and pull records, as well as access to well-documented family records, I spent most of last Christmas holiday researching and tracing the family tree. It was fascinating to find that many of my forebearers were very early settlers of the United States, originating mostly from England, then from Germany, and the rest from Switzerland, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands. Still unconfirmed family records trace also back to Denmark.
By word of mouth, the family history held interest as my paternal grandmother loved to tell us about her family being direct descendents of Daniel Boone. Daniel Boone was a key player in the exploration and movement west during the early years of the United States. Through the other branches of the family, we suspected other early settlers as in many cases as immigration was vaguely recalled.
As the Manifest Destiny offered opportunities for families to become landowners for little more than the bravery and persistance to cross the Appalachians and move westward, Daniel Boone led many expeditions westward, giving his name to many towns through Kentucky and even as far west as Missouri.
The Cumberland Gap is one of the few places in the Appalachian Mountain chain possible for the pioneers on foot or with animals to cross the mountains dividing the eastern seaboard of the United States from the largely unexplored (by Europeans) western territory. In fact, the crossings through there became so concentrated that the path was named the Wilderness Road.
From the records I found, it appeared that many other of my ancestors also passed through the Gap on their way westward. Many settled in Kentucky, on my dad's side even through his birth. On my maternal grandmother's side, we also suspected that they came west on the Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap as they originated from Virginia, spending a generation in northern Kentucky, before heading north to Indiana.
On the Saturday, we took a short hike from Cumberland Gap TN, along the Wilderness Road. It was a gorgeous fall day, incredibly warm especially for the Swedes. We thought about and reflected on our many ancestors, who had walked through there on their way west, in hopes of a better life, with all their possessions on their backs or the backs of their pack animals. They usually would pass in the winter, to avoid the high heat in the area, and also so that when they arrived, they could begin the planting for
After a stretch on the road and a journey through history, we hiked on to a point where we could stand in three states at the same time: Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky. After many pictures and reflections, we returned to our car and went on for a good Southern dinner.