Monday, June 11, 2012

Sharing our Oral History

One of my goals in researching Redden family history is to make our history more than just a set of names and dates.  I want to bring our ancestors to life--to learn how they lived, the struggles they faced, their accomplishments, the facts of their daily lives that in some way influence how we, their descendants, live today.  At the NGS conference in May 2012, I attended one session on how to write a family history that your family will want to read, and another session on creative non-fiction.  These programs have further inspired me to try and learn more about our ancestors as individuals.  One big step in that direction came when my husband, Nick, was able to make contact and have a phone conversation with a Redden gentleman who was a cousin of his father's.  We believe he is probably the oldest living descendent in Richard and Elizan's direct line.  I'm giving his name at this time because we didn't think to ask for his permission to do so, but I still want to pass on some of his stories.

Nick asked this cousin if he ever knew his grandfather (my husband's great-grandfather), Mayo Redden.  Mayo is a bit of a mystery to us because no death record or obituary has ever been located for him.  We know plot #20 was purchased for him in the New Amsterdam, Indiana, cemetery, but cemetery records do not prove he was ever actually buried there.  From piecing together other sources, it appears Mayo died around 1939,  preceding his wife, Sharlottie, in death, but he is not even mentioned in her obituary.  Now with the release of the 1940 census we have another confirmation that Mayo passed around 1939, as his wife is shown as a widow living in Corydon, Indiana with her daughter in 1940.  It was especially exciting to us to learn that this Redden cousin does recall visiting his grandfather new New Amsterdam, Indiana, as a young boy.  He did not have a lot of memories, but he did recall that Mayo was crippled as the result of an accident.  Mayo was a carpenter, and apparently he struck his leg violently with an adze, resulting in the devastating injury.  It was recalled that Mayo's leg would swell up and that liquid would have to be drained from it to bring him relief.  Our cousin also recalled that his grandmother Sharlottie was known to be able to "take the fire out of a burn."  He had no idea how she did this, but apparently Sharlottie had the ability to relieve the pain of a burn and was well-known for this gift.

I hope we will have the privilege to receive email from or speak with other Redden cousins to learn more about our history and to share some of these stories here.


  1. Jennifer,
    When I read about Corydon, I wondered if you had checked the local newspapers? It doesn't sound like you know the date, but sometimes you can even search digital newspapers -- I've had luck. Happy hunting!

  2. Yes, we have done a thorough search for an obituary on-line and in southern Indiana & northern Kentucky libraries and archives. So far we haven't found any official record of Mayo's death, anywhere. I say "we" because other family researchers have also not had luck with the search. But hey, isn't part of the fun of family history research having these little mysteries to solve? I'm certain one day we'll find this elusive date and what a great day that will be!