Monday, January 03, 2011

Alive and Well but Lost the Accent

Several months ago I was traveling in Maine and came upon an article about a Goddard being the founder of a local funeral home in Rumford, ME. It got my attention and I was reminded that my family came to Georgia in the early 1800’s from Massachusetts.

It took us a little over 200 years, but we've pretty much lost the New England accent.

I know my folks came from there because my great great grandfather is buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Macon, GA. The city of Macon erected a monument to memorialize James Goddard long before his son moved to Reynolds to start a business. He was a local Macon merchant and river boat captain and the fact that he was from Athol MA is inscribed on that monument. I’ve seen it many times.

Anyway I discovered I was only a couple of hundred miles away from Athol when I was in Rumford and I knew I would be much closer than that when I visited New Hampshire in the then near future.

So a few months later in August, and after I had done a little genealogical research, I stayed an extra day in New England to search for my roots. My co-worker dropped me off at Logan International Airport in Boston and I rented a car and headed out through the tunnels of Boston.

I’ll have to admit there was at least a couple of moments I wondered what in the heck I was doing. I was in rush hour traffic and pouring down rain by myself driving through and out of Boston. I had invited my two brothers to meet me there but they came up with pretty good excuses as to why they could not join me.

But I am a hard-headed guy and I wanted to see where I came from.

Athol is located about 85 miles west of Boston. I found a hotel for the night somewhere on the outskirts of Boston and struck out for Athol the next morning.

Not only did I visit the beautiful city of Athol, but I also visited with some local folks. I was not surprised that the Goddard name is rather common there. It was a surreal experience walking around the city of Athol and knowing my ancestors grew up and made a living there many years ago before moving to Georgia.

That evening , I drove back toward Boston to Cambridge MA and checked in another hotel. I had a noon flight out of Boston so I went to bed knowing I needed to find “The Old Burying Ground” at Harvard University rather quickly the next morning. I knew from my research that my first ancestors born in the United States were buried there.

The next morning, I found the old cemetery. I walked around in the cemetery for at least an hour. Being an undertaker that has had to find a few graves before, I knew if they were buried at that cemetery, there was a fighting chance I would find the grave.

But I almost gave up. The markers were hard to read. I felt positive that Benjamin and Mary Goddard were buried there because I had seen it in my genealogical research. At least I gave it a shot.

I was about to leave and decided to look at one more section. Incredibly I saw the name Goddard on a marker... and another Goddard.

And then I saw the graves I had come to see. My great, great, great, great, great, great grandparents.

I am quite sure I am the only Goddard to come from Georgia to visit Athol. And I am also positive I am the only Goddard from Georgia to visit our ancestor’s graves at the Old Burying Ground in Cambridge.

But I found the graves. And I even said a few things to them. I know they couldn’t hear me but I could hear me. I told them how thankful I am that their parents chose to come to America.

And though at least some of us have lost the accent, their descendants are still alive and well.

Below is a 6 minute video I put together of my findings. I produced this video for my siblings and our kids and for kids to come.

But if you want to watch, you sure can.

Athol Mass from Bruce Goddard on Vimeo.


Sandy said...

Enjoyed the article and video, Bruce! That is COOL!! I know it meant a LOT to you! A great historian you are!!!

Cathy said...

I was doing some research on my Ancestors and your site popped up. Enjoyed your video tour. Many of my Ancestors are buried in Rose Hill. Like you I also have a passion to find out where I came from and have traveled to cemeteries in other states. Not sure if you have seen this poem before but seems appropriate and describes, I believe, what is in our hearts as we search for our past.
Enjoy! Cathy

Dear Ancestor

Author Unknown

Your tombstone stands among the rest;
Neglected and alone.
The name and date are chiseled out
On polished, marbled stone.

It reaches out to all who care
It is too late to mourn.
You did not know that I exist
You died and I was born.

Yet each of us are cells of you
In flesh, in blood, in bone.
Our blood contracts and beats a pulse
Entirely not our own.

Dear Ancestor, the place you filled
One hundred years or so ago
Spreads out among the ones you left
Who would have loved you so.

I wonder if you lived and loved,
I wonder if you knew
That someday I would find this spot,
And come to visit you.