Back to her Roots
Eudora woman indulges love of family history by compiling her genealogy
Call it a hobby or call it a passion. Tracy Saenz calls it her history.
Saenz, a Eudora resident, has discovered stories of heroes, forbidden love and even a bank robber in the study of her genealogy during the past two years.
During that time, Saenz has traced her family roots all the way back to a man named Christopher Choate who was born in England in 1535. A descendent of Choate, also named Christopher Choate, sailed to American in 1676 as an indentured servant. After five years of working as a servant, he and the English sponsor who financed his venture were each given 50 acres in Maryland to help settle the area.
Saenz loves finding names and dates and putting together the puzzle of her family's history. But she is even more enthusiastic about the stories that go with the names.
Turner Hudson could be considered the black sheep of the family. Saenz said those who remember him say he was tall and handsome and quite the charmer.
Hudson was a bank robber who had been in jail three times, twice in the Texas State Penitentiary and once in Leavenworth County. As the story goes, after Turner was released from prison in the late 1930s or early 1940s he told his sister, Cleo, that he was going to Idaho to retrieve money that he had stolen and hidden near the Canadian border.
"He hopped on a freight train and went back to find the money," Saenz said.
But Turner's journey came to an end in Lewiston, Idaho, when he was shot and killed by the sheriff. Saenz said Turner was not committing a crime at the time of the incident, but that he was shot out of suspicion. She said nobody really knew what happened to the money he was chasing.
"Some say that his wife got away with it," Saenz said.
It's a puzzle that she may never put together, but it's part of the reason she loves studying the history of her family.
"There's history and there's mystery, and that's the fun of it," she said.
Saenz has records of several ancestors on both sides of the War Between the States, as she learned to call it in her southern upbringing.
"If you call it the Civil War, my mother would just die," she said.
Confederate soldier Joshua Hudson from Texas fought alongside Hugh Garside in the 38th Arkansas Infantry.
Saenz said Hudson always wore a locket around his neck with a picture of his parents and another of his sister, Lucinda, which he showed to his friend.
"Hugh fell in love with Lucinda, and after the war was over he went back to Texas and he married her," Saenz said.
It may have been an unconventional way to fall in love, but not nearly as controversial as the story of Benjamin Knox and Nelly Choate who were Shakers. Although their religion and culture taught them celibacy, they were determined to be together. In the early 1800s they left their home in South Union, Ky., to be married. Nelly Choate died in Missouri in 1877.
Saenz said she also enjoyed learning so much American history and history about other countries in her studies including how land was bought and sold and how women survived on their own during war.
Saenz said she has been interested in learning about her family's history since she was a child. She said she loved to hear stories from her parents and grandparents and began writing them down.
Then two years ago a friend from Lawrence, who Saenz said is the local expert on genealogy, taught Saenz the basics.
"She showed me how to do things and how to do it right," Saenz said. "I started doing it and I fell in love with it."
Saenz uses various tools for searching and documenting her family's history including Internet sites, courthouse records and cemetery records.
She also occasionally visits facilities devoted to keeping records, including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Family History Center in Lawrence and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration facility in Kansas City, Mo.
Saenz does not include a name in her ancestry files unless she can find at least three pieces of evidence to prove the name belongs.
Saenz said she believes such notables as Henry Hudson, known to many as Henry the Explorer, and 13th-Century Scottish war hero William Wallace, whose story was made famous in the movie "Braveheart," are among her ancestors. She said she was close to proving it, too.
Saenz said she did not study her genealogy out of any sense of duty but out of a real desire to know the people who preceded her in life.
"I just love it," she said. "This is a way to have them around forever."
Saenz also keeps current records on her family members, saving wedding announcements, funeral programs, news clippings and other records in an effort to preserve her family's history for future generations.
"I have three grandchildren and one on the way," she said. "I do this for them."