“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.”
― Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland
My Sayles ancestors did not leave a trace of their personal maps; only clues left in letter heads or the handwriting of a census enumerator reveal the location of family at a given point in time. It is left to my imagination to draw smiles, hear wails, to listen for laughter or argument. I found this map of Wallum Pond, Rhode Island while searching for brain-twizzling information on the King family. * The book chronicled the history of a 20th century sanatorium and included the early landowners of the area. Identified in the map’s key was the location of the James King farm, at points 16 and 17, at the southern tip of Wallum Pond.
I can read all sorts of information from these squiggles – the lay of the land influenced the establishment of waterways, transportation networks, farms, mills, communities. My imagination has to supply the “at the top of this hill James and Rhobe discussed what road to take west,” or “here is where Sarah cried after learning that her parents were moving to Pennsylvania.” This map marks the spot where James King learned to farm from his father, James, during the late 1790s. It marks the spot where James and Rhobe reared a family and raised their stock, drained the bog and grew their corn, and where they packed their belongings and loaded up the youngest members of their brood as they headed out to the wilderness of Tioga County, Pennsylvania in 1822.
I have to supply the imagination that weaves the tapestry of their life.
*Ira Sayles is my great-great-grandfather on my father’s side, and the impetus to my participation in the Family History Writing Challenge, February 2013. His father, Christopher Sayles, was the son of Burrillville, Rhode Island residents, Christopher and Martha Brown Sayles; Ira’s mother, Sarah, was the daughter of James and Merrobe Howland King of Wallum Pond, Rhode Island.