At one point in time, every researcher has thought about what it would be like to speak to an ancestor. We’ve wondered what it would be like to hear their stories firsthand, and what doors would it open or what secrets a conversation with them might reveal. In this History & Heritage article, I will be considering some interview questions for my five times great-grandfather, James Rector.
On my own particular family tree, there is a gentleman on my maternal side that fought during the Revolutionary War. His name was James Rector. He was born in Fauquier County, Virginia, and died in Grayson County, VA. This gentleman is my five times great grandfather.
The records of his service to our country are documented throughout his profile on my tree. His sons joined the SOA (Sons of the American Revolution) and many of his descendants followed. He enlisted on August 10, 1781, and served in Caption Dudley’s company, Virginia Regiment per an inquiry letter dated July 16, 1932.
James' paternal grandfather, John Rector, was the first individual to make it to the shores of the New World from Trupbach, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. Looking at the tree it is interesting to note that James would have most certainly would have known his paternal grandfather John. John died in 1773 and James was born in 1754 making him just 19 when his grandfather would have passed.
One of the first questions I would like to ask this ancestor is, did you learn any German from your grandparents or parents? For me, language has always been fascinating and I had the opportunity to study German and Austrian history while attending college. In fact, I made it a point to study the country because someday I too would like to visit the towns my ancestors migrated from. Language connects us not only to our heritage but to our families.
The second question I would like to ask James Rector would have to be at what moment did you decide that going against the Crown was worth the price of your freedom or possibly your life? Many men who served had to ask themselves this weighted question. Over the years I have read accounts of debates that took place among neighbors, family members, and friends about the rights and wrongs of taking up arms against England. It stands to reason that like most men there was one pivotal moment in James’ life that stirred him to action.
The third question I would ask is what was the definition of the American Dream for him? To individuals of this era, the definition of freedom meant something very different than it does today. Even now we struggle to define the term and what it means to each of us as we live in a world filled with technological advancement, business, and connectivity to other cultures from around the world.
Another question I would consider asking him is, what did he think of the French coming to the aid of the colonists in their fight for freedom? It would also be interesting to hear his response to the statement that not only did the French help us to win but French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi also created our Statue of Liberty.
The final question I would like to ask James would be, did you know of anyone who was still loyal to the Crown even after the war was over? Despite the end of the Revolutionary War, there were still some individuals and communities who stood with the Crown. Many spied on American citizens for the British and tried to intimidate them by using propaganda. One study put out a few years ago stated that some 15 to 20% of colonists remained loyal to the Crown.
Of course, we would all like to share with our ancestors how far we have come. From horse and buggy to motorcars, from newspapers to radio and satellite television broadcasts, streaming services, social media, and virtual reality tours of battlefields, museums, and other historic landmarks they themselves may have once visited. The fact that we get to learn through documents, and now DNA testing, about their lives and walk in their footsteps is something to be greatly cherished.
Who on your family tree would you like to interview? Why? Let us know on social media and learn more about the Revolutionary War and what happened after the conflict from the links and resource pages below.
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