Coming up on my 70th year of life and spending the last 20 years researching family history and building a huge family tree, I can tell you of two things I am certain, death and taxes.
For some, neither is a welcome topic. The mystery or charm of charting someone’s life is truly an investigative endeavor. So many records bear witness about an ancestor’s life from birth to grave.
For death a chiseled granite stone or brass memorial plate announcing the longevity or depth of love marks the last space on earth the ancestor will inhabit.
For taxes the state tax rolls describe the value of a lifetime of work whether it be hardship or profit. Because our early ancestors were mostly farmers think of the backbreaking effort to cut the sod in the fields to plant the corn or oats waiting for the rain to give the seeds life and praying the hail would not take it down in a matter of minutes. Even a lightning strike could doom the crop.
Sid Foreman with his threshing machine and crew in 1898, cutting sod in Cameron, Colorado
It was the government that became the demon. At death the total worth of property would be listed and valued and taxes must be paid on that value. The census records reveal the widows who lived with their children when taxes could not be paid on the farm.
Some of our ancestral farmers turned to the cities to get factory jobs for wages to either take the place of or supplement the farm. The great depression and dust bowl experienced on the great plains gave measure to the hard work of the farm family.
Grandpa Bernard Hancock at Gates Rubber Company. Retired in 1962.
We are the result of that life. Death and taxes – both a sure thing.