Brad's Family History Project

by Brad Sherwood

    The relative I decided to detail is my grandfather on my mother’s side.  His name is Robert Lee Rafferty. He was born August 16, 1936 and lives in Bloomington, Illinois. I picked him because this year my mom’s brother has been working on a family history project and I learned a great deal about my grandfather’s teenage life when he visited this March.
    The typical days of my family are different from person to person. My father Keith is a computer engineer at a company called Intuit. He leaves for to work at about 8 o’clock every day, dropping me off at school. He then returns from work between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. My mother Kristi is a homemaker. She does the most work by far around the house; she cleans, cooks, shops, and organizes for the family. My brother Doug is a 5th grader at Deer Canyon Elementary. He leaves the house for school at 7:45 a.m. and returns around 2:15 p.m. His chores are emptying the dishwasher of silverware, dusting the living room and banister, cleaning his bathroom, and vacuuming his room. I practice my trumpet in the morning from 7:30 to 8:00. I then leave for school with my dad. I get home around 3:25. My chores are emptying the dishwasher of everything but silverware, vacuuming my room and the stairs, mowing the lawn, emptying the trash, and cleaning my bathroom. At night we have a sit down, complete meal from our wonderful cooking mother. After dinner we do homework, housework, rest, and have free time to play outside. I usually watch T.V. or read from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., and then go to bed. We celebrate holidays with the whole family, whether it is Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter. For example, on Thanksgiving, my mom’s brother’s wife’s family (my aunt’s family) comes to our house and we have turkey and a ping pong tournament. However my grandfather’s life was much, MUCH different.
    My grandfather woke up around 5 a.m. to milk the cows. He would also feed the hogs a corn/grain meal before proceeding to school. After coming home from school, he had his daily cleaning chores and had to go out in the field and aid in various farming procedures, depending on the season. If it was autumn, he would help harvest the corn and soybeans. If it was spring, he would disk the soil to prepare it for the planting of the crop. He would be in the fields all day on weekends, barely stopping for rest and food. The most interesting difference I found was in our meals. Instead of cooking refrigerated food and going for groceries a lot, my grandfather’s mother would go out to the coop and wring a chicken’s neck, cook it, and feed it to the family. In contrast, our days are VERY different.
    My usual school day here in 2005 consists of five academic classes, seven courses, five teachers, and around 35 kids in every class. In 1949, my grandfather had one room for the entire 8th grade, and the whole grade had only 20 kids. He was taught math, science, language, and history all from one teacher in one classroom (before my grandfather moved to the city where he took 8th grade, he was in a one room school house for seven years). I took algebra as a 7th grader, but back then they did not learn it until high school. His elementary school was 1st grade through 8th grade. My middle school is 6th through 8th grade. The grading system was just like ours, but they could not check it regularly like we can; the only time they saw their grades were on report cards. His discipline was much different. If a teacher thought a student was getting out of hand, he or she would come up and slap that kid on the hand with a ruler. Now a teacher is not allowed to lay a finger on a pupil. His school did have one sports team, a basketball team. My school does not have enough money to have intramural sports.
    Currently, my goals for myself are to finish high school, go to a notable college, and get an honest job. I would like to play sports through college, but it is becoming obvious that I will not be a professional athlete. I would like to be teacher a or get a job in law enforcement. My grandfather, on the other hand, had no others goals at 13 than to get through high school. He did not want to be a farmer, but being in the corn country of Illinois, other jobs were nearly impossible to get. My goals are yet to be played out. However my 69 year old grandfather’s goals are well behind him. He finished high school and ended up as a farmer. He got his first self-owned farm in 1966, two years after my mother was born. In an Illinois farm town, it is hard to be anything but a farmer, and that’s what he became.
    It is amazing how much information you can find out about your family. My family traced our lineage all the way back to 1754, to Greenville County, Kentucky. My mother’s side of my family comes from a rich agricultural background. This project has showed me how different a life I lead from past generations, even from my mother. From her down through the generations, all the Rafferty family farmed. Farming in the Midwest was a much different life that I get a little taste of when I visit in the summer back in Illinois, and boy does it look like a lot of work. Every generation seems to have to do less manual labor than the one before it, and that sure is true with my family. My chores may seem like a lot to me, but now I know it is better than waking up and milking a cow or walking soybeans. I respect my parents, grandparents, and those who came before on a whole different level now. I will not mind hearing long, thorough stories because they tell me of a past that was much unknown to me before we dug deep and found out these admirable facts about the Rafferty family.

Text and pictures copyright 2005 by Brad Sherwood.  All rights, writes, and rites reserved.