By Judy Rickard, author, Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law, Findhorn Press, 2011
Karin and I enjoyed the views we found on the trail – the prairie had been tamed but the open space was still there. We were not familiar with the wide open spaces that the middle of the United States had so much of and we had to get used to it. From Council Bluffs we followed our map and settled in for a long drive – but nothing like the trip my ancestors would have faced.
I found my genetic ancestry when I met my birth father in 2004, shortly before I met Karin in 2005. When I met my Dad, Don Everest, I fell into a treasure trove of genetic history, which I have tracked back to Evereux, France. A Norman ancestor came with William the Conqueror across the channel to fight in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and then helped colonize southern England. That’s where the name Evereux changed to Everest.
Fast forward 500 years and Everest ancestors worked at the home of Anne Boleyn at the time she met King Henry VIII. Who knew? Later ancestors, Richard and Jane Everest and their large family worked at that castle in the 1800’s but suffered from the Enclosure Act, which fenced/hedged off common lands so peasants were no longer able to plant or graze. Facing poverty, these Everests got a stipend from the parish and took a ship to the new world, landing in New York, then moving to Ohio, then joining a wagon train in 1847 to find new land in Oregon Territory.
Heading west, we saw large cattle with big horns, farms and farm animals and historic stops. In my ancestors’ days and for several decades after, this overland route was created by more than 350,000 emigrants in the largest peacetime movement in America. For nearly forty years optimistic travelers went west across wide expanses with little information for destinations in Oregon, as well as California, Washington and Utah. The merged trail of the east split and became the Santa Fe Trail south, the Utah Trail south, the California Trail which branched off south and the Washington Trail which wound north. But much of the travel on the Oregon Trail was a common route and those settlers changed the face of the territory forever.
We faced rain and dust – which became mud – and were glad we had our car for shelter and our motels to sleep in. Iowa and Kansas scenes included beautiful sky, wind-blown grasses, cultivated fields, small towns and herds of various types of cattle.
We appreciated the green grass and shade at Emigrant Gap, and were sure the wagon train folks would have too. We saw the memorial marker to deaths on the trail and the swales – ground down hollows from many wagon wheels and feet of animals and humans who had been there before us.
For information on The Oregon National Historic Trail, go to:
For information on finding people or documents related to The Oregon Trail, try the new Emigrant Name Search site at:
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