Friday Poem of the Week: Ink and Memory

Martha Adams' entry in the 1820 Federal Census is about halfway down this image.

Martha Adams’ entry in the 1820 Federal Census is about halfway down this image.

Ink and Memory

The sign in Staples read “Ink and Memory,” and they got that right:

Ink is inextricably linked to memory

Although more profoundly than their products would suggest.

They meant ink for printers and memory cards for computers

I think of the carefully scribed lines in Spenserian script

Found in old census records like the one I was looking at

A couple of nights ago on Ancestry.com, the Federal Census of 1820,

And there was my distant ancestor Martha Adams

Who in 1812 owned land in Tennessee on which she paid taxes.

No birth record, of course, but I would estimate her age

In 1812 as about 18, meaning she was born around 1794.

She does not show up on the 1810 Census, so perhaps she emigrated from England,

I believe, sometime before 1812.

As my brother would say, more research is needed.

I wonder what kind of person Martha Adams was.

She might have married a man named Labora Adams

(The records are not clear) and they might have had

A daughter named Matilda who is my three times-great grandmother.

Beyond that I know nothing of her.

What color was her hair?

Did she laugh easily?

Did she work hard like most women of the time?

Did she have good times as well as tragedies?

Weddings, picnics, springtime walks, church services, babies born, engagements, parties,

As well as

Still births, funerals, accidents, absences, quarrels, injuries, deaths, and the like.

What did she eat?

What did she wear?

How long did she live?

Was she happy?

Did her husband and children love her?

Did she love them?

I do not think these things can ever be known

This side of the grave.

But there she is in the careful pen strokes and

In the image on the screen

And so in memory made palpable and living through

Ink.

Dan Verner

June 27, 2013

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