A deep dive into the past

When I started my latest COVID-19 hobby, Ancestry.com (but don’t worry, I still love TikTok dearly), I didn’t quite know what I was in for. I never had an interest to delve into it and once I did, I went all in. From discovering that there’s a “Rectortown” in Virginia, to learning a Rector from generations before me established a prestigious scholarship at a university that is still in place today, I felt a new sense of pride.

One of the main reasons why I kept my maiden name in my name (moved it into my middle name) was because I didn’t think there were as many “Rectors” out there. And I also had work published under my name. I didn’t want to lose that.

On my mom’s side, we are a close-knit family. And there are A LOT of us. My mom is one of seven and I have almost 20 cousins. In addition, she’s also close with her cousins, aunts and uncles. Things have definitely changed since my grandma passed nearly two years ago, but family is still family.

And while I’ve been closer to that side, the way I look, my quirks and a lot of my other personality traits I feel come from my dad’s side. I’m quiet but not silent. I care sometimes more than I should. Doing what I love and finding purpose in my career has always been a priority for me. I have patience. I try to be kind and empathetic, although these times we’re in has definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone to have difficult conversations more than ever. But I’ve learned how to stand up for what I believe in and not cave.

So as I was reading this book that was written by a family member in 1975 (what are the odds? I hit the jackpot finding that one), I had a moment as I was reading a section called The Rector Heritage.

“All through this book, I have referred to certain qualities as being characteristic of the Rectors,” she wrote. “In doing so, I have not meant to imply that these qualities were to be found solely among those of Rector descent. I meant only to point out that these gifts were so common among the Rectors, that one might assume that they were inherited and would show up from generation to generation.”

She continues on to say:

“So, what are these characteristics which keep cropping up over and over till the pattern is clearly discernible? Which shall I name first? Since probably only those of Rector descent will read this, perhaps we are safe to go ahead without fear of criticism or finger-pointing. The Rectors have a deep, underlying assurance that whatever they try to do, they will do well. It is a consciousness that makes them go ahead, being sure that what anyone else can do they can do also and perhaps better. Is it not true?

The Rectors expect to be leaders in the community. They take it for granted that they will occupy positions of authority and will be listened to for advice. They build schools and churches and houses and roads. They accept it as their natural place with no thought of struggling to make an impression. There are words to describe such people – Respectability – High Integrity – Sobriety.”

Towards the end of this book, she talks about all the work it took to compile everything.

It took years.

She, she being Clara Rector Barnes Smart, started working on the book and I believe search of genealogy in 1962. It was published in 1975.

It almost feels like cheating that 40 years later, the work that took her more than a decade to do, I’ve done in hours… just by clicking little leaves on Ancestry’s website.

But to her advantage, she was able to get firsthand accounts for much of the history. I only know the story of my immediate family. But she was able to get the story from those that have been around a century ago, and stories that go all the way back to the 1700s when the “Richters” immigrated to the U.S. from Germany.

It’s been around a month since I started digging into things. I feel like I’ve found so much, yet know I’ve barely scratched the surface.

More to come.

Image from the 1800s from the book “The Rectors of Wayne County, KY” of the Rector Simpson family.

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