“Where are you from?”
“Southeast Georgia, 40 miles from the coast.”
That usually satisfies folks. Some will say, “Oh, yeah. Do you know so and so?”
Indeed, I was born in downtown Jesup. But my grandfather moved his family from Southwest Georgia’s Decatur County to Wayne County around 1930. As a railroad man, he went to wherever the whistle blew. I always heard that his people came from Chattahoochee, Florida, home of the Sunshine State’s mental institution.
But, really, where did the NeSmiths come from?
I’ve visited NeSmith, South Carolina. We once owned the newspapers near there in Hemingway and Lake City. That’s big tobacco-growing country. I had a photo taken of me standing in front of the NeSmith Baptist Church, holding my Bible. I sent the picture to my parents with a note: “I’ve started my own church.” But that’s a story for another day.
Before South Carolina in the 1700s, where?
And that’s my story for today.
I am not a genealogist. I dabble a bit in ancestry lore. Others in the family—including first-cousin Virginia NeSmith Jaehnig and brother-in-law Rick Bostelman—dig in.
But when I learned of my Scottish roots, my curiosity was piqued. I was eager for our three children and eight grandchildren to know more than I do.
Pam, my wife of 54 years, championed the idea. This past Christmas, Santa announced, “We are going to Scotland. That’s right. All 16 of us.”
Ireland was tossed in as a bonus.
Pam; our daughter, Emily; and our
daughter-in-law Heather went to work. For months, they researched must-see places.
If you doubt that you can pack a gallon of adventure into a quart jar, these
ladies can change your mind. Through web searches, emails and phone calls, they
connected with some United Kingdom experts who helped to map out a
once-in-a-lifetime jaunt. All they needed from me was my American Express card.
One of my goals for the United Kingdom trip was for our grandchildren to visit the graves of some of our “Nasmyth” ancestors in Scotland. Standing with me, from left, are Stella NeSmith, 9; Hayes Wilson, 16; Smith Wilson, 10; Fenn NeSmith, 12; William NeSmith, 14; Henry Wilson, 14; Bayard NeSmith, 11; and Wyatt Wilson, 19. Several Nasmyths are buried in Edinburgh’s Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery.
But I had two requests:
1. None of us should drive. UK traffic is on the “wrong” side of the road.
2. Let’s find the graves of some of our Scottish kin. I wanted our grandchildren to touch the gravestones of their “Nasmyth roots.”
I thought it would be too risky to have 16 of us—in three or four cars—chasing each other around in foreign countries, driving on the left side of curvy, narrow roads. Buses got us everywhere, including up and down miles of mountainous gravel roads to a hunting lodge. Giant red deer could look in the windows, but we didn’t hunt. We hiked and absorbed the lush, green landscape. The boys caught dozens of brown trout. Our guys always pack their fishing tackle.
Glen Dessary, in Scotland’s Highlands, is a story for another day, too.
We hadn’t been in Edinburgh for an hour before we were walking. From our hotel’s windows, we could see Edinburgh Castle, high on the hill, across the street. But the 12th-century castle would have to wait. Around the corner was Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery. Alan’s wife, Heather, was the first to point and shout, “There it is!” She had recognized the gravesites from photos.
We spent an hour milling around, looking, reading and taking pictures.
The names on the graves might not have been our closest of kin. Nonetheless, we checked that box. And I went to climb Castle Rock smiling.
Books are one of my weaknesses. Well, maybe they are one of my strengths. I can’t own or read enough books.
I am not a globetrotter, but I like what is credited to St. Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”
I am grateful our grandchildren are voracious readers, too. And they embrace St. Augustine’s theory on travel.
Now, if you asked them where they are from, Stella and Bayard may say, “Athens.”
William and Fenn may say, “Cornelia.”
Wyatt, Hayes, Henry and Smith may say, “Senoia.”
But then again, they all may say, “Scotland.”