Remembering My Family, and the Alamo

Visiting the Alamo in San Antonio was an important experience for me – my ancestor, William Barrett Travis (on my mom’s side of my family), died in the battle of the Alamo in March 1836. He was the commander of the army who fought against the Mexicans for control over this region (then part of northern Mexico). Found at the site was a letter he wrote ending with the words “VICTORY OR DEATH”.

Whether you agree with American expansion during this time period or not, there is something quite astounding to think about the drastic and bold decisions our ancestors made at one time. Think about it – at some point in your family lineage, someone left everything familiar to see if something better lay beyond. Our species is rooted in Africa and has spread all over the world, and every individual alive today is related to someone in the near or distant past who was part of this migration. And this is just one example of thousands in every individual’s lineage that we don’t even know about. I wonder if my descendants will know about me at all?

At the site of the Alamo is a library with photographs, letters and other documents from this time. They don’t let visitors in without good reason (scholarly research, for example). When I told the woman at the library entrance that I was a descendant of Travis, and that I was curious to see family photos from that time period, she allowed Tim and I to come in. She gave us several folders of photographs, and after searching through them for a while, I found one that I had seen before – it was a black and white family portrait of at least 20 people in front of a wooden house, with chickens running around in the foreground. Where had I seen this photo before? My mom has a copy of it.

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