Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Hunt for Calvin Figgins

The spirit of my podcast, I Remember, rises from family stories. Sometimes the stories are bittersweet memories and sometimes they are thrilling accounts shaved from the pages of history.

So far, my participants have shared a range of stories from ancestors chasing Pancho Villa to the impact of the Armenian Genocide to the importance of a library card in a home that many families shared. 

And as we talk, I can hear the excitement as people share the answers they have found--the answers that have provided another anchor to hold onto the past with--but these answers only stir up the need for more questions to answered. 

We can never have enough anchors in our life.
Photo courtesy of Gary Anderson

My December 26th, 2014 interview with Gary Anderson teased out one of my favorite stories in the podcast series to date--a Civil War soldier who vanished (AWOL?) while one duty. So many questions surround this tale of Calvin Figgins who disappeared (fled?) and who resurfaced as Charles Mills. When Gary told the story, I was riveted. And to hear that much later in life Charles Mills visited a man named John Figgins...and a photograph existed...well, my head popped. It brought up questions and thoughts of fear and honor, fight or flight, family and secrets...and I wondered how Gary followed this trail, how he came across the photos and the details, and I wondered how that must have felt to discover something tangible about your family, something no one is left to talk about, no one who knows for sure. 

You have to listen to Gary tell the story to appreciate the full scope of the mystery and the hunt for answers that he engaged in with his father.

Sooner or later we all go on a hunt for our ancestors. Some of us are lucky enough to still have people alive to ask questions of, but even if we don't, Gary's stories are an example of the kind of detective work possible today.

It excites me to be able to share in, and share, Gary's story. I hope it inspires others to keep digging into their family histories. And if anyone needs a forum to share their stories, you can always contact me at or @_briank_ to set up an conversation on an upcoming episode of I Remember.

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