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Jennie flashed her eyes between both kitchen windows, expecting to catch a view of Dudley racing his old mare across the backfield and upward toward the barn. He knows its time for supper, Jennie thought to herself, feeling the impatience of a well-organized mother.

Dudley beamed with the impulsiveness of a 21-year-old young man, but his headstrong mother expected punctuality. And when the last bowl of hard-cooked supper was placed on the table, Jennie looked for her family to comply with timely anticipation.

George sauntered into the kitchen to scrub his weathered hands, glancing around the room for his stepson. "Where's the boy?" George questioned his wife as he drew a chair away from the kitchen table.

"Most likely still in town, delayed by the Picket's girl, Rosie," Jennie remarked, rolling a look of sternness toward her husband. "Ever since they moved to town, Dudley has spent less time at home and more time in Rolla."

"Now Jennie, leave the boy be. He's grown into a man and he needs to be lookin'; you know, scoutin' for a wife." George puffed out his chest like a rooster; feeling proud of his maturing stepson.

Jennie shook her head as George defended Dudley; unable to find justness in her husband's comments. Suddenly, Jennie's brother John burst through the front door, words pressured with frantic tones: "Its Dudley, I can hear him. He's screamin' and cryin': I can hear him!"

Quickly racing to the door, both Jennie and George hear the filtered cry of their son, echoing from the valley of the back hills. "Where is he John?" George hastily questioned his brother-n-law as he bridled his horse; panicked filled eyes casting a look toward the valley.

Swiftly throwing himself up onto his horse, George overheard Jennie scream: "Hurry George, go help him." And then...the cries softly melted away...leaving behind a family smothered by a lifetime of grief.

Recounting the story of the death of my grandmother's brother, Dudley, has faded with time: few details of the painful death remain. Tragically dying at the youthful age of 21 after being kicked in the gut by his horse, scarcely any remnants of his short life linger: only a brief explanation of his painful, wretched death.

Recently discovering my ancestral cemetery in Phelps County, Missouri; the tombstone of the ever-forgotten young man stood sweetly within the heavily weeded hillside. Standing within the cemetery, my eyes held captive a tall oak tree stretching over Dudley's grave. Her arms wrapped gently toward the young man's tombstone and I felt strangely comforted by her maternal warmth. And as I laid my eyes on the well-made stone, I read out-loud the gut-wrenching inscription: 'How desolate our home bereft of thee.'

Feeling overwhelmed, as If my great-uncle had just passed, my heart quivered with a mother's sadness. Generations have since moved on within our family and the tragic death of this young man has over time, become forgotten. How burdensome such a loss must have been to my great grandparents; forever changing their lives.

In genealogy, we tend to focus on our direct lineage and quickly castaway information on the forgotten souls: our ancestor's children that died early deaths.  Living with death and loss was more common among earlier generations than today. Gathering more information on our ancestor's losses provide us with a greater understanding of their experiences and creates a richer story to our history.

Draw together records and documents of the early losses within your ancestor's families and learn more about the forgotten souls. And in so doing, you may just learn a little more about yourself.

Keep searching for answers,

Cheryl