I have discovered many interesting things in just a short period of time as an amateur genealogist. First off, while childhood was obviously deadly, being a woman was, too. All that birthing took its toll on our female ancestors. And most of the details of these female lives have faded away into obscurity - their family names and histories taking a back seat to the accomplishments of their male counterparts.
Not everyone died young, however. The saga of the Darby Kelley line in America is also replete with amazing tales of long, productive lives. Our paterfamilias in the New World, Darby Kelley, signed the Association Test in Brentwood, N.H. in 1776, when he was 70 years old! He was ready, willing and able to fight in the American Revolution as a senior citizen.
His great-grandson, General Benjamin Franklin Kelley, took a bullet to the chest in the first land battle of the Civil War, and lived to tell about it. In fact, he lived into his 80's. And one of the Kelley men's wives lived to the ripe old age of 103!
Secondly, I am amazed at how industrious the Kelley men were and how much they were able to accomplish in such short periods of time. The America of the late 1700's and early 1800's must have been a place of great opportunity for this to have occurred. I do not see the America of today being as open to advancement. We have become a country with very little socio-economic maneuverability. I am not sure the feats of social mobility and success accomplished by our ancestors can be done today.
Samuel Kelley, an immigrant's son, was able to carve out a homestead for himself and his family in the wilds of New Hampton, N.H., and in just a few short years had built and owned half the town. Upon his death, he was able to leave a farm to each of his children. Imagine that - all from an immigrant's son.
William Bowdoin Kelley, Samuel's son, went on to found the New Hampton School, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire. Some of William's sons went into the fields of law and medicine, studying at Dartmouth. Another of William's sons, Benjamin Franklin, became a Major General in the Union Army during the Civil War and was appointed to several prestigious posts after the war. So much accomplishment in such a short period of time.
The momentum of my ancestors' success seems to have slowed by the late 1800's. Strangely, I am encountering less and less information on the later Kelley ancestors than we had for the earlier ones. Most of our direct decendants seem to have stayed in the Northeast, particularly in the Pennsylvania/Maryland areas. Accomplishments for the Kelley line seem to be slight after the Civil War. I will do more research in this area. Perhaps I am wrong, and of course, there are just so many more names and family lines to keep track of the closer we get to the future.
But I have a feeling that changing times in America had begun to wear away at the success our earliest ancestors enjoyed.