The historic marker for Brashear’s Station shows the names Crist and Collings as early settlers.

This is an unfocused week…returning to work after the holidays, getting ready for Spring semester classes at the college where I work, returning the house to some semblance of organized comfort.

This week I finally got my Christmas tree put away. In the interest of honesty, you need to know that my Christmas tree is 1 foot tall with tiny little ornaments and has been sitting on my coffee table for about two weeks. “Putting it away” involves carrying it to the spare bedroom and sitting it on a top shelf of the bookcase.

So, it’s been difficult to get back into blog writing and I have struggled all week (in addition to the above chores) to come up with a subject I can settle into.

You can see how scattered my mind is when you notice I ended the above sentence with a preposition…a very bad thing to do, but a habit I struggle with. There, I did it again. I’m reminded of a letter E.B. White, one of my writing heroes, wrote that went like this:

Dear Jack:

The next grammar book I bring out I want to tell how to end a sentence with five prepositions. A father of a little boy goes upstairs after supper to read to his son, but he brings the wrong book. The boy says, ‘What did you bring that book that I don’t want to be read to out of up for?’

If E.B. White can find a way to end a sentence with 5 prepositions, I guess I can get away with one or two!

Now, to focus…

I believe it is time to pull my family story together, tie up the loose threads that led to the Crist stories I’ve been sharing and show how they lead to my own story.

I was born a Nicholas. I come to that name from the Collings line, who married into the Richey line, who eventually married into the Phegley family, who married into the Nicholas line.

So, you see, I am a Collings, a Richey, a Phegley, and a Nicholas, which brings up the question, as the television show asks…who do you think you are?

And that’s just on my dad’s side of the story. We all profess to want to be our own person, but how can that be? Like it or not, we are a product of our ancestors.

My ancestors fought Indians, started pioneer businesses, petitioned the young American government for land, hacked a life out of the wilderness. Don’t tell anyone, but there are criminals in my background and people who might not have treated the Indians so well when we moved into their hunting grounds.

The Crist family and the Collings family have traveled together, lived alongside each other, and supported each other through many adventures. Every time I told you a story about a man named Crist, there was a man named Collings standing nearby. And how that all was set into motion is still a mystery to me.

Nicolaus Heinrich Crist, in the account book given to him by his father, related that William Edward Collings, a boyhood friend, traveled the high seas with the Crist brothers when they came to America from Germany.

I can’t document that. As a matter of fact, all my research proves quite the opposite.

Every reference I have found in my family tree tells me that the Collings family (my Collings family) originated in England and that my ancestor named William Edward Collings was born in the Colonies in what was then called Pennsylvania, son of Zebulon Collings who was also recorded as being born in Pennsylvania.

While it would seem that the account book is wrong about William Edward Collings and therefore not to be trusted or used as reference, later entries in the journal have this Crist friend, William Edward Collings, producing a son named William Elston Collings and a daughter (among other offspring) named Elizabeth. That I can document as part of my family history. I am descended from William Elston Collings who had a sister named Elizabeth, both children of William Edward Collings.

There is some speculation that the entire journal of the Crist family is a fabrication, but I’m not buying that. There is enough fact in the journal that I can corroborate, so I choose to take it as a story based on mostly facts.

Family stories are like that. They take on a life of their own. They contain kernels of truth that help us know who we are and where we come from, even though they might also contain dramatic flourishes that keep us engaged in the story. And be honest with me and with yourself…you’ve enjoyed the stories, right?

Maybe the Collings and the Crists did not travel to America together, but they did travel through America and through history together, and that I can prove, so the journal has served as a lasting story of a life we can only imagine.

Nicolaus Crist’s son George married William Edward Collings’ daughter Elizabeth, sister to William Elston Collings. That fact I can document. It happened and it became very important to my future story line.

William Elston Collings, son of William Edward, was the patriarch of the group who traveled in 1809 from Kentucky into the territory that later became Indiana.

To be more precise they moved into southern Indiana near what is today Vienna, Indiana. This group, consisting of many Collings family members, settled in an area they called Pigeon Roost. There they built cabins, laid claim to land and planted crops. And there, many of their stories ended, but thankfully my story continued, so you see, it is my duty to tell this.

This is my family and now, over the next few weeks, I will begin to tell you their story.