How We “Land”ed in Arizona ~ 52 Ancestors Week #17

Tucson 1955Have you ever wondered how you ended up living where you lived as a child? Outside of being born into a military family who naturally moves around a lot, how did we get here? Some people are born and raised in the town where their parents, grandparents or even generations of ancestors had lived. Others, like me, were raised thousands of miles from where they were born. I decided I would try to figure out how my family landed in Tucson, Arizona.

On my maternal lines, the Smith side can only be traced back to Missouri as my Great MO map 1850Grandfather Pleasant is a brick wall. On the McGowan, Page, and Walt side the lineages go back to Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. I have discovered the paths they took to get to America and how they eventually landed in Missouri. On my paternal side all the lines Hughes, Hayes, Ogan, and Register lines can be traced back to England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland. I have also discovered the paths they took to get to America and how they eventually landed in Missouri. They all came for a variety of reasons and both sides ended up here.

MissouriThat brings us to my immediate family. Both of my parents’ ancestors came to the State of Missouri in the early 1800s, even before it became a state in 1821. Their roots were firmly planted here. My parents married in 1948 and set up a house where they both had lived most of their lives, in the town of Lexington. My sister was born in 1951 and I came along in January 4 years later. By December of that year, we moved to Tucson, AZ. This was definitely a big change for our family. Missouri is beautiful! Trees everywhere, rivers and lakes abound and the land is dotted with quaint little towns with friendly people. The landscape is mostly flat File179or hilly. The weather is cold in the winter and humid in the summer. Arizona, although it has its own beauty, was the total opposite. Tucson is surrounded by desert. Cactus, mesquite trees and sagebrush makes up most of it. There are mountains surrounding the city, one being over 9000 feet tall. The winters are mild, kind of like spring and the summers are hot and dry. So, with these contrasts, why would they move here?

I was told growing up that it had been suggested by the family doctor that we should move to a drier climate. Apparently, my mother, sister and me had severe asthma and being in Arizona should make it easier. That sounded feasible. However, it was discovered later that the “asthma” excuse had been a lie that my mother fabricated. None of us had ever had it. My dad never accompanied my mother to the doctor and he just took her word for it. As a side note, my mother was a hypochondriac. My whole life I was told by her that she was sick and could die at any moment. Now back to the story.

circle a drI remember we used to visit a couple who lived on our street quite often. As kids, we had to sit on the couch and not move or talk while we were there. I listened to their conversations and realized that they must have known each other before because they talked a lot about Missouri and people I had heard about from there. During the summer before I started fourth grade the gentleman taught me how to play clarinet in preparation to join the school band. I remember that he told me they had lived in Lexington and had known my parents for many years, even before they got married. This couple had moved to Arizona first and bought their home in this subdivision about 6 months before my parents bought our home there. I was thinking maybe they missed their friends and wanted to be near them? Not very likely, at least as far as my dad was concerned. He hated it there.

I don’t think I will ever discover why we “land”ed in Tucson. All of my immediate family are gone now so I have no one to ask. I have never felt a connection to any place or felt like any place was “home’. From the time of my birth until now I have lived in 53 homes in 8 different states. I hope sometime in my life I will land in a place that feels like home!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

8 thoughts on “How We “Land”ed in Arizona ~ 52 Ancestors Week #17

  1. Interesting indeed. I’ve been exploring my Missouri Holtz-Statler line to find out why they moved from St. Louis to the very isolated farm country of Gasconade County and the nicely-named place called Bland.

  2. I am sorry that you didn’t find your idea of home in Tucson. My husband and I were both born in Ohio–from many generations before us in the same place. When we got married, we wanted a change, and so put in for a transfer west with his company. They sent us to Phoenix and we lived in Scottsdale for 2 decades before moving to Tucson (following another job change by my husband.) We never wanted to leave Arizona once we got here, and particularly have loved Tucson for more than 40 years.

  3. Funny, I am the Army version of your story and was born in Arizona. I grew up “around”, but we landed in California for most years (various cities, never one place in Cali). I was lucky to go back to my birthplace for training when I joined the Army, myself. But alas, the Army didn’t allow me to stay. But it was a blissful four months for me. I am in Kentucky now, which is green, moist, and rolling. I want to return to Arizona some day. I miss the arid weather, mountains, and the smell of it after it rains.

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