Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had an affinity for Duke University- particularly Blue Devils basketball program. My husband says it’s due to their successes in the tournament in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s- especially 1991 and 1992 which were the Christian Laettner years. The problem with his theory is that my family had no interest in sports. My dad watched boxing periodically, but even then it was only heavy-weights. We never watched football or baseball so I honestly don’t know where this came from.
Fast forward twenty plus years, and I find it incredibly odd that I’ve had such an attachment to a university I’ve never been to, in a city in which I’ve never lived. (We did live in WInston-Salem for a while when I was little, but that’s not Durham.) I find it incredibly odd because the more research I do, the more I find family attachments to the institution.
Years ago, I met up with a distant cousin when I was visiting Jacksonville. He took me to the Rigsbee family cemetery which is located on Duke University grounds. Why is it there? Because much of the campus was once a farm that belonged to Jesse Rigsbee, my 5th great grandfather.
Last night I was reading about my 3rd great grandfather, Norman Underwood. Underwood was a contractor whose company built some of the buildings for Trinity College. Trinity College is now Duke University. Norman’s daughter, Mary Almina, married Clarence Dixon Rigsbee.
There are streets in Durham named after those two branches of my tree. Matter of fact, Duke University Road was, at one point, named Rigsbee Road. Norman Underwood’s home was built on Rigsbee Road. Where his home once stood is now the site of the University Apartments.
It’s all very strange. Do you think that it’s possible for an attachment to an institution can be somehow passed down through generations? It seems hard to believe that would be possible. But in reality, we knew nothing about my mother’s biological father and his origins before I started genealogy research in the early 2000’s. One can argue that it’s totally random, that I could have followed in the family’s footsteps and cared very little about any sport at all. Or, one might say that I could have picked that particular school because they did so well during that era. Or one could even say that I could have, just as easily and randomly, become a huge fan of Louisville or Kansas. But the fact remains that I’ve been a huge Duke fan for as long as I can remember without knowing all of the family history attached to the school. Weird.
So when the NCAA Tournament starts in a short while, you can be darn sure who I will be rooting for!