“Banister Butt” is a condition that you get after sitting all day on an uncomfortable chair researching the Banister family. I’m still not sure why I do this – tedious hours of trying to find the connections between the family members I never knew. You don’t even have to be a Banister to get “Banister Butt” – you just have to be nosy about who’s-who in Banister World. My wife will come into my office on weekends to ask, “are you in Banister World again?” She just left for work this morning, so there will be no questions asked today – just more questions created as I search for answers about my adoption. I keep hoping that I will come across someone famous, after passing the 3800 mark of names associated with the Jerry Banister Family Tree. I’ve run across the Kitchell branch of the family, perhaps connected with Ted Kitchell of IU basketball fame. I also just yesterday found the name Mellencamp, but could find no direct ties to John Cougar Mellencamp. Plus, I saw the “Smiley” name and it reminded me of my high school nickname. After a while of doing this, you realize that eventually you’re a relative to everyone – that the World is one big happy family!
I ran across this humorous bit of advice: “As you slide down the great banister of life, there are gonna be people that are splinters in your butt. Pick ’em out and slide on.” This is what happens when you Google “Banister Butt” for the appropriate comical image to front your daily post. “And den derz dat sudden stop at the end.” Well, life stops abruptly for all of us in the end, but the Banister family tree will keep growing forever. My butt is certainly sore from sitting, but the only real splinter so far has been my birth mother’s rejection of our obvious connection. I’m sure I’ve been a recent pain in the butt to her, as I’ve reappeared after nearly 67 years.
I approach the Jerry Banister Family Tree as I would any never-ending puzzle. The TV is usually on in the background, as I drift in and out of Banister World. It’s no different than if I was playing Spider Solitare on my other computer, since I tend to enjoy multi-tasking. I haven’t really played any other games after discovering Ancestry.com and first adding my birth name of Jerry Lee Banister to its missing place under my birth mother’s name. She had brothers, sisters, cousins and other children of her own through the years. I started to connect all the dots, using the Ancestry.com genealogy program that provides hints, Facebook connections, and newspaper articles or obituaries. Before I knew it, there were 3800 names staring back at me. Yesterday, for example, I worked on the Findley side of the family. Admittedly, some of it is just guesswork and I’m constantly correcting mistakes, but I keep plugging away at a project that will only end when I come to that abrupt stop.
I’ve only really met one Banister, so with the exception of the Johnston branches of the tree made up of my adopted family, there is left but only complete strangers. Little by little, I’ve talked with and written to other Banisters, but I’ve approached each with caution knowing that there may be concerns about my intentions. In each case, they’ve been understanding and helpful, but it has gotten me no closer to the truth about my birth parents. They are just as curious as I am, but really only one person knows the honest answers, and she doesn’t feel comfortable revealing them. The clock is ticking on both of our lives, but out of respect the next move is up to her.
I guess I should feel fortunate to have two names on the family tree. Most people only get one! In the process of connecting names, I’ve learned that it’s the only thing we leave behind in life. Some of us will leave this earth with buildings and monuments named after us. Grave yards are becoming a thing of the past, as ashes become our only remains. Our place in history is really defined by family and the family tree will forever flourish. Decades from now, a future Banister will see my name on my tree, but not on others, and get a sore butt from trying to figure out the mysterious similarities of Michael Lee Johnston and Jerry Lee Banister.