A Letter from Hyatt E. Cayton

Hyatt Erastus Cayton

Hyatt Erastus Cayton

My dad, Hyatt Kugler Cayton, and I became interested in collecting family history information in the early 1950’s.  At that time there were no computer programs like exist today to help manage the information.  Information was collected using family group sheets.  Dad was really driven to determine who his ancestors were.

As time passed and the availability of family history programs became available, the job became a lot easier.  As relatively inexpensive tape recording equipment became available, it was a natural desire to want to collect information using tape equipment. Both of us purchased equipment that was suitable for that purpose.

During the early part of the 1960’s we were exchanging tapes with each other.  It was at about that time both of us decided to start recording some of the older folks in our families. When we took vacations we took the recording equipment with us and made recordings of family members whenever the occasion permitted.

Dad was very driven to find out as much information as he could.  At that time he was living in Baltimore, Maryland.  It was a real handicap to be living in Maryland and trying to research family history in North Carolina.  To facilitate his research he began to work with his sister, Anna Fern Cayton Rowe, who also became very invested in the research.  He would obtain information from a professional genealogist in Washington, D. C., and pass it along to his sister and between them they would try to work out the family lineage.

When he was able to make vacation and holiday trips to North Carolina, he would have his tape recorder with him.  He would try to see as many of the older folks as he could and record their conversations.  Unfortunately some of the techniques we used did not lead to the very best recordings possible, ie. seating people around a table and placing the microphone on the table to record the conversation, allowing more than one person to talk at a time, not controlling the extraneous noise as much as possible, not using a very good interview format,  etc.

As time passed we became better at it and made some usable recordings.

Dad continued to make recordings until his death in 1975.  After his death, my sister became the custodian of all his tapes and recording equipment.  It wasn’t until about 2005 that I acquired the recordings.  By the time I acquired the tapes there were no readily available ‘reel-to-reel’ tape recorder/players available.  The cassette system had replaced the older system.  There was no way to play the older style tapes readily available.  It wasn’t until 2010 that I discovered that I had the original recorder that had been used to make the tapes.  With a minor modification, a little maintenance and a new set of batteries I was able to transfer the original recordings onto my computer.  With the recordings on my computer I was able to edit them and convert them to a digital format using an audio program.

The resulting recordings that are presented here are the result of many hours of editing and ‘doctoring’ to get the best audio possible.  I am sure that an audio specialist could have done a better job but one has to use what one has.

I sincerely hope that you will enjoy listening to some of your ancestors.  I find them all extremely interesting and enjoy hearing my father, grandmother, uncles and aunts, and relatives I never got to meet, all long since passed away.

Hyatt Erastus Cayton
Seminole, Oklahoma