Robbing or Rocking the Cradle?

Just before Christmas, I found a few quiet minutes to myself and I told myself I was going to spend those very precious moments catching up on emails and being a responsible adult. Yeah right. I don’t think I even passed go as I headed straight to where else? Facebook. On this particular day, I didn’t even get to become engrossed in the lives of my friends. No, I came across Mick Jagger. More specifically, an article announcing the birth of Jagger’s eighth child demanded to be read. If you missed it, let me give you the low down… Good ‘ol Mick, who was seventy-three and his girlfriend (wife?), who was thirty, welcomed a bouncing bundle of joy to this world. No need to adjust your screens or search for your glasses- you read that right. Mick is seventy-three with a new born. This, however, is not what gave me pause… His new baby is two years younger than his GREAT GRAND CHILD.

This disturbed me. I was baffled. And not for the reasons you would automatically assume, either. I wanted to know what this tree would look like. I wanted to know if others had branches like this.I wondered how his grown children and grand children felt about this new addition. I wanted to know if they welcomed the girlfriend/wife with open arms… I mean she is younger than them, afterall…

Faster than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialadocious, I had posted the article to my favorite genealogy sites and invited my dearest friends near and far to sound off.

I remember asking if people felt this kind of relationship was more prevalent then (1800s and earlier) or now (1900s and later). I wanted to know why a young woman would submit to such an older husband. Most of the answers I got were things like financial support or pensions that would outlast the old man’s breathing days. In fact, I learned that the US was still paying out pension plans from the CIVIL WAR. Almost, no one, however, said love and without realizing it, I had begun to tell my own story…

I have been the younger woman. I have been the girlfriend younger than the children. I have had to navigate the very minefields I was questioning. And I did it all for love. Nothing more, nothing less.

But before I could explore this tangent that I found myself on, the dead began tugging at me. I couldn’t remember their names (and honestly I never went and looked for them), but I could remember their story (which resembled Mick Jagger’s more than my own)… For months I tried to find the parents of three children, of whom the census told me, belonged to parents who would have been in their late fifties and early sixties at the birth of the first child in question and nearly seventy at the birth of the youngest questionable child. Prior to reading this article, I was convinced that these children were grandchildren and that it was my duty to find their elusive parents. I asked family members if they had found the missing parents or any proof that the parents had once existed or if they might even be children of one of the children still on record as living at home. I remember during these quests, that these dead people in particular were eerily quiet. Eventually, I let it go, convinced that they would talk when they were good and ready and not a moment before.

It seemed as if Mick Jagger made them want to talk. They didn’t say much, but they did make me question if I had been chasing a story that wasn’t even there. They left me wondering how often we as family historians travel down the rabbit hole only to discover that we created the rabbit hole to begin with and there was nothing really there. How often do we overlook the facts right in front of our faces because they are to outrageous?

Reading the Mick Jagger article gave me reason to reevaluate the authenticity of the stories I am telling, even though I am quite sure that was not the author’s intent to do so. So, congratulations to Mick and his lady and thank you for reminding me that sometimes I only need to tell the story that is there and sometimes I can look at my own life and gain an understanding of the thoughts and feelings of my ancestors in days gone by.

I would love to know if you have ever read something completely unrelated to your genealogy work, but that made you think of ways you could improve your genealogy/family history work. What did you read and how did it enhance the way you do what you do? Thanks for sharing and please give this a like and a share!

See you next time!

THANKSGIVING DAY…

It has been a very long time since the dead have talked to me… Or maybe it has been a really long time since I have taken the time to listen to them when they start speaking. Either way, a long time it has been. Two days ago, Thanksgiving to be exact, the chatter started up loud and clear.

Oddly enough though, I couldn’t really pay attention to the dead and their stories because the living story begged to be told.

SO. Here it is. The living story that the dead are begging me to tell so I can get back to them and THEIR stories…

I searched all over for a picture of a Thanksgiving food fight that I could insert here in order to convey the level of disaster Thanksgiving was for me, but I couldn’t find one (at least not one that clearly defined who I needed to give credit to and thus, I chose none for fear of being searched out by the copyright police).

To be fair, there was no literal food fight and the ‘fight’ was probably only felt by me, but still…

I guess the best place to start is dinner… I got drafted to the adult table. After living 37 years, I made it. Except, that totally isn’t where I wanted to be. I would have much rather have squeezed into a place at the kiddie table with my sister, kids and nephew, but that just wasn’t in the cards for me this year.

Dinner was completely awkward and uncomfortable- FOR ME. My brain (you’ll remember, I have been recovering from a brain injury) decided to play random tricks of reality on me and I found myself making comments on people that were relevant 15 years ago, as opposed to the 1 year ago my brain told me it  had been. I tried to join the conversations going on around me, but no one was having any of that. My brief forays into the conversations were met with barely concealed eye rolls or one word replies, that left little room for me to continue. I tried to interject accomplishments about my kids and myself- all to no avail.

Dinner sucked and I found myself wishing I had stayed home.

After everyone had finished eating and most everyone had left the table, the conversation somehow turned to the ancestors… I perked up. I was ecstatic. This was a conversation I could participate in. After retrieving ‘the books’, I sat down with my phone in hand ready to take notes and share.

But, as I sat listening to the information being passed on, I began to have questions and things weren’t adding up right… So, in a small lull in the conversation, I asked the only question I would be allowed, “how do you know that these people are in our family?” (Some names had been retrieved from the courthouse that have the same sir name as that side of the family and now they were being presented as our ancestors because of their general proximity to where documented ancestors came from. I had theories on these people being in our family, but no proof or documentation, so I genuinely wanted to know how to document these people.) The answer I got was not satisfying. It was vague. It was, “because I knew people who knew first hand.” (This may have been true for people further down on the list of names, but I was speaking of the first few names on the list- of whom no one would personally know, as they were born or lived in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I tried rephrasing my question and another relative was quick to answer, “I get what you are saying and I get what [person] is saying, too. A lot of our history is going to be word of mouth and not written down.” Hmmm. I don’t believe that. And as I am the one who has spent countless hours in courthouses and cemeteries gathering information, I know that there is always something to document a person’s life, existence and connections- sometimes, those things are just very well hidden.

After that, I was shunned from the conversation and accused of disturbing the order of documents (that I had never seen). Documents were pulled out and shown- but not to me. Alas, no one was interested in the things I had gathered or wanted to share…

And that’s how my Thanksgiving went. It was not the time of my life.I probably won’t go back for any more holidays and that’s okay.

There is good coming from my Thanksgiving disaster and that is the dead people started shouting at me again or I started hearing them again or whatever. Last night and into the wee hours of the morning, I was chasing down cousins long dead and they were showing themselves to me. Those names that were thrown about during the aforementioned Thanksgiving dinner are rattling around in my brain, begging to have their fair share of talk time. I can’t wait to dig in and hear the stories they are obviously begging to tell and who knows? Maybe I will eventually find them sitting on a branch in my tree…

And that’s why I talk to dead people…

Yesterday, I was contacted via my Ancestry account by someone who believed we were related because of her DNA results. I have to admit, I was ecstatic. This was the first time someone had reached out to me. I forgot everything I had planned on doing or was supposed to be working on and got right down to business. I wanted to give this lady all the information I could- in the hopes that I would also be gaining a new branch on my tree.I even skipped breakfast!!! Okay, I might have been a bit overly eager and a little to willing to please, but it was a BSO and I had to chase it. I had to.

Anyway, after I had gathered the requested information and composed it in a nice and tidy Ancestry message, along with some well placed questions of my own, I sat back and began to look for this lady and her tree to try and get a head start on the awesomeness I was sure she would be providing me. I quickly became irritated because she did NOT have a tree! After searching Ancestry repeatedly and coming up with nothing- not even that pesky message displayed when people have private trees. (I subsequently learned that members with private trees now have the option to keep their tree entirely hidden- boo,hiss,boo- but that did nothing to quell my agitation.)

I expected that this lady would respond to my return message almost immediately, just like I did with her. Yeah, that didn’t really happen either. So, now I was really annoyed. Of course I had to get consolation from one of the genie groups I belong to on Facebook; which of course kept me engaged and further distracted from whatever it was I was supposed to be doing…

Finally, my ‘diligent’ waiting was rewarded with a response of sorts… Whoever said “good things come to those who wait” has obviously never been a genealogist. When I was finally able to decipher this seemingly encrypted message, I had a not so excellent taste in my mouth. Admittedly, I have not taken the DNA test, so I am completely naive to how it works. All I knew was this lady’s DNA results told her she was related to this person in my tree. Here is where I began to feel not so confident in what she was telling me. First, the connection in question is LONG dead. Like she was born in the mid 1800s, so to my ignorant to DNA self, I want to know how you are coming up with this supposed link.

More waiting for another response.

This one was a bit easier to decode. She began to tell me information about the people in her tree, whom she believed to be the same people in my tree. Her Lucinda was born in the early 1800’s (around the same time my Lucinda’s mother was born)… She was also a slave in Tennessee, on the plantation of someone having the same sir name as Lucinda… It was clear to me that they were not the same people, as my Lucinda and her family came from Maryland and to date, have not been found to have been a slave. The only thing this lady had going for her, was the name Lucinda and her father and brother’s name and of course the sir name…

But, she as still trying to convince me that we are some how, some way connected because DNA said so. She finally admitted that she had found me through a cousin’s tree and that was why she had contacted me and that those names and apparently generation is where the DNA said there should be a match.

I couldn’t tell her that my cousin was adopted and that quite possibly there was a match with him because of that, because that of course is not my place to discuss…

You may be wondering why I titled this entry the way I did, as I have done nothing but talk about a conversation with a living, breathing person. Well, you see, my tree is public. Anyone can view it. Anyone can see all of my dead and gone. Even as I am in the midst of separating my father’s side from my mother’s side into two separate trees, it is still public. And ALL OF THE INFORMATION I gave to her, she could have gotten herself. There was no need to contact me and throw me this bone that I spent the better part of the day chasing. (Okay, I could have done other things whilst awaiting her replies, but seriously, can you walk away that easily from your tree opened in front of you, with the possibility of new information coming to you? Yeah, I think not. So, don’t judge me.) I wasted my whole day chasing this BSO… and it turned out to be fool’s gold.

At least when the dead people talk to me, they lead me to an interesting something or another- even if I have to go around the mulberry bush three times, through the woods and to the bottom of the sea to find it.

In the future, I hope people will contact me again. After all, that is why my tree is public. Let’s just agree to not force the square beg into this triangle piece- okay?

Thanks for reading this entry! I would love to hear about the first time you were contacted by someone claiming to be connected to you. How was that experience for you? Or have you ever willingly allowed yourself to be distracted with your genealogy work and it turned out to be a bust? Tell me about it in the comments. And as always, don’t forget to like and share!

 

Come Out, come out wherever you are!

Jackson Harbert JrWe have all shouted those words at some point. They usually come when you are playing a rousing game of hide and seek and you are ‘it’ and you have given up your search of hiders… Or maybe, you’ve said them as a parent looking for your all to quiet children. I can recall saying these words in both situations. However. I never thought I would be saying them to a dead soldier.

That’s right. After weeks and weeks (sixteen, to be exact) of life keeping me to busy to talk with the dead or hear them when they were speaking or even check in on them and see how they were doing, I found myself uttering these words to a not so long dead relative….

His name is Jackson Harbert, Jr. Born 23 January 1914. Died 29 December 1989.

But before I get into this any further, I guess you need some back story information, right? Well, listen up kiddos because here it is. When I was twelve and many moons before I would become addicted to this drug called ‘genealogy’, a.k.a ‘family history’, my dad died. In 2005 and still before the moon would rise on my addiction, his father (my grandfather) died. And finally, a mere four months before my ‘awakening’ his ONLY sister would join them. His mother- my grandmother, still enjoys life on this side, however she has absolutely no interest in aiding and abetting me in this endeavor and I am told there may be two aunts (one from each side of his family) still walking and talking among us. But I have never met them and they wouldn’t know me if we stood right next to each other in the street. The point is, researching anything on my dad’s side of the family is hard on normal days and virtually impossible on nearly every other day.

So, last week, I finally managed to grab a few minutes and someone in my dad’s line had started whispering to me. And so it began. I started looking over the Johnson tree and its all to few branches. After some minutes or maybe even sixty of them passed, it finally jumped off the page and into my lap. Jackson Harbert, my 2x great-uncle, was a SENIOR. That means he had to have a son! By this time, the faint whispers had become a bit more audible and even more pressing. I was being encouraged to keep looking and to not stop. So, of course, I kept at it. I did finally find my 1st cousin, 2x removed in a Find A Grave record.

That was the ONLY thing I found. But, I learned a lot… For example, He was a WWII veteran. He died in 1989 and he was buried in Charlottesville, Virginia.Now, this is about the time my cousin decided to hide and when I started whispering, “come out, come out wherever you are”.

When I first sat down to take my few precious moments to do some investigating, it was approximately 9:3-pm. A quick glance at the clock told me it was going on 4am. My cousin was still playing this ridiculous game of hide and seek. By now, I was half begging and half screaming those infamous words, “come out, come out wherever you are”. He did not come out and I had to face a full day without any sleep and without the satisfaction of finding the hider…

I thought I had struck gold when one of my friends and non-genealogy enthusiast actually VOLUNTEERED to go to the cemetery and do some sleuthing for me. She agreed to go to the office and ‘badger’ them for the requested information. I just knew I was going to end the day victor of this hide and seek game… Do I even need to tell you that that’s not what happened? Must I tell you that there was no office or office person or anything/anyone of which answers could be extracted from?

My cousin, who had started this game, was mocking me. And he continued to taunt me, whispering in the dark of night, “come and find me. If you can.” I really wanted to wring his neck. I eventually took my frustrations to Facebook, where wonder of wonders, I was thrown a bone. Someone found his wife. I’m not sure how and wasn’t given a clear answer when I asked, so I was very leery of the information I had been given… A quick run to Ancestry proved fruitless, which is unsurprising, because according to this new ‘source’, she is quite possibly NOT pushing up daisies. I was even given a possible address to contact her. As of right now, I haven’t taken the plunge to contact  But her… But, I will.

It would be great if I could say this is where this thrilling game of hide and seek came to an end, but no. It appears that Jackson Harbert, Jr. has invited someone else to play… Carrie Oliphant has decided to play. I have no idea who Carrie is or how she fits into this tree or if she even is a part of this tree- all I know, is that she died and Jackson was the executive of her estate. (January 17, 1943. Waxahachie Daily Light from Waxahachie, Texas · Page 4)

So, here I go again… come out, come out wherever you are…

 

Big thanks to my Genealogy Chit Chat Family and all of my ‘sources’ within the group. And an especially big thank you to Sj- a super detective. Thank you to all of you who will read this and jump right in to help me solve this mystery- let me know if you need more info 🙂

 

Haunted by the Junk Drawer

https://i1.wp.com/www.amyvolk.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/junk-drawer-pattywest-blogspot.jpg

There is absolutely no denying it. We all have one. And more times than we will ever admit, we have wondered where something was only to remember that it (whatever it is) is in the junk drawer and in the junk drawer is where it will stay, because who really has the time or inclination to go searching through the junk drawer? If you’re anything like me (and I’m pretty sure you are), you have duplicates of things simply because you’d rather not waste valuable time ‘cleaning’ the junk drawer… Am I right or am I right? Junk drawers come in all shapes and sizes, but for me and my dead people, it is Ancestry’s shoe box and the yellow spiral notebook. If I am out ‘in the field’ any questionable tidbits or I want to look into this further things get jotted down in the yellow spiral notebook and if I am browsing through Ancestry’s bazillion records and I come across a this might be so and so document it gets tossed into the shoe box. There’s no shame in my game and I will readily admit that once something goes in, it almost NEVER comes back out- no matter how good my good intentions may be.

Clearly, my junk drawers could use some love, affection and attention. I keep telling myself that one of these days I need to make it my weekend project- especially now that winter is upon us and I won’t be doing a whole lot of outdoor exploring any time soon. Except, I always find something else to do…

That’s when my dead people came to the rescue. Or rather they became extremely bothersome, like they don’t know what it’s like to have things to do or something. Anywho… My dead people have been extremely quiet as of late- I think they were offended by something I said- and I had nearly given up hope that I would ever hear from them again, until about two or three weeks ago.

Are you familiar with the Freedman’s Bureau? (I really, really hope so, otherwise I am not entirely sure I want us to continue in this friendship…) I was checking my email (read deleting all the junk mail) when I came across an email from what I thought was The Freedman’s Bureau. I started shaking from excitement. (I know this particular bureau is no longer in existence and has been disbanded for quite sometime. I get it. However, remember brain injury. And that sometimes makes me read things that words don’t actually say.) I didn’t even open it. I was very diligent in continuing with the task at hand and getting rid of all those pesky emails. Then I sat down to see what kind of interesting documents or clues or what have you there would be. I opened the email. I didn’t understand what was happening. Why was the Freedman’s Bureau sending me information on debt? Was one of my ancestors in debt and they (I can’t even begin to tell you who I thought they were) had found these debtor records? I clicked out of the email. Reread the sender information. Freedman’s Bureau. I clicked back into  the email. Now my brain decided to slowly start working again… Freedom Debt Relief. Umm, what? I really thought this was my sister’s idea of a sick joke or something, so I clicked out of the email again. Ohhhh. Can you just imagine the look of disappointment on my face as realization dawned that I had misread things? Yeah, I wish I could have seen it too. Once my dismay ebbed. I determined that it was the dead people back from where ever and they had been talking to me again. Okay I need to search the Freedman’s Bureau of records. But for who? It would have been to much like right for them to give me a name along with their hint, you know? But, I was in the middle of things and so I just scribbled a quick note in- you guessed it- the yellow spiral notebook.

Days later, my dead people upped the ante. I was asleep and I dreamed that a Union Civil War Soldier was staring at me through the sliding glass door. This dream was so intense, I woke up and was terrified that someone was looking through the blind covered glass doors. It was so real, I could almost make out the name or whatever those scratch marks on the side of his Union cap said. Almost. Alright this was confirmation that my dead people weren’t mad at me anymore. Again, I made a quick note in the infamous yellow spiral notebook. After all, I had a pleasant little nap to get back to…

Later that same night, I had another dream. This time a baby was playing on my back while I slept in the dream. Again, it felt real, extremely real. So real that I woke up calling my daughter’s name to ask her why she had put the baby on my back while I was asleep. Her name became stuck on the tip of my tongue, as I realized that the baby was actually in his crib and sound asleep. Again in it went into the yellow spiral notebook, to keep the others before it company.

If you’re keeping track, this is the run down of things thus far- I need to go to the Freeman’s Bureau and see what that will turn up, I needed to look more closely at any male relatives that served in the Civil War and someone had a baby that didn’t live, I assume.

Then last night came the incessant tapping at my widow. It was nerve wracking. It was terrible, really. Because unless someone was playing a truly fantastic game of ‘Knock, Knock Ginger’ (I didn’t grow up calling it Ginger, but I am grown up now and Ginger sounds so much nicer), then there was no one there. And then my toilet flushed- all by itself. That’s when I called the girl-child’s daddy.

I get it. My dead people missed me and they are wanting me to find them. In the junk drawer… oh boy.

Anyway, I am rambling all over the place, when really all I needed to have said was “check your junk drawer people”- but that would have been boring and there is already enough of that in the world, don’t you think? Well, that’s what I will be doing ALL DAY on Saturday and Sunday too- if I can sneak away. You should join me! I know you have a junk drawer- but have you gone through it recently? What kind of things did you turn up? I am eager to hear your success stories (and your failures- if you must). Leave me your comments and don’t forget to like and share!

It’s Rag Time!

A few weeks ago, I underwent a woman’s surgery, the result of which was supposed to at best relieve me of all my womanly duties and at worst make my monthly contributions to womanhood minimal and virtually pain free. At this moment, I think I have excellent cause to NOT disburse any money to anyone involved in this process.

So, here I sit at 3 of the clock in the morning, wide awake. On the plus side, my mind has had ample time to wander. And of course it veers in the direction of the dead…

I got to thinking about how being a woman in America’s early years really worked. I should warn you- it is not a pretty sight and/or thought.

How does a handful of dirt or mulch feel? What about rabbit fur, sheep wool or cotton? Yep. They used all of tthat. Those things would be fashioned into something like what today’s pads look like and some women, who were good with herbs and plants would mix different things into the dirt or wood chips to detract from the smell of things and then when the need arose to change this makeshift monthly aid, they would just toss them into the back of the fire. Can you imagine what that made the room being heated smelled like? And what did they do if it was summer and no fire was needed? The  things that make me go hmm. I am not sure how these primitive pads were used, as the common under garments we know of  today were unheard of in young America back then.  I am certain that’s not the worst of it.

I don’t know where I came up with the notion, but I always believed that woman, well white woman anyway, took to their beds for the duration called to entertain their monthly friend. However, in the little research I did on the topic, I learned that women carried on as normal, entertaining and everything- some of them with their friend grabbing tightly to their legs and some with old rags bundled and held some how in their most womanly places. That sounds like so much fun, doesn’t it?

Oh, but it gets better. And by better, I mean worse. Much worse. If you were living a life of servitude or enslaved and you were the washer woman, you were responsible for washing these rags. And let me just remind you that there was no modern washing machine. And you generally had to wash these delicates repeatedly as it was modern superstition that using a rag that had not been cleaned allowed the devil to come into you.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I am so very thankful to have been born in the time that I have been. They would have had to let me take leave to my chambers, wherever they were for no less than 48 hours before my visitor arrived to 48 hours after he had left or killed me on the spot for my indignant attitude.

And then 1888 happened. Kotex happened upon the scene with their disposable products made from wood pulp or Cellucotton. (Wikipedia) You would think this to be a joyous and happy occasion for  women all across America. It wasn’t. Apparently, women carried on with their make shift beds for those overnight guests- if they allowed their guests to even rest in a bed at all. Truthfully, Kotex was to expensive and the average woman could not afford it.

Somewhere along the lines, a sanitary belt came into play, but from what I’ve read, you could take it or leave it. In the 1970s (thank the good Lord, above) maxi pads with adhesive strips came along. There was even a brief show of something called a menstrual cup (the name alone scared me so, I couldn’t even bare the thought of looking this little gem up). But things didn’t really evolve into what they are now until the mid to late 80s. Which, if you ask me is a scary thought. We could put men on the moon, but we couldn’t provide comfort to ladies and their private display of the essence of a woman? But anyway, I am glad someone got the good sense to make some changes when they did, because in the coming decade, I would begin entertaining. And we already know where I stand on that issue, don’t we?

I guess, maybe I will send those people some money after all. They didn’t really deliver on what they said, but they did give me a great reason and way for my brain to wander… Eh… The jury is still out on that one.

I hope you enjoyed reading my little commentary on this, a woman’s best friend. I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and whatever else you would like to share! Leave me a comment and don’t forget to like and share!

 

For this one, I did have to do a little investigating. So here are all the sites I made my way to or through.

http://www.bustle.com/article/46404-i-wore-an-old-fashioned-sanitary-belt-for-my-entire-period-and-here-are-the-gory-details

en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/sanitary_napkin

http://www.femmeinternational.org/the-blog/the-history-of-the-sanitary-pad

 

Broken Branches

Go outside and look around at all the trees and bushes you see. I guarantee that you will see some broken branches, some twigs that have snapped off and even some limbs that look like they might fall with the next storm or strong gust of wind…

The same is true for our family trees- they just might not be as obvious to spot, nor as easy to talk about. The broken branches in our trees come in all forms, much like those you see on physical trees. For me and my tree these broken branches are found in the form of mental illness.

Understand that by no means am I saying that the people in my family tree, who have dealt or are dealing with mental illness are broken. As you read further, you will see that they are, in fact, some of the strongest parts of my tree- the roots, even, metaphorically speaking.

I have to admit that this will be one of, if not the hardest thing I have ever written, because it is personal and it is extremely close to home and yet, I have to get it out. I am not the only one with broken branches…

You’ll remember I started my journey into genealogy as a way to occupy my mind, as I was (and continue) healing from a head injury. You may also recall that what sucked me into family history, for real, was Horace- who was struck by a train, while walking to visit his daughter in the hospital… Horace happens to also be the first (of what will be many) broken branches in my tree.

I was having a relatively good brain day and my Nana had come to visit. I was excited to show her all the work I had accomplished on our family tree and I had questions, too. My main question was about Horace. I wanted to know who he was visiting in the hospital. I wanted to know what kind of man he was (especially since the newspaper had called him ‘beloved colored man’ and she was the one to ask, because Horace was her grandfather).

“I don’t know” was the response I got as we sat on the couch together. I didn’t understand how she would not know what kind of man her grandfather was. Sure, he died two years before she was born, but my children know about their grandfather, my dad, who went into the light when I was still a mere child and we all know about my great aunt and uncles, Nana’s sister and brother, who went on the great migration years (maybe ions) ago… So, why would she not know about her own grandfather. It didn’t make any sense to me and so I began probing further. Sometimes, having had a head injury works to my advantage, because I am practically given carte blanche when it comes to being blunt and no one ever considers it rude, so on that day I pushed the envelope. “Nana. you always tell us about how much family is important and that we need to always know where we come from and you don’t even know where you came from. You have to know something. Otherwise, you are just being a hypocrite.” I didn’t see it then, but as I am remembering that day, I can clearly see the hurt that stung my Nana’s eyes- or maybe, that is just the way my brain is choosing to remember things and interjecting how I would have felt onto her. I’m honestly not sure…

“My mother never really knew her father. He went away when she was a young girl.” My Nana explained to me, with so much patience and love and I still didn’t understand. I remember asking her what she meant by that and that what she said next astonished me, but most of all I remember the shut down that happened almost immediately after the next words out of her mouth… “He was sick. Mentally. And when my mom was young he was in the state hospital.” Because even I could see that there would be no more discussing this, I let it go- but not before dashing to my room to write myself a quick note to quietly look into this further.

After doing some research into the matter, I came to understand that dear Horace was in the state hospital very shortly after the Civil War. I have also done enough digging to have enough information to reasonably believe that Horace’s parents were enslaved and that Horace, himself, was either bought as a slave by a BLACK woman named Sally (possibly his own aunt) and continued to be labeled ‘slave’ or was made free after Sally purchased him. At any rate, it is Sally who raised him. It is with Sally that he is listed on the Census until 1870, when he begins to be listed with his parents. That is a lot. Especially for a child. So, in my own mind, I concluded that Horace had every reason to be in a mental institution. I never questioned what happened to lead him there. I decided I would not look further into it.

This worked well, until I began discovering other broken branches. All in my grandmother’s line. They were everywhere. Distant cousins, close cousins (here I begin to use the term ‘cousins’ in a very loose fashion, as not to disclose the actual relationship between myself and any living relative, who suffers and struggles with mental illness currently). These broken branches were found so frequently- it was mind boggling. And it became obvious that mental illness can be inherited and passed down the line. I think the old people refer to this as generational curses and they couldn’t be more spot on.

I started to take a more in depth look at all this brokenness. It became easier to spot the possible moment of when the break occurred in the midst of all the documents, stories and information I had gathered. It was murky waters for sure. It was painful, because it made me look at my own life in a not so positive manner. It was depressing and it hurt. My head injury stems from one of these broken branches- a real life snapping point for this cousin and I just happened to be underneath of the falling pieces. I have never blamed this cousin for this breaking. I will never blame this cousin for the breaking. Sure, I’d had anger, but isn’t that to be expected? But, here I was getting angry all over again and this time, I wasn’t angry at the cousin. I was angry with the tree itself.

Having broken branches has become such a stigma, a great thing to be kept hidden and secret, that I wasn’t prepared for the falling pieces. And, I’m not just talking about this cousin. I had to look at my own life… My dad died when I was 12 and my behaviors and actions that followed were horrendous. I spiraled into a deep depression and hatred of self. I was locked in a mental hospital for two weeks. I had no idea why I was doing the things I had done or said. Some doctors said I was grieving and we all grieve differently, while others were quick to label me as bi polar and others still repeatedly said I was a bad apple. But, what if my family had shared the stories and the histories of all these broken branches? As I grew into young adulthood, I fell in love and got married, but I was so ashamed of my thoughts, I didn’t know how to talk to him or trust his love. At times, I couldn’t bring myself to even crawl out of bed and so there I stayed. The way my home looked at times was an embarrassment and I’m sure a thread of the discord we faced. Eventually, we divorced and went our separate ways, but after discovering all of the broken branches, I wonder if things might have been different- if I’d only known what I was up against, instead of allowing me to think I was an isolated incident, wrapped tightly into this bubble of space and shoved to the back of the closet.

I remembered another cousin who seemingly snapped and meta morphed into a completely different person and tried to beat her child and infant grandchild into nonexistence and then days later, when the child and grandchild were placed into a domestic safe house, she believed and acted as if she had done nothing wrong. Would that outcome have been different? Would there have been such a strain on the family relationship, if we had all known about the broken branches?

Even more recent than that, I have had to watch one cousin struggle with their broken branch, which resulted in a baby being born and taken. I have had to watch the fight against governmental powers that be to bring this baby home and out of a system designed for children who are abused, neglected or all around unwanted and all because not one person ever spoke up and said beware of the broken branches.

And that’s the point of this diatribe, isn’t it? No one ever spoke up. No one ever bothered to connect the dots that were sitting there, numbered and everything, for all to see- if  they had just bothered to look. Everyone was so quick to clean up the mess, that they forgot to post the highway sign, ‘Beware of Falling Branches’. If they had, at least we would have been looking up. Not so much ready to point a finger at the slightest change in wind, but ever ready to jump in and say, “you are not alone.” Those four words can make huge change and have tremendous impact. Yet, no one (not in my tree or yours) attempts to calm the storm before it has a chance to cause the broken branches. This alone, is why I believe those broken branches are some of the strongest in our trees, because they whether it without any help or comfort from others.

BUT. I am breaking the cycle. I am pulling back the shade. And I say to those broken branches, “you are not alone. We will get past this. You can talk to me and most importantly, you can count on me.”

What’s In A Name? Ephraim.

When I woke up this morning, I made myself a promise. I was going to pick one name from my tree and I was going to search every available record for that name and that name only. There would be no squirrels to chase or bright shinny objects for me to play with today. Time is valuable and if I am truly serious about wanting to put a Family History Book together and have ready for publishing by Christmas time, then I have to be serious about my work and more so about my time. This is the lecture type pep talk I gave myself as I was working on the elephant set before me. I gave strict instructions to the dead people that they were not to bombard my mind with a thousand thoughts that would send me on a zillion wild goose chases, which undoubtedly, would leave me miles from where I started with nothing to show for a day’s work, except callouses on the pads of my fingers from having to press so many keys for such a long time. And guess what? They listened. Or maybe I just figured out how to successfully ignore them… Yeah right.

Anyway, I decided that I would open my Family Tree and I would focus on whatever name came up. (I guess this would also the last person to have lead me on one of the above mentioned detours, but like I said, there would be no strolling off the paths and into the gardens today.) It was time to get to work and Ephraim it would be.

Ephraim, born in 1845, is my 2x great grandfather, on my granddaddy’s side of the family. I thought this would be an easy search through the available online records (as I surely was not venturing into any place beyond the warmth and comfort of my own front door, because you know, snow and all…) because how common a name could Ephraim really be. I mean, it’s Ephraim, not like Betty or James or Virginia or any other of those names that show up repeatedly in my tree of ancestors. As I began my search, I quickly realized how wrong my thinking had been. Apparently, Ephraim was very popular name. But I determinedly plotted onward, continuing on the course I had set for myself.

Ephraim. What did I really want to know about him? I wasn’t sure. I guess whatever I didn’t already know- which left a whole lot more to learn. Ahh, land records. What better place to start. I know he was born in King William, Virginia and at some point he up and moved his family to Beverly (okay Stafford, but Beverly sounds so much more enticing and alluring, doesn’t it?) Anyway, northward migration happened. The Aquia District of Stafford, Virginia. But did he own land or was it more likely that he worked on the land of someone else? Oh, goodness. I couldn’t even remember what the census said he did. Had I even found him in the Census or had I plucked his name from some other equally as important historical document? Clearly, Ephraim had been an excellent choice. With a quick glance of the records, I realized that I had found dear Ephraim in the 1880 Census and he was working on a farm. He was not a land owner. Does this mean he was a sharecropper?

Well, I had some basic questions in mind and so I was ready to really dig in. And just as I was getting started, there it was. A whisper urging me off the beaten path. I am sure it was Ephraim talking to me. Why were there so many people named Ephraim? I mean, why? I tried to stay the course, I really did. But then I absolutely had to know. What did Ephraim mean. So, there I went. Trodding through the muck to play with that squirrel way off in the distance. According to http://www.sheknows.com/baby-names/name/ephraim, “Ephraim is a Hebrew baby name. In Hebrew the meaning of the name Ephraim is Fruitful; Famous bearer; one of the Biblical Old Testament Joseph’s sons.” Whoa. I wonder if my 3x great grandparents know this when they picked such a strong name? As I can find no evidence of him having siblings, had his parents given him such a lofty name so that they could heap all of their dreams, passions and wants upon his head? And incidentally, Ephraim was fruitful and he multiplied, having eight known children.

I wonder did Ehpraim’s parents believe in God? Was faith a part of his and their everyday life? Glancing down the line, I saw that it was composed of may Reverends, Pastors and Preachers. Could this mean that indeed, Ephraim’s parents passed a love of Christ down to him. I feel strongly that this had to be the case. As I am typing these words on the paper, I am under a powerful influence. This could have been the start to what would be my own personal Christian love walk…

And even though I didn’t really gather as much information on Ehpraim as I had hoped, I am glad he nudged me in the direction of searching his name, because today I found more than just a name on a page. Today, I just may have found an heirloom and it comes in the form of such a strong impassable name. And based on the man, I call Granddaddy, I am certain that Ephraim was all his name said he would be and then some. Today, I am proud to be a descendant of Ephraim and it doesn’t seem like such a silly or weird name anymore.

Have you ever discovered a name that at fist you thought was silly or maybe even weird and then you learned that it was so much more than that?

 

 

 

 

What Happened to My Mom???

In the last couple of years, (since I have had kids of my own, really) I have often wondered, what happened to my mom… It seems as if I am the only one of my siblings who is worried, but I am serious. There is something wrong with my mother.

When I was growing up, my mom was this strict, no nonsense woman. You didn’t back talk her. She didn’t curse and she was always proper. Don’t get me wrong, my mom was great. Awesome, in fact. She still is all of those things, but something isn’t quite right. It’s off…

We went shopping and had lunch out as kids. Okay, we still do that as adults, but I am telling you, there is something wrong with my mom. I have even thought about taking her to the doctor. But after my own doctor laughed for ten minutes straight in my face- after I mentioned to him my concern- I decided against it, for now. But that doesn’t mean I think there isn’t anything wrong with  my mother. It just means I am rethinking my approach to this. Because it is a HUGE problem and I am highly concerned about my mom.

Take for example, a younger me, maybe about 6 or 7 years old… I remember it, like it was yesterday (and honestly, it wasn’t THAT long ago). It was a summer evening and it was dinner time. My dad had promised us that we would go for ice cream at Carl’s (if you have never been there, you MUST go. I mean, it is worth a flight around the world and a hour drive from the airport to have Carl’s. I lie to you not.) after dinner and then we would all go swimming in the dark. (We had a pool in the backyard, but night time swimming was a rare and extremely special treat.) But, I am getting off track. It was dinner time. I can’t tell you everything we had for dinner, but I can tell you spinach went with it. I am not now, nor have I ever been Popeye. I hate spinach. I dislike it so much that I don’t even want to walk by it in the grocery store. It can’t even be described as a love-hate relationship. It is a relationship of pure hate, disgust and any other word you can think of that means to care not in a strong way. Yep. That’s me and spinach. But there it was; spinach on my plate. In my little mind, I thought that certainly it was a mistake that it had ended up on MY plate. It had to be. My mom knew then and knows now about my relationship with spinach. I remember eating everything around the spinach. After which, I was ready to go. I hopped up from the table, ready to go get some ice cream, when I heard my mother’s voice… “Kimberly, come back and finish your dinner.” I walked slowly back into the kitchen, where my mom sat and with what I can only imagine was a solemn and innocent look, I must have said something along the lines of, “I did”. Maybe I said it in a cheeky way (okay, I probably did, because cheeky should have been my name), but next thing I know, I was sitting at the table while my dad, sister and brother went to Carl’s. Surely, they would be bringing me something back, right? Nope. Not at all. When they came back home those goody two shoes got to go swimming in the dark. And where was I? Still sitting at the kitchen table with a now cold plate of spinach for company. If memory serves me correctly, I fell asleep at that table- with the spinach sitting right there. Eventually, my mom came in and told me to go to bed. I think I was so relieved that I wouldn’t be forced to deal with that spinach anymore that I wasn’t even hurt about missing Carl’s or night time swimming anymore. When I woke up the next morning, my mom was fixing pancakes and other delicious breakfast foods. Yum. But when it was time to eat, you know what she put in front of me? That darn plate of spinach!!!! She seriously wanted me to eat the spinach and I seriously was not going to. It was a game of wills, that I am sure starvation would have made me lose- if fate (well, my dad, really) hadn’t intervened.

Now take my own daughter and my mother. It’s dinner time. My daughter comes to the table. “Momma J (that’s what she calls my mom, who refuses to be a grandmother- 4 grand kids in and 1 great grand) I don’t like this.” says that girl of mine. Oh boy, I think to myself. Here it comes. She is finally going to know what I mean when I say things like you have no idea how good you have it compared to when I was your age. My mom is going to lay into her. A part of me is a bit excited. I want to see my mom in action and not against me (for once). My mom opens her mouth. I sit at the edge of my seat. My eyes frantically move between my child and my mother. My dear child is going to get knocked out (completely figuratively) of her chair. She will not know what hit her. “Oh you don’t like this? Well, what would you like to eat then, my dear?” I am the one who has been knocked into the floor. Is she serious? Has this really just happened? I have to rub my eyes in disbelief, as I hear my daughter name some food or another and then watch my mom fix the requested food item.

And this is when I began to realize that there was something wrong with my mother. There had to be. Maybe aliens have taken her captive and this is a replacement figure head. Maybe these are the early stages of senility. A trip to the doctor is definitely in order.

To further complicate matters, my mother now issues threats of punishments to come and yet they are NEVER fulfilled. Who is this woman? What has happened to my mom? This is truly a horrible thing. Clearly, my mother has lost or is loosing her mind. Like I said earlier, as of right now, I am  the only one who sees this. So, maybe, there is more convincing to do…

Another story then. As you already know, swimming was a major part of our lives. We, my whole family, were born fish (possibly in another life, perhaps). The corner of our back deck extended just so over the pool and we found great excitement and thrill climbing to the top railing of said deck and plummeting to the pool below. My father tried it. My sister tried it. My brother tried it. My friends tried it. Everyone tried it. Again and again. Everyone, that is, except my mom. She said she was to old to be breaking bones pulling stunts like that. No one ever said anything, because she was a nurse and the sensible care taker and she was probably right, after all. Now fast forward to present day. Thanksgiving to be exact…12232833_1096482210364526_4997452523434999089_o

This is my mother. And yes. She is riding a Hover board. I am definitely, extremely concerned. I do not know what happened to my mom. She must be overcome with some illness that has yet to be discovered- or something.

The truth is, my mom is just living life and she is enjoying every moment of it. But, in truth, there is a huge difference between the woman that raised me and the woman I have come to know now, as an adult. I can only hope to be as vibrant and fun as my mom when I am a grown up.

So, am I the only one who knows there is something wrong with my mom? I’m not. Am I? Please help me with this. I know there are others out there. We must band together. Let’s start here. Share your stories of discovering the ugly truth about your mom or dad’s ‘sickness’. I would love to hear them!

The BEST Snow EVER.

For many of us along the East Coast, this weekend has shown near record snow falls. We have seen children sledding, laughing and giggling all the while and when their play is done, they have made their way inside and with red cheeks, they have guzzled hot chocolate. Most can be heard exclaiming, that this was the best snow ever!

Hmmm… Was it really? If you ask most adults, they will tell you in a heart beat, that it was pretty when it was coming down and they were glad for the extended weekend- BUT they are ready for it to be gone, because, you know there is this thing called ‘adulting’ in which being able to get out of parking lots and driveways to head to work plays a pretty important (okay, major) part in everyday life.

All of this got me thinking about the dead. Surprisingly, they have been quite quiet during all of this pondering, thus leaving me to my own imaginations and devices… Oh boy.

On January 27, 1772, snow began to fall around the home of my 5x great grandfather, William D. Massey (1743-1815). He was 29 years of age. He had not yet found his wife or began his family. As of yet, I have not discovered his means of employment, but I believe he had to be a man of some means as his son, Lewis owned slaves and thus it is presumed that he also owned slaves. Anyway, it begins to snow. I wonder if he or his family thought or realized that this snow was to be different than others past or were they aware that a blizzard was a comin’? As the day grew longer and the snow grew heavier, what were the thoughts going through his mind? Did he still live at home with his parents or did he make plans to check up on them? Did he have younger siblings or older siblings with children that were anxious to frolic in the snow? Were these imagined children even allowed to romp in the snow and build snowmen or make snow angels or have snowball fights amongst their friends? How would the house have prepared for the snow? Would the women (or the slaves) have cooked up mounds of food in preparation for the coming weather?

It continued to snow until the evening of January 28. It was a record snow (as recorded in both Washington and Jefferson’s diaries) of 36 inches! We had a mere 18 inches and EVERYTHING came to a complete standstill. Did life come to a halt as it did presently? And by life, did that include the slaves? How did these ancestors of mine make it through with their sanity intact? I am sure they sang and enjoyed music and played chess and read books and had their needle point, but… cabin fever has to set in at some point, right? I mean, I for one, have banned Frozen and all her companions and it has only been 4 days… and the snow isn’t really going anywhere. I absolutely must know how they managed and yet, I haven’t a clue…

Another January, another storm rages upon the home of my ancestors. It is 1857 and it is the 18th. The storm will come to be called, “The Cold Storm” and temperatures fell nearly to 0 degrees and it will last for at least two days, followed by a reinforcement storm days later for three more days. My 2x great grandmother, Lucy Lilly Chambers is 7 years old. She, along with her parents (no known siblings to date) are black. I am certain they were not afforded the same creature comforts William had. Does this also mean that she did not suffer the same restrictions of the women of his era? Was she, at 7 allowed to run through the snow? Did her mother bundle her up in layers and shoo her outside, ‘to get some fresh air’ much like I have found myself saying this weekend? What was her home like? Surely, this family didn’t have anyone cooking meals for them, so how did they endure these horrid temperatures? Did neighboring families come together and enjoy the company of each other for the duration of the storm? I do not know what kind of home they had, but I imagine it to be a one or two room building (kind of like what is described in Maya Angelou’s ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings) but then I quarry with myself that it wasn’t that extreme, was it? I mean M.A.’s story takes place in the DEEP SOUTH, whereas, my people are in Central Virginia, surely they had it a little better than a shack in Arkansas, right? Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t even think this branch of the ancestors had a mule…

Alright, so I guess the point I am coming to make is that every generation has their own version of ‘the best snow ever’ and the parents in those generations, each have their own versions of Frozen hell to deal with. What are some of your traditions for snowy weather? Do you go outside and play with your children or did you, if they are grown now? Do you make lots of food, just in case the power goes out? Do you raid the grocery stores or do you muddle through with quiet determination? I would love to hear your winter tales and woes! Leave me a note in the comments and tell me all about them! Let’s commiserate together. Also, don’t forget to like and share!

 

For more on Virginia’s weather history, please visit

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/the-snows-of-yesteryear-major-winter-storms-of-the-1700-1800s/2011/12/28/glQA2MdbQP_blog.html

http://www.climatedepot.com/2016/01/22/flashback-1772-dc-largest-snowstorm-ever-noted-36-inches-washingtons-historic-winter-storms-and-cold-waves-national-weather-service/