Three Records; One Life

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In the last week or so, I have been trying to flesh out more of the family of one of my paternal Great-grandfathers, William Henry Taylor.  William Henry, or W H as he is often listed in records, was born in West Virginia.  A few years after marrying my Great-grandmother, they moved to Nebraska.  They moved around over the years, and in earlier blog posts I have detailed the moves.  Eventually, my Great-grandparents settled in Malden, Missouri, where they lived out their remaining years.

What I originally set out to do was to locate the birth record for William Henry Taylor. I knew his birth information from his obituary and his death certificate.  There was a one day discrepancy between the two.  While both showed November, 1857 as the month and year, the obituary listed the day as the 10th, while the death certificate listed it as the 11th.  Which one was correct?

From the death certificate, I also knew the names of both parents:  John C Taylor and Eliza Ann Oldaker.  I hoped I wouldn’t have much difficulty in locating the birth certificate for William Henry.

My research was done on the search site for West Virginia Vital Records.  If you have family from West Virginia, I recommend using this site if you want to find records of birth, marriage, or death.  While most records start in the 1850’s, there are a few counties that go back to the 1790’s, long before West Virginia was declared a state in 1863.

Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped.  W H was proving to be elusive.  He however, was not the only child of John and Eliza Taylor, and I had more success with some of his siblings.

 

These are the names of the children of John and Eliza Taylor in birth order (name in bold type means I have found their birth record:

  • Lydia A (have also seen Phoebe A M listed on a record as an alternate name)
  • Benjamin Ison
  • William Henry
  • Joseph Elza
  • Alonzo F
  • Aaron L
  • Luretta A J (have seen Lunetta R as an alternate name)
  • Margarett J
  • John C

This post deals with the youngest sibling I have found:  John C Taylor.

I believe John C was likely named after his father.  I don’t know much about naming traditions yet, but I have seen a lot of children whose names were a combination of their grandparents names (a hint on Ancestry.com that I haven’t followed yet shows that my 3x Great-grandfather could be Henry Taylor and I believe William could have been an Oldaker based on other hints I’ve received.

I found John’s birth record quite easily:

The year is 1880.  As you can see, the date of birth is April 8th.

The year is 1880. As you can see, the date of birth is April 8th.

Being this was the beginning of a new decade, the US Census was likely to have a record for baby John, and I was not disappointed.  This was the household on June 12, 1880:

 

As you can see, the oldest four children, including my Great-grandfather, are no longer living with their parents.  Notice that both mother and child are listed as ill at the time of the census.  I cannot be sure, but it looks like the word listed there might be dysentry - possibly dysentery.  Dropsy is also listed as an illness for the mother.  The older John's sister Catherine is living with them.  Is she there perhaps to help take care of her sick nephew and his mother?

As you can see, the oldest four children, including my Great-grandfather, are no longer living with their parents. Notice that both mother and child are listed as ill at the time of the census. I cannot be sure, but it looks like the word listed there might be dysentry – possibly dysentery. Dropsy is also listed as an illness for the mother. The older John’s sister Catherine is living with them. Is she there perhaps to help take care of her sick nephew and his mother?

Wikipedia lists dysentery as “an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing blood and mucus in the feces with fever, abdominal pain, and rectal tenesmus (a feeling of incomplete defecation), caused by any kind of infection.”  Dropsy is edema or swelling, and could be caused by any number of factors, including diseases of the kidneys or heart.

Especially for such a young child, dysentery could have serious consequences, as the diarrhea could cause dehydration.  And, unfortunately for young John, that was the case:

The death record says the cause of death was not known.  John died on June 16th, just 4 days after the Census was completed.

The death record says the cause of death was not known. John died on June 16th, just 4 days after the Census was completed.

It is sad to see any life cut short.  For this one life, three records are all that we have to show the brief span of time that young John was on this earth.

 

 

50 Random Thoughts on my 50th Birthday

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There’s not much in the way of genealogy here; just some random musings, some thoughts about my past, and maybe, a hope or two for the future.

  1. I think a lot of people don’t think about the impact that being a victim of a bully can have on your life.  I can still tell you the name of guy from elementary school, two years older than me that would tease me until I cried.  Even to this day, when stressed, I cry easily.
  2. We often hear about how catty high school girls can be to other girls, but in my high school, I never experienced that.  When I was sixteen, I developed alopecia, and for the next ten years, had a bald spot about the size of a quarter on the back of my head.  Rather than give me a hard time about it, the girls in my school watched out for me, and let me know if my hair needed adjusting to cover over that spot.
  3. I still remember the look on the face of the guy at Junior Achievement that thought it was cute to come up to me and say “Hey Baldy!” at the top of his lungs, trying to be funny.  He didn’t think it was so funny when I grabbed him, and slammed him against the wall.  While I do regret getting angry, the look of fear in his eyes said he probably thought twice before being a smart Aleck again.
  4. The words “I’m sorry” or their equivalent can have such a powerful healing effect.  In my senior year in high school, a girl who had teased me in elementary school admitted she and a friend had been mean to me, but that she wished she hadn’t because I was “so nice”.  Just thinking back to that in a moment when I’m not feeling very positive about myself can lift my spirits in a way that no self-affirmation ever could.  And Brenda, if you ever read this, thank you.  I don’t know if you remember saying it, but I still remember, and it still impacts my life in a positive way.
  5. I may not agree with my brother all the time, but he’s the only one in the world who could convince me to beat up a girl two years older than I was because he’d get in trouble for it (he wasn’t allowed to hit girls).
  6. Never, EVER trust a girl who comes up and randomly starts stirring your hot cocoa while you’re standing there, holding the cup.
  7. The ability to fight might come in handy, but the ability to talk your way out of a fight might save your skin.
  8. Never try to push a car by yourself on an icy hill.
  9. Reading aloud is one of the best gifts you can share with a child.  Thanks, Dad!
  10. If I had ever had grandchildren, I always had wanted to say:   “When I was your age, we didn’t have all these fancy games with their 3-D graphics, and digital sound.  You know what we had?  Pong!  You know what Pong was?  Two lines and a dot!”
  11. The best gift I ever gave myself is learning more about my family tree.
  12. My brother and I once got in trouble because we stayed in the Capitol Theater to watch a second showing of “Godzilla Vs. the Smog Monster“.  Mom literally came in and dragged us out.  Years later she asked me why I didn’t come outside on my own to wait for her.  I looked at her and said, “If I had done that, I would have gotten in trouble anyway for being outside on my own.  If I was going to get in trouble anyway, I might as well watch the movie.”

    Smog monster?? Tar monster maybe; methinks they would have needed computer graphics to really make him look like smog.

  13. The first field trip I ever remember taking was in Kindergarten riding the train from Flint to Durand.  I still love to ride trains.
  14. The biggest act of bravery I can remember is when my Mom and I went from Delaware to Virginia and we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  My Mom was very afraid of bridges, and while she didn’t make it all the way across (I drove the last few miles of it), she never showed any signs of panic, and she was able to make it to a vista point on the bridge where we could safely stop.  Many people each year have to be taken off the bridge.

    We were at the southbound side of where the “You are here” marker on this sign was when we stopped. As you can see, Mom made it about three-fourths of the way across, and through both tunnels.

  15. I used to love to listen to my Dad play the piano.  He would only play bits and pieces, but “Bumble Boogie“, “Moonlight Sonata“, “Jailhouse Rock“, and “Young Love” are all songs he would play (and the last two he would sing – he has a great voice too!).
  16. “Young Love” was the song I remember playing on the radio when I kissed my first boyfriend.
  17. One of the things I loved about my Aunt Marion and Uncle Howard’s house was sliding down their stairs.
  18. Roma’s Pizzeria still makes the best pizza I’ve ever tasted.

    Growing up, we lived behind Roma’s. On a good day, you could smell the pizza from my house.

  19. Whenever I visit Flint, I have to eat a Flint Style Coney for one meal, and a Haloburger Supreme Deluxe with cheese and olives (with a side of onion rings) for another.

    Done Flint Style….

    This is only a QP, but you get the idea….

  20. California drivers do NOT know how to drive in the rain.  It starts to sprinkle and you’d think that they were in a blinding storm.
  21. The thing I miss most about Michigan is having four seasons.  California has only two seasons:  rainy and sunny.
  22. I always said that I grew up on “Star Trek” and Godzilla movies.  I have my Dad to thank for that (Thanks, Dad!).
  23. Dad may have been the one to read to me at night, but Mom taught me how to read (Thanks, Mom!).
  24. The proudest moment I had as a child was as a Kindergartner   I went over to the first grade class and read to them!
  25. Mrs. Darby was my favorite teacher in elementary school.  Besides being my home room teacher in IGE (Individually Guided Education) for three years straight, she taught me two songs:  “Grand Old Flag” and “The Star Spangled Banner”.  Thanks, Mrs. Darby!
  26. I loved playing on the swivel stools in the breakfast nook of my Aunt Jeanette’s house.
  27. I can still remember playing “I’m Going Downtown to Smoke my Pipe”, “Pussy Wants a Corner”, and “Bloody Midnight”.
  28. I never really skipped rope solo until my Aunt Jeanette offered to give me a dollar if I could skip it ten times in a row.  It took a little practice, but I earned that dollar.
  29. I won’t be able to get it this birthday, but I do want a Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner.

    Flip-Pal mobile scanner

    I might not get it this year for my birthday, but eventually, I’ll get one.

  30. My brother and I both had the lead in an operetta our parochial school did when we each hit 8th grade.  We also both had someone in the play poke us in the eye accidentally during one performance.
  31. One of the craziest (or stupidest) things I have ever done is swimming in Lake Superior, solo.  Even in the summer, the water is freezing!
  32. I have never been able to get up on a pair of water skis.
  33. The place I think might hold the answer to a mystery for me is Central City, Nebraska.
  34. The place I most want to visit is Malden, Missouri.  I want to see where my great-grandparents and my grandparents lived, and would love to meet some of my second cousins that are still there!
  35. They say “Whenever God closes a door, He opens a window.”  I’ve always wondered what happens if you close the door yourself?
  36. I am probably the only person I know that wrote a letter to a teacher asking for demanding a lower grade.
  37. The only time I cut a class as a senior, I got busted.
  38. I have only once cheated on a test.  It was in Geometry, and I was stuck on a proof.  I only read far enough to get unstuck, but I still know that I didn’t get that A on my own.  I still cannot believe the teacher left the key out on his desk (though to be fair, I did have to read it upside down and backwards in order to get the info).
  39. Being left-handed has its advantages (like the ability to read upside down and backwards).
  40. My first grade teacher had wanted to make me write with my right hand.  My Mom put a stop to that (Thanks, Mom!).
  41. The one class that I took that has helped me through life is typing.  I learned on both a manual and an electric typewriter.  I would recommend typing/keyboarding skills to anyone who is going to use a computer on a regular basis.
  42. The place I would most like to go away on a romantic getaway again is the Green Gables Inn in Pacific Grove, California.

    Carriage House

    I’m pretty sure this is the room we were in the last time we stayed.

  43. Our anniversary is coming up (Bill:  hint, hint. ;) ).
  44. I would love to visit Mackinac Island again.
  45. I love koalas.
  46. The oldest koala I have in my collection was given to me by my Mom for my 16th birthday.
  47. It’s a plush music box, it plays “Waltzing Matilda” and it still works!
  48. It’s amazing to think how many changes have happened in my lifetime.  From typewriters to computers, vinyl records to tapes to discs to MP3s, black and white TV to color, and vacuum tubes to circuitry, things have gotten smaller and faster.
  49. Meanwhile, I’ve gotten bigger and slower. 
  50. I hope to be around in another 50 years so I can do a list of 100 random thoughts.

Oh My, How They’ve Grown!

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I ran across this picture the other day:

Caption:  1900's Donna and Jeanette McCombs early 20th century Because my Aunt Jeanette was born in October of 1900, I'm guessing this was likely taken in 1902.  Donna was born in 1896, so that would have made her about five or six depending on the month in which the portrait was taken.

Caption: 1900’s Donna and Jeanette McCombs early 20th century
Because my Aunt Jeanette was born in October of 1900, I’m guessing this was likely taken in late 1901 or early 1902. Donna was born in 1896, so that would have made her about five at the time.

I had shared a photograph of my grandmother and her sisters in an earlier post.  It’s interesting to look at the two pictures and see the changes in the faces over the years.

Donna, the oldest is at the back of the group.  Jeanette is in the center.  My Grandmother, Mattie Beatrice is on the right, and the youngest, Jessie Rae, is on the left.

Donna, the oldest is at the back of the group. Jeanette is in the center. My Grandmother, Mattie Beatrice is on the right, and the youngest, Jessie Rae, is on the left.

Since Aunt Rae was born in 1905, I’m thinking this one might have been taken around 1908.  That would make Donna about 12, Jeanette about 8, my Grandma about 5, and Aunt Rae about 3.

I know that by 1910, the mother of these girls, Georgia Almeda, had died.  I wonder how “Poppa” fared with raising his “Little Women”.

Mad About Maps

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For as long as I can remember, I have always loved maps.  Even from a fairly young age, I understood that a dot on a map represented something out in the world; a city, a place that I could travel to and explore.  I would consult maps whenever the family planned a vacation.  I wanted to see what roads we’d travel, and what cities we might go through.  Even for lesser journeys, I might check a map.  Our family would go to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio every few summers, and especially as the park added more and more rides, I would check the map to find the quickest way to get to the next roller coaster.  Even at the mall, I would consult a “You Are Here” map to see how to get to the new shop that just opened.

As you can see, there are lots of coasters.  It seemed like every few years, another one would open.

As you can see, there are lots of coasters. It seemed like every few years, another one would open.

In my family, I typically took the task of the navigator on long trips.  I would keep the road atlas with me, and would look at it from time to time, and let whichever parent was driving (usually my Dad), know when the next turn was coming up.

In a genealogical journey, you don’t necessarily have a map to follow.  You might get some data that might point you in the right direction, but the final destination can be ever elusive.  However, maps do have their use in genealogy.  In particular, I’ve found that historic maps can be quite helpful in finding out more about the places my ancestors lived.  Today, I’m going to share with you a few resources that I’ve found helpful in my own research.  Clicking on any map will take you to its source.

Old Maps Online

From 1000 AD until the present, there are maps available from several sources that can be viewed online.  You can use a map feature to find what you’re looking for, or you can type in a place to search for it directly.  The maps show everything from topography and resources, to city streets.

Screen shot of a map of San Francisco.  This shows San Francisco as it was prior to the 1906 earthquake.  This was the San Francisco that Bill's grandmother was born in.

This map shows San Francisco as it was prior to the 1906 earthquake. This was the San Francisco where Bill’s maternal grandmother was born.

David Rumsey Map Collection

While the maps of the David Rumsey collection can be viewed through the previous link, I wanted to make special mention of this group of maps.  Many of these maps are rare maps of North America (the map above is part of the collection).  The interface is virtually identical to that of Old Maps Online, however, I prefer the darker background of the Rumsey site for viewing.

My paternal great-grandparents migrated from West Virginia to Nebraska.  Five children were born in Nebraska, and I believe their first born, Annie died there.  A draft card pinpoints the birthplace of one child in Central City, Nebraska.  Click on the map to be linked to its source.

My paternal great-grandparents migrated from West Virginia to Nebraska. Five children were born in Nebraska, and I believe their first-born, Annie died there. A draft card pinpoints the birthplace of one child in Central City, Nebraska.

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Borders have a way of changing through the years.  As territories became states and states sometimes spawned new states or disputed ownership of land with other states, the lines that designated where one place ended and the other began evolved.  Even within states, counties grew, shrank, were created, or disappeared.

You can view these changes on this atlas.  Choose the state you are interested in, type in a date, and you can view the borders at that time.  You have the option of also comparing them with the current county borders.  I have found it useful when trying to track down relatives when they haven’t moved, but the borders did.

My maternal great-grandparents resided in Putnam County, Tennessee, and I believe the family stayed in the same area for several generations.  This is a map of the borders around the time of the county's original formation in 1842.  The black lines represent the county boundaries as of that date; the white lines indicate the current county borders.

My maternal great-grandparents resided in Putnam County, Tennessee, and I believe the family stayed in the same area for several generations. This is a map of the borders around the time of the county’s original formation in 1842. The black lines represent the county boundaries as of that date; the white lines indicate the current county borders.

As you can see, this map, showing the borders as of June 1, 1850 doesn't show Putnam county.  That's because its initial formation was declared unconstitutional.

As you can see, this map, showing the borders as of June 1, 1850 doesn’t show Putnam county. That’s because its initial formation was declared unconstitutional. I would need to look in the counties that took over the land to see where the family is. A hint on Ancestry.com leads me to believe that in 1850, they were enumerated in White county, which comprises a big chunk of southeastern Putnam county’s future borders.

In 1854, Putnam County was officially reestablished and back on the map.  This map as of June 1, 1860 shows that the shape was redrawn differently than it originally looked in 1843, and its shape was a lot closer to that of its modern place on the map.

In 1854, Putnam County was officially reestablished and back on the map. This map as of June 1, 1860 shows that the shape was redrawn differently than it originally looked in 1842, and its shape was a lot closer to that of its modern place on the map.

Data Visualization:  Journalism’s Voyage West

Stanford University compiled data from the Library of Congress‘ “Chronicling America” project to create this unique map.  Over 140,000 newspapers in over 3 centuries are represented.  What I like about this map is it helps me to determine what newspapers were in print for a particular place at any given point in time.  There are also links that will show where archives of these papers can be found in libraries across the country.  Best of all, several papers are available digitally and be searched and viewed for free.

Bill’s paternal great-grandparents settled in Columbus, Ohio after immigrating from Hungary. This image shows how many papers they would have had access to in 1920. There was at least one publication that was printed in both English and Hungarian. I wonder if they were subscribers.

As you can see, maps can help in our research of our ancestors.  They may give us a better view of the land as it was when they lived.  Maps can show the surroundings and give us a better understanding of how things looked before modern streets, roads, and buildings became part of the landscape.  Maps can show the changes in boundaries between counties and states, and perhaps help us track down a relative.  Maps can even be used to give us a visual representation of data that might help us discover records unlocking key clues in our genealogical journeys.  I hope that some of these resources might help you as much as they have helped me.  If you have other map resources that you have found, please share them.

Video

The Happiest Place on Earth

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And no, I’m not talking about Disneyland. In fact, I’ve never been to Disneyland (or Disneyworld, for that matter).  That’s not to say I’ve never SEEN it.  After all, growing up watching Disney each weekend, every once in a while, you would get a feature about the park or, in the case below, plans for a new park.

But, for me, the happiest place on earth wasn’t an amusement park.  For me, the happiest place on earth was a farm about a half hour’s drive from our home in Flint:  the home of my Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil just outside of Lapeer, Michigan.

My Aunt Georgia in front of her home in Lapeer, Michigan.

My Aunt Georgia in front of her home in Lapeer, Michigan. Laying down is Litska, and Walter is sitting.

Now Aunt Georgia did not always live out in Lapeer.  Originally, she lived in a small house near Averill Avenue in Flint.  However, Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil owned property out in Lapeer, and they had plans to build a house on it.

Aunt Georgia's house in the process of construction.  To the right is a covered pump that was already on the property.

Aunt Georgia’s house in the process of construction. To the right is a covered pump that was already on the property.

The property was quite large.  Even the aerial shot that was taken does not show the full extent of it.

This picture only shows the buildings on the property.  It does not show all the land or the woods that Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil owned.

This picture only shows the buildings on the property. It does not show all the land or the woods that Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil owned.

You can see on the right side that train tracks ran along side the property.  The road that Aunt Georgia lived on ended at the tracks and her driveway began on the other side.  The tracks at that point were up a small hill; there was no warning signal for the crossing.  You would have to drive onto the hill enough to look both ways, and then cross over.  Sometimes in the winter, it was too slippery for the car to cross and so you’d have to park and walk to the house (which was also up a hill, so it wasn’t easy if it was slick).  I can remember at least once where we had to stay the night because we got snowed in.  Of course, I didn’t mind. :)

The farm in Winter.  This is a rather mild day, but you can see how pretty a place it could be even when there was just a little snow.

The farm in Winter. This is a rather mild day, but you can see how pretty a place it could be even when there was just a little snow.

The seasons were always beautiful out there.  Autumn was always a wonderful time to be visiting.  Fall color in their woods was able to be seen from the house, and a walk on the property allowed you to see the variety of the season.

Caption on back written by Aunt Georgia:  1994 - Color just starting at our home

Caption on back written by Aunt Georgia: 1994 – Color just starting at our home

I spent many nights with Aunt Georgia in November.  Uncle Neil liked to go hunting up North on weekends during deer season, and Aunt Georgia preferred not to stay alone.  She would ask me to come stay for a few days, and of course, I would.  During those visits we would sit for hours in her living room and  talk of many things, including family and family history.  My biggest regret is that I didn’t think about writing any of it down at the time.  Aunt Georgia was the family historian, and between her and my Aunt Jeanette, I learned quite a bit, but much of it is locked away in memory that I cannot access.

Aunt Georgia in her living room.  The rug covering the bench of her organ was originally my Grandma Taylor's and it is in my care for the time being.  Her cat, Felicia, is laying on the floor near her.

Aunt Georgia in her living room. The rug covering the bench of her organ was originally my Grandma Taylor’s and it is in my care for the time being. Her cat, Felicia, is laying on the floor near her.

In Spring, things would begin to bloom.  On the hillside, a garden would be planted.  Typically, there would be corn, green beans, tomatoes, and carrots.  One year, Aunt Georgia put in some grape vines, and after a few years, she yielded Concord Grapes.  There were also some fruit trees on the property.  There was one apple tree in particular that I remember.  It was old and eventually died off.  I seem to recall that out of the dead stump a seedling came up.  I seem to recall us calling the old one ‘the pregnant tree’ because of it.

This picture of the garden (which appears to be late Spring because the corn isn't that high) gives a good idea of the length of the hill, but it doesn't seem to give as good an idea of its steepness.

This picture of the garden (which appears to be late Spring because the corn isn’t that high) gives a good idea of the length of the hill, but it doesn’t seem to give as good an idea of its steepness.

In Summer, everything was green and beautiful.  Aunt Georgia also kept a flower garden which made use of an old feature on the property.

Caption by Aunt Georgia:  small - Walter  German Shep. LitskaRemember the covered pump I mentioned in the construction picture?  Here it is, cover removed and built into a raised planter.

Caption by Aunt Georgia: small – Walter German Shep. Litska
Remember the covered pump I mentioned in the construction picture? Here it is, cover removed and built into a raised planter.

As you can see, animals were a big part of life on the farm.  I can always remember my Aunt Georgia having a dog, even from before when she lived in Flint.

Rags was the first dog of my Aunt's that I remember.  This was taken in Flint at her old home.

Rags was the first dog of my Aunt’s that I remember. This was taken in Flint at her old home.

When my Grandpa Taylor died, he had owned a dog called Yeller (he looked a little like the dog in the movie “Old Yeller“).  Walter, if I remember right, was a stray, as was, I think, Nickla.

Caption by my Aunt Georgia:  Nickla - 1994  Just came from the beauty shop.

Caption by my Aunt Georgia: Nickla – 1994 Just came from the beauty shop.

Litska was another matter.  Litska was a retired show dog.  Her owners asked Aunt Georgia to take her because they were working with their newer dogs.  Even a retired dog needs to be put through its paces now and again, and they knew Aunt Georgia would give the dog both the structure and attention needed.  Every one of my Aunt’s dogs were well-trained.  She took each one to obedience training, and I remember watching her work with each one.  I learned a lot of things from her by observation that I eventually used in training my own dogs.  I can still hear her praising the dogs.  “Very nice!” she would say in an approving tone, and work time would end with a rub behind the ears, or a good petting. Even Felicia, the cat, was trained.  She would not come onto the furniture unless called, and even then, I believe the only furniture she was allowed onto was Aunt Georgia’s chair.  She also had taught her to sheath her claws when she was on people.  A soft tap on her paw if the claws came out was enough to get her to bring them back in. Only the cat was indoors full-time.  The dogs, with the exception of Rags, all slept outside.  They had their dog houses or kennels, of course.  However, in Winter, if it was bad outside, the dogs were brought in.  They were all well-behaved, and it was nice having them in with us. However, dogs and cats were not the only animals on the property.

Left to right:  Shannon, Goldie, and Sand

Left to right: Shannon, Goldie, and Sand

I think the horses were one of my favorite things on the property.  When I wasn’t with Aunt Georgia, I would be out with the horses.  I would pull grass and clover for them, I would talk to them and pet them, and on occasion, I was able to go to the corn crib and bring them corn, or give them apples that had fallen from the tree.  There were five in all.  Goldie was the oldest, and I believe was mother of both Shannon and Sand.  She later had Kelly.  The fifth was a pony that was a Shetland/Welsh mix called Toby.  Toby is the only one I ever ‘rode’ (which my uncle leading me around).  He could be an ill-tempered beast; even Aunt Georgia called him a ‘booger’ on more than one occasion.

The horses had a lot of property to range on.  There was a large pond that was always a fixture on the property.  The fenced area allowed them to range between several fields.

You can see the pond behind Sand and Shannon in this picture.

You can see the pond behind Sand and Shannon in this picture.

We had a lot of fun at the pond, too.  There was an old raft made of oil drums and wood that floated around out there for several years.  My brother and I would swim out to it and the jump off.  The bottom of the pond was in places mucky with silt, so it wasn’t that great to come out.  I think we sometimes had to wash our legs off with the garden hose before we could go into the house.

Uncle Neil built a small dock later.  Usually, he had a cane pole sitting next to it, so it was easy to get some bait (he usually had some worms he’d dug up already), and go out and fish.  Even as kids, we used to fish at the sides of the pond, but growing up didn’t make fishing less fun.

1992 - I still had fun fishing even when I got older.  I never cleaned a fish, but I did bait my own hook and I did take the fish off the hook.

1992 – I still had fun fishing even when I got older. I never cleaned a fish, but I did bait my own hook and I did take the fish off the hook.

You can see I was having a good time in this picture, and why not?  I was at my Aunt Georgia and Uncle Neil’s farm; for me, the happiest place on earth. :D

A Quick Look Back

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A road on the interior portion of Mackinac Island, Michigan

A road on the interior portion of Mackinac Island, Michigan

‘Travelling down the road, I look back’ – opening line of a poem I wrote several years ago

I just thought I’d share the 2012 Annual Report with some comments by me.

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

I’m impressed, especially after taking such a long hiatus (darn writer’s block).

In 2012, there were 32 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 93 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 534 MB. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

I’d be more impressed with the post total if they had been consistently posted.  For a while I was posting like a mad woman, and then I posted a little less often, and then I started running out of ideas and then…nothing for months. :(

My writing resolution this year is to post at least twice a month.  If I find inspiration to do more, that’s fine, but I want to focus on having a blog that is updated regularly with quality content.  Even if it’s just a photo, I want you to know why that photo was so special.  What image did it capture, and why is it important in our family history?

The busiest day of the year was June 11th with 76 views. The most popular post that day was In Search of…Baby Taylor.

That particular post was a favorite of mine, and I’m glad it was well received.  Thank you for all those who took time to read it.

These are the posts that got the most views in 2012. You can see all of the year’s most-viewed posts in your Site Stats.

I really liked the combination in this top five.  The first deals with family trees in general, and my reflection upon them.  The second deals with my father’s side of the family.  The third is about my own branch of the family tree, my husband and I.  The fourth talks about my mother’s side of the family.  The final item in the top five gives me a chance to highlight Bill’s side of the family tree.  It was a very well-rounded collection, and gives a good summary of what this blog is all about.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for tree branchesoak tree branches,tree with brancheshappy anniversary poems, and mike sabados jr.

Wow…other than the family member name, these are not the search terms I would have expected.

Thank you very much for all the referrals, especially to Sheryl!  I’ve been a big fan ever since I discovered her blog, and I hope she gets lots of referrals through me as well. :)

Most visitors came from The United States. The United Kingdom & Canada were not far behind.

There were visitors from over 60 countries in the world.  I’m glad you stopped by!

Mom

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It is appropriate that I began writing this post on December 30th, and I will complete it on December 31st (or just after).  Those two dates mark the lifespan of my Mom.

My Mom was born Billie Sue Newell on December 31st, 1940.  She was born in Letcher County, Kentucky, the second born daughter of my grandparents.

This is a picture of my grandparents from back in the 1940's.

This is a picture of my grandparents from back in the 1940’s.

My grandparents and my Mom and her older sister Anna Mae lived in Kentucky for a few more years, long enough for one more sister to be added to the Newell clan.  According to my mother’s cousin, Bobbie, Anna Mae would have died about two weeks before this aunt was born.

Whether it was the promise of a better life, a chance for a better job, or possibly to get away from the memories, my grandparents left Kentucky and moved to Michigan sometime between the death of Anna Mae (and birth of her sister), to the birth of another sister in the late 40’s.  In the early 1950’s, the only boy of the family was born.

Even in this 7th grade photo, you can see Mom's hair is dark.

Even in this 7th grade photo, you can see Mom’s hair is dark.

My Mom went to school at Northgate Elementary.  It was the very same Northgate Elementary that both my brother and I attended as children.  I do not have a copy of it (I hope my brother does), but there is a picture of my mother standing on the steps of the school with her classmates.  I can remember my mother showing me that picture, and I can recall not really believing it was her at first.  The girl in the picture had blonde hair; my mother was a brunette.  However, there was no mistaking the features, so I knew it had to be her.

Mom's Senior Picture

Mom’s Senior Picture

Mom attended Mount Morris High School.  She graduated in 1960.  A year later, she was married and was starting her own family.

As far as I know, the births of my brother and I went smoothly.  The birth of my brother Michael though, was anything but.  Michael had problems right from the start.  My father told me that he had several procedures done within hours of being born.  Meanwhile, my mother was fighting a battle of her own.  What complications there were, I do not know, but my mother was able to survive the ordeal.  My little brother though, was not strong enough, and he died when he was only a few days old.

My parents did try to have a child again, and I’m told that she had a daughter that was stillborn.  I was also told at one point she had a miscarriage.  My brother and I never had another sister or brother that we grew up with.  We have each other though, and trust me, one brother is enough! ;)

Though Mom had held jobs prior to marriage, once she started having kids, she was a stay-at-home mom.  A few years after both of us started school though, a program started in our district that allowed Mom to stay at home and work.

It was called “Cottage Nursery” and it was a cross between in-home daycare and preschool.  I remember having two little tables in our dining room where the kids did their activities.  I can also remember a few times being home sick and straying out of my bedroom and into the hallway so I could peek into the living room and dining room to see what the little kids were doing.

The Cottage Nursery program only existed for a couple of years, but my mother found that the work was very fulfilling.  She started working as a teacher’s aide in the district, and later worked for the Head Start program.  By the time she retired, she was teaching a few grandkids of people that she had taught as a teacher’s aide.

Mom might have retired, but she never stopped being active.  She took up golf, and was on a few regular leagues.  She had a regular Bunco group that she had played with since I was in my teens.  She got involved with the Red Hat Society.

At least two of the members of this Red Hat group were folks that my Mom knew through work.

At least two of the members of this Red Hat group were folks that my Mom knew through work.

Mom had a lot of spirit and perseverance.  She started working on an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education when I was in my teens.  She had a lot of delays due to many things, including a divorce from my Dad, financial issues, and even a medical issue or two along the way.  She made it through though, and they even did a write-up about it in our local paper.

Mom was a fighter.  She was a five plus year breast cancer survivor.  Some people think that it was the cancer that brought her life to an early close, but it was something much more unexpected.

On Christmas Day, 2008, my mother was having family over for dinner.  When my brother and his family came over, Mom had mentioned falling from her step-ladder as she was trying to get something from over the refrigerator.  She seemed fine at first, however, after dinner she started complaining of not feeling well.  She wound up vomiting, and was having complaints of her head bothering her.  They took her to ER, where her condition worsened.  She was having more and more difficulty, and becoming less coherent.

The diagnosis was a neural hematoma.  While there was no exterior signs of trauma, it was likely that the fall had shaken something loose, and my mother was bleeding in her brain.  They wanted to operate…but they couldn’t.  You see, my mother was on a blood thinner (Coumadin) for blood clots in her legs, and they could not safely operate until she was weaned off the medicine.  By that time, she was in a coma, and the prognosis was not good for recovery.  After discussing it with all the family, the decision was made to take Mom off life support.

The last time I talked to my Mom on the phone, it was a few days before Christmas.  As usual, we talked of little things.  We talked of food we were going to cook, and the family we were going to see.  As was usual, we signed off saying “I love you.”  At that point, I didn’t know I would return from Christmas with my husband’s family to an urgent message from my brother to call.

I think one of the hardest things I ever had to do in my life was to fly from California back to Michigan to say good-bye to my Mom.  My brother said he would not take Mom off life support until I had a chance to say my good-byes.  I remember going in the room and seeing Mom laying there, hooked up to the machines that were keeping her breathing.  My Grandma was there, my Mom’s mom.  This woman had already lost her oldest child in the 1940’s, and then in the 90’s she had lost her youngest, her only son, to cancer.  She was clinging to the hope that my mother would wake.  Each small movement brought such hope to her.

The family left for a short time so I could have some time to myself with Mom, to be able to talk to her.  I hoped as I told her I loved her, and whispered to her to let her know I was OK with her leaving this world, that she could hear me, and that she was ready to cross over from this life to the next.  When my family returned, I could tell that Grandma knew of their decision.  The hope was gone, and she wept, knowing that another of her babies was leaving her for a time.

Mom's Headstone

Mom’s Headstone

I try not to dwell on the tragedy surrounding Mom’s death.  Instead, I try to focus on the wonderful life my Mom lived, and the legacy she left to us, her family.

This is a four generation shot.  In the front is my Grandmother Newell.  Behind her is my Aunt Faye and her husband.  My brother Tim and his wife flank my Aunt and Uncle.  The young man in the back and the young lady graduating are my niece and nephew, my Mom's two grandkids.

This is a four generation shot. In the front is my Grandma Newell. Behind her is my Aunt Faye (one of Mom’s two living sisters) and her husband John. My brother Tim and his wife Laurie flank my Aunt and Uncle. The young man in the back and the young lady graduating are my nephew Tim and my niece Tiffany, my Mom’s two grandkids.

My Mom and I when we took her to see the Redwoods.

My Mom and I when we took her to see the Redwoods  We had taken her specifically to have the experience of driving through this tree.  When we got there, we started to go through.  She hollers at us to stop, goes out, takes a picture of US going through the tree, and then proceeds to wave us through.  We should have known!  A few days before this, we had taken her to San Francisco to give her the experience of being driven down Lombard Street.  She says she wants to get out and take pictures from the top of the hill, so we let her out as we’re in the car line waiting our turn.  We get to the top…no Mom.  We can’t sit there forever, so we have to go.  Mom’s nowhere in sight until we get down to the bottom of the hill.  She was taking pictures of US coming down! Grrrrrr….

A favorite photo of mine.  I took this of Mom when she visited us in 2000.  This was taken at the Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa, California.

A favorite photo of mine. I took this of Mom when she visited us in 2000. This was taken at the Luther Burbank Gardens in Santa Rosa, California.

One side note:  I know my Mom well enough that I think I can say she would have been amused by the fact that the obituary had to put her age at 67 and not 68 because she was a day short of her birthday.  Talk about shaving points, Mom…. ;)

Sidetracked

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Sometimes, on a journey, you veer off the path you had chosen to take.  Perhaps you saw a sign offering you a chance to see some great local sight.  Maybe you just happened to look over and see something to the side of the road, and you wanted to check it out.

In one instance, my husband and I, while on our honeymoon trip, were enticed by a tape.

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Though the Polaroid I took was slightly damaged, it still shows the “Sky Blue Journal” set of tapes that offered us insight into history and sites as we traveled through Minnesota. In the background, you can see one of those sites. You can also see our travelling companion, Blue. That’s another story. ;)

The tape happened to mention there was a statue of the Jolly Green Giant just a few miles away from where we were travelling.  Of course, I wanted to see it.  So, we went, and sure enough, there he was!  You almost expected to hear the “Ho, ho, ho!” from the massive, 55 foot tall guy.  We didn’t stay long, but we got pictures and enjoyed a quick break from our cross-country trip.

Lately, with my research, I’ve felt pretty much the same way.  I try to focus in on one person, but I might catch a glimpse of something that leads me off my path.

For instance, I started researching my great-grandmother, Bessie Mae Layne Newell Massey.  I was hoping to find some additional records about Herbert Newell, her first husband and my great-grandfather.  Instead, I wound up getting more information about George Massey, her second husband.  While interesting, it was not what I was looking for.

I did find one item today on one of these side trips that gave me some additional information on my grandmother’s family.  I was looking for information on another great-grandfather, Manford Lawson, and came upon a death certificate for one of his sons:

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You can see that James died of whooping-cough. This is just about the time that the whooping-cough vaccine was developed. Too bad it didn’t save him.

James was another of the family’s “One Hit Wonders”.  He made his one and only appearance in 1920 on the US Census.

James in the 1920 Census.

Sometimes, being sidetracked can be fun, but at other times, it can be frustrating.  I’ve had a particular post in mind, and it just seems like every time I start the research for it, I find myself on tangents.  Even fruitful moments like finding the death record for James don’t make up for the fact that, right now, I should be finding other records for other family members.

Have you ever been sidetracked like this?  If so, how do you break away from the side trips and get back to your genealogical path?

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