Just last week I was honored by receiving two nominations for the Ancestor Approved award! This is my little blog's first award, so I am both humbled and a little giddy....a sweet blog Christmas Present if ever I saw one! First, let me begin by thanking the two wonderful bloggers that selected Journeys Past for this award:
Alice Keesey Mecoy at John Brown Kin
Janny Lancelot at Are My Roots Showing?
The award comes with the requirement that you pay it forward in two ways.....the instructions are listed below:
1. List ten things that you have learned about your ancestors that surprised, humbled, or enlightened you.
2. Pass the award to ten other genealogy bloggers.
So here are my ten things:
1. After finding several skeletons in the closet (some of which I will list below), I have come to the conclusion that skeletons in our closets are merely proof that our ancestors were human just like us....boy were they!
2. As we grumble about getting older, my Grandmother always used to remind me to celebrate each birthday because at least you made it to another one, which I usually rolled my eyes at.......and then I discovered that my Great Grandmother on my Mom's side (Florence Warren Watts) died at the age of 26 from tuberculosis, just after giving birth to her third child. Since my Great Grandfather was handicapped, all three children were put up for adoption. The horrible things they lived through at such a tender age, and I grumble about nearing 40.
3. Surprise of a genealogical lifetime: discovering KKK rally photos in an old family album - from Ohio! After some outside research and good old fashioned asking, I found out that this family lived in Ohio and Indiana at the same time that the Klan had become a huge political movement in the north. Indiana was the capital of Klan activity in the 1920s and my Great Grandmother's family was heavily involved. No one ever talked about this skeleton at all until I found the photos. Involvement was actually denied, and explained away as "someone must have snuck through a fence to snap the photos". Which would have worked for me until I found a photo of Great Grandmother Ruth in a beautiful patriotic group photo - except for the Klan guy standing by a tree next to them! Then I asked the same questions again years later, and got the full confession - be tenacious about your family questions - if the answers don't make sense, dig further, ask others, or wait awhile and ask again!
4. Play on names - lunacy, and the in-laws! This one was discovered as I found a birth record that didn't make sense . My Great Grandmother (Nellie Cox Beyersdoerfer) was the granddaughter of Clarissa Hughbanks Cox. According to the Barton Papers (which I will blog about soon), an interview given by a neighbor about the Hughbanks sisters said that Clarissa and her sisters all died in their 40s after going crazy. One day, when I asked my Mother what Nellie's middle name was, she told me (Isabelle), but made me promise not to repeat that because Ma (Nellie) hated that name. I was shocked - it was so beautiful! But she said Nellie insisted that it was pronounced with a long I as in ice. So, back to the birth record: When Nellie gave birth to her first son at her in-law's farm, someone in the household went down to register the birth for the new parents, but listed Nellie's name as Icey. Obviously, they called her that to tease her about her middle name. However, later, I discovered that Clarissa also had a nickname: Ricey, which is so close to Icey. I suddenly realized that Nellie hated that middle name because her in-laws made fun of it and connected it to her "crazy" Grand Mother. I don't blame her in a way - how crude to use the nickname when reporting the actual birth record! Family politics and snarkiness - an age old problem! It taught me the lengths of detective work and serendipity that is so much a part of what we do!
5. Discovered another set of shocking photos among the family collection: a late 19th century trip to the Klondike! Still working on which ancestor they belong to, but after some outside research, have learned that this gold rush - made famous by Jack London - was the most photographed event of 19th century North America because Kodak gave the intrepid explorers (ahem, gold hunters) a large number of their new products as they went north: the portable camera.
6. One of my greatest enlightenments about our research: we search for facts, but if we are lucky we end up telling a story. Each one of those stories can serve as uplifting stories - re-discovering heroes to remember - or cautionary tales - exposing mistakes to avoid. All are pertinent as reflections on how we live our lives in the present.
7. Very surprised that people are astonished when you mention a connection to royalty or famous personalities. As researchers comb through Obama's family tree and make new announcements about his familial connection to another new celebrity, the reaction is usually amazement. As one of those "cousins" of Obama from the Duvall family, mathematically, this is not an astounding turn of events. It is estimated that over 35 million Americans are descendants of the Mayflower passengers. Of course, only 25,000 have proven that fact. Connections to the European royal families are even more common.....but be careful about spouting that fact unless you've researched it yourself. Might be a fun party factoid, but not something to rest your laurels on based on others' "online" research!
8. Always amazed at the reality of my ancestors' lives. I have been so guilty of researching them within a standard formula: birth, marriage, children, death. Sometimes forgetting that research outside the box is necessary to make a legitimate timeline. By taking time to think about motives behind life decisions I made startling discoveries about: divorces, illegitimacy, sexual abuse/incest, lost inheritances, law suits, public displays of drunkenness - you name it, our ancestors did it - sometimes just well hidden - which is where we come in.
9. Have become obsessed with the social or gossip sections of small local newspapers. By just pouring over them, I found an adorable post about the night my Great Grandparents eloped: "The bride was dressed in a blue serge coat suit with hat and gloves to match." 1915 Sometimes the daily events are as minor as one visiting another, or a single sentence to give a health report that "Lanson Cox is no better" (he died of Tuberculosis a few days later in 1911) - but each a precious fact to fill in some of their story.
10. Humbled by the fact that as much as we record, and think we know how something happened, each person's perspective of the same event can be entirely different. Have learned this through sibling interviews and descendant interviews. Each one remembered the same facts or events in slightly different ways. Trying to remind myself that as I interview loved ones, emotions can cloud or embellish or even cause pain after so many years. Each perception, even though different, is valuable as a life experience for the person telling the story - and should be recorded as told for future generations.
Ok, so here are my 10 new recipients of the Ancestor Approved Award!
1. Mary Jane's Genes
2. Villa Victoria Blog
3. Tomorrow's Memories
4. The Turning of Generations
5. The Wandering Vine
6. The Symbolic Past
7. The Pieces of My Past
8. The Misadventures of a Genealogist
9. Sharing Our Family's Memories
10. Samuel and Mary Clark Reed of Barnwell
Again - thanks for the honor!
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