Friday, December 24, 2010

The Season's Greetings

As we all fall prey to the hustle and bustle of the Holidays, I wanted to stop and wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas, and bright, historically prosperous New Year! It is way too easy to let the spirit of Scrooge enter our lives as we tread through the family obstacle course that rears its head during this special time of year. But stand strong! Don't allow the Christmas meanies to steal your joy. Christmas holds different meanings for each of us, but if we slow down, even for a little bit, to reflect on the beauty of the season, the reason behind the season, and the special memories attached to this glorious season, we can bring the year to a restful and peaceful close. Besides, those tests and trials will be waiting for us on December let them go for a couple of days and purposefully embrace the Spirit of Love behind the Holiday we know as Christmas.

As a side note about the gold greeting you see above, this is the cover of a small paper photo frame. The photo inside is long gone, but the frame remained in the family photo collection. Due to the current controversy surrounding "Happy Holidays", "Merry Christmas" and "Season's Greetings", I thought this little historic piece from the earlier part of the 20th century was quite telling. For my family, Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings were just another way of saying "Merry Christmas". There was no exclusion intended and in fact, we used it (for generations) as a way to include a Happy New Year in the mix. So, in my book, none of the previous phrases are insulting to the Spirit of the Holiday. However, I have enjoyed the resurgence of Merry Christmas. I grew up in a city where the Menorah was right next to the Nativity Scene, and in my own family we put out a Menorah during Hanukkah as something of a symbol to honor the season, even though we do not fully celebrate this Holiday. I've always believed America to be the place that welcomed all religions and that celebrated them and encouraged their celebration.....not one that silenced their celebration. I never want America to be a place of such restriction that a person is forbidden from wishing someone a Merry Christmas, etc. If you want to wish me a Happy Solstice, bring it! I will assume you are wishing me a happy time, a season of celebrating something good. The world can be such a dark and dismal place. We all need reasons and seasons to celebrate. Historically, religion has provided those seasons for us as a nation. From its inception to the present, our culture has been infused with a religious base. That base allowed for freedom to celebrate, not rules to silence the various celebrations.

So, as December 24th and 25th roles around.....Merry Christmas to all!

And well our Christian sires of old
Loved when the year its course had roll’d,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night;
On Christmas Eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas Eve the mass was sung:
That only night in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donn’d her kirtle sheen;
The hall was dress’d with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry-men go,
To gather in the mistletoe.
Then open’d wide the Baron’s hall
To vassal, tenant, serf and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside
And Ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose;
The Lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of ‘post and pair’.
All hail’d, with uncontroll’d delight,
And general voice, the happy night,
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.

Excerpt from Marmion by Sir Walter Scott
CD 12/24/10

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Calendar - Grandma's Stocking

This one could almost qualify as a wordless post, because catching a glimpse of Grandma's special stocking says it all. However, I will give just a little background. This one is of Grandpa and Grandma Daniels, back before I was born, probably in the 1960s or so. When I found the photo, I loved the look captured between them on a busy Christmas morning - but as I took in their surroundings, I laughed out loud when I studied that fake fireplace behind them....yes, Grandma had put up her nylon pantyhose as her Christmas stocking that year! I'm not sure if it was meant to stretch and therefore hold more loot, or if it was a small protest, reminding the children that Mom deserved something from Santa too! The motive could be a little of both considering this is the same woman who painted hoof prints on her forehead in the 1980s when "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" was the hit song that year.

Christmas is a time of laughter - enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Shadows of Eastern State Hospital

Earlier this year I learned about and joined the Facebook group "Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Preservation Project". I did so for two reasons: 1. Cemetery preservation is something I believe to be vital to our cultural heritage. 2. Lewis P. Mockbee. Over my years of family history research, I kept stumbling upon G-G-G-Great Uncle Lewis. He was listed in the family rosters as he should be, but I always made a mental note when I passed by his records because there was a notation included that mentioned his passing and burial at Eastern State Hospital in Lexington, KY.

In the back of my mind, I had always intended to research him further. The ESH Preservation group was a reason, but even with this new impetus, life intruded and I was not able to aid their cause as I would have liked. Recently, Uncle Lewis came back to my mind as I read the latest article in a local paper: Tomb of the Unknowns by Bruce Burris.

For those of you not familiar with this particular case, ESH is the second oldest mental hospital in the country. Started in 1822, it carried a stigma for families and local officials that continues to serve as an obstacle in properly remembering those who died and were buried on the grounds of the ESH. Here are the gut wrenching facts about burial at ESH: a.) No one knows how many bodies are buried there since the records are scattered, lost, and in some cases refused access, even for loved ones of the deceased. b.) Physical remains are so hard to locate because the bodies were moved so many times, or buried over by development, that most are in a "scattered" state. c.) Estimates on body count run into the thousands, and random skeletal remains sometimes surface or are stumbled upon within a few inches of the soil line.

According to the article, access to any of the patient/burial records - even for those 100 years or older - are stonewalled, flat denied access, require court order prior to release, or are held hostage at the capital archives. The efforts by the official preservation group include researchers seeking out other records to fill in the names of lost patients. In many cases, obituaries and death records are enough to place an ancestor at the hospital, and Mary Hatton, the lead genealogist for the group has started a spreadsheet that allows families to add their loved ones as they are discovered.

A complete list of the efforts, as well as the spreadsheet can be found at the ESH Cemetery Preservation Project's official site called: Naming the Forgotten. Wonderful assistance, history, and a small number of records can be accessed there if you suspect you had a loved one that spent some time or their last days at this facility.

Without the official records, the trail of each patient from ESH can be hugely complex or confusing. As I mentioned before, the stigma attached to the loved ones who ended up at ESH has clouded some of the past accounts. I will use Uncle Lewis as an example.

Lewis P. Mockbee was born September 2nd 1842, in Pendleton County Kentucky, the son of Charles Wesley Mockbee and Mary Malinda Moore. He served during the Civil War in the Union army: Co. A 18th KY Volunteer Infantry. During this service, he was wounded and taken prisoner at Richmond KY. By 1864, he was in a Chattanooga Hospital where he was later released. He married Rachel Fields on April 24th, 1867. To their union, ten children were born. Rachel died in 1888 at the age of 43.

Within approximately four years of his wife's death, Lewis was sent to the "asylum in Lexington." Nothing has been passed down to explain his condition or why he was sent there to live for the next 30 years before his death on February 27th, 1922. What has been published out there online has perpetuated the "fact" that Lewis died and was buried at ESH. This repetition of "fact" made me feel a little closer to the project's efforts.

However, after a simple search for Uncle Lewis's obituary, the "facts" became somewhat altered. That old-fashioned microfilm search turned up the following result:

"L.P. Mockbee, aged 80 years, died Monday at the State Hospital, Lexington, where he had been for the past thirty years.

Mr. Mockbee was a native of this county and is survived by five children: C.P. Mockbee, Mrs. Calvin, Mrs. William Davis, Mrs. L. Mattox, of this county, and Anna Ellis of Ohio.

Mr. Mockbee had many friends in this county who will be sorry to learn of his passing.

The remains were brought back to his old home Tuesday morning. Funeral services were conducted Wednesday at Short Creek, and interment took place in the Short Creek Cemetery."

Taken from the Falmouth Outlook, March 3rd, 1922
There was a small bit of irony that I noted about the placement of Uncle Lewis's obituary. It was not hidden in a back page, but prominently placed on the front page with other obituaries, right at the top under the masthead. This man's life was celebrated by his children and not hidden as other ancestors have been according to fellow researchers. They did not mention his Civil War service in his obit, but rather, mentioned the fact that he had many friends. They did not hide his illness, and chose to list it in the opening paragraph.

So many other ESH residents were not as lucky. Some families sent loved ones there and never heard from them again. Even if the family was still in contact with the loved one, financial constraints and the logistics of moving the body back to the home county, was frequently insurmountable - which meant the loved ones were interred at the ESH, with no chance for future visitation by relatives as is customary with a standard burial. They truly did join the ranks of the forgotten. I remember sighing a little bit in relief when I saw Uncle Lewis's final resting place as Short Creek Cemetery. It was comforting to know his remains were in an undisturbed, peaceful place, with a stone for identification. Immediately after that thought, I felt guilty that thousands were not as fortunate.

I urge everyone to support the efforts of this preservation group. The ESH burial issue is larger than the state it belongs to. As they work toward securing a permanent and respectful resting place, we must remember that each loved one buried there has an identity and story that needs to be discovered and restored to our collective memory. As Burris noted, these scattered remains include many veterans who deserve a resting place of honor....not these scattered acres of namelessness.

How to get involved:
Visit the main site to learn more: Naming the Forgotten
Join their Facebook Group: Eastern State Hospital Cemetery Preservation Group
If you suspect you have any relatives that spent time there or died there, now is the time to put their research at the top of your list - to give them back their identity.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Calendar - Ma's Cookies

Earlier in the year I wrote a lengthy post about Ma's (Nellie Cox Beyersdoerfer) sugar cookies. They have been an absolute favorite and permanent Christmas tradition for at least four generations. The recipe is simple but when cooked to proper perfection (done on the bottom but taken out before browning), they are light, soft and chewy, with a wonderfully light nutmeg and Cinnamon essence. The picture I have included is their traditional round form, but the various forms they can take are endless. With this round form, we have dressed them up for Christmas with red and green sugar sprinkled on top. However, it really wouldn't be Christmas if we didn't use some of our old cookie cutters to make things more festive. When shapes are used, we have added the tradition of a light confectioner's sugar icing on top - which can be tinted to any color you prefer. Uber delicious!

I have included the recipe again below. The image of that cook-stained original clipping from Ma's kitchen is one of those wonderful pieces of heritage genealogy that I adore most of all. In fact, it is so precious to the family, that whenever anyone gets married, we make a color copy on photographic paper and then frame it to give to the brides. A surefire way to implement an old tradition into a new household!
In my previous post I included a lot about Nellie and my memories of her cookies on the kitchen table, but since this cookie tradition was started in her home, I've decided to include some photos we have of the home place which was torn down just a few years ago.
This precious photo, as faded as it is, has a caption on the back: Christmas 1936. This was taken on the front porch of Nellie and John's home. All of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren grew up visiting Ma here, and sneaking more than one cookie during their visit. Nellie is the woman center front. Travelling to the left is her mother, Oleva Ellen Mockbee Cox, and the young woman on the far left, trying to hide, is one of the daughters (my Grandmother), Freida Beyersdoerfer Watts. This is the house a few years fore they razed it.....but no one has lived in it for years, and with no indoor bathroom facilities (there's another memory I have from childhood!), I'm not very surprised. It sat on a hill in northeastern Pendleton County Kentucky. Each time we make these cookies, we picture this place, and the warm, loving woman inside working to make her family welcome and comfortable.
Be sure to give these cookies a try! You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas at Laurel Court

A few years ago, my family and I were invited to a couple of Christmas parties held at my cousin's home in Cincinnati. Each party had an added purpose beyond Christmas (cousin's elopement reception and Uncle's retirement party) but each was scheduled very close to Christmas which meant we were fortunate enough to bask in the Christmas glory of Laurel Court.

This historic mansion on Cincinnati's west side (yes, I said WEST side) was completed in 1907 for paper manufacturer Peter G. Thomson. The inspiration for construction was Marie Antoinette's small chateau Le Petit Trianon at Versailles. Which, as you can imagine, produced a place unlike any other. The Rookwood tiles in the kitchen and bathrooms, gilded music room complete with teardrop chandelier, African rosewood paneled library along with various other details throughout the house remain true to it's gilded age origin. In my old Journeys Past website, I had a page dedicated to this historic gem, but the pictures were from the spring, and I have never shared my photos of what Christmas does to an already magnificent home - I have since put together some of the Christmas photos in a slide show for you at the end of this post.

The illustrious history of this house does not end with the first owner but travels down the Cincinnati timeline through various owners, from the Catholic Church (the Pope came for a visit and slept in the upper left bedroom over the library) to Buddy LaRosa. The last time it sold was in 1999 to my cousin and her husband (Larry and Judy Moyer - nee Williams, from the Pace side of the family). Actually, that is another interesting family memory. When the house went up for auction that year, my Grandmother and aunts stood for hours waiting in line to tour the house before it sold. It was such an amazing and historic landmark - we all knew of its existence but so few had actually been inside. The next day, after the auction, my family read the newspaper and realized it was our own cousin who had bought the place, which put an end to standing in line. From now on, we are welcomed with a hug through the kitchen! Judy's warm hospitality never changed after she bought such a grand house.
Judy and Larry have graciously given the home back to the community by opening it up for community gatherings, tours and weddings. Some events are even free to the public to embellish local traditions. They care for this house as their home, and welcome people with open arms. As a small family plug, Judy and Larry are offering Christmas tours this time of year....but as you can see, the experience is quite amazing.

The parties I remember fondly from just a few years ago created special moments that resonated historically. You knew the memories would last quite vividly and would be shared with future generations. The soft glowing atmosphere and twinkle of lights gave the feeling of being in a timeless place - truly encountering history as an enveloping sensory experience. The interesting thing about these parties is that even though family politics and disagreements were still rampant, the beauty and history of this house hypnotized each attendee into something akin to awed wonder. Which meant, every family member was kind to each other, and everyone walked around with loving, smiling faces.....a true Christmas miracle!

As the history surrounded us, I couldn't help but imagine the other parties, and Christmases past that had graced these rooms over the decades. Laurel Court is a national gem that was placed on the National Register of Historic homes in 1979. If you are ever in the area, and Judy has one of the tour options open, don't miss the opportunity to marvel at this architectural and historical masterpiece.

For more official information about the history of the house as well as tour/event planning information, visit their website:

Now, for a small glimpse of Christmas at Laurel Court:

Merry Christmas!
CD 12/7/10

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Calendar - Santa Claus...or?

Growing up, I firmly believed in Santa Claus, at least until I was about 10. Santa Clause was awesome! He brought me great things, I got to visit him in the mall with cool was a pretty sweet relationship. Ironically, visiting Santa was one of my favorite things to do each was a rather comforting visit.....and he was great about bringing me what I asked for. Once I grew out of the stage of believing, my brother was very small and we had to keep up the belief system just for him - which was extended for one more year when, as he was tottering on unbelief, we passed by someone in a Santa suit entering the front door of a neighbor's house on Christmas Eve - the very night Santa always came to our house!

As I helped maintain the Santa belief for my brother, I started paying more attention to how the whole system worked and the secret little joke that existed among the adults. This was about the same year that my Grandfather (Charles Daniels) began dressing up as Santa on Christmas morning when we opened presents at the Grandparents' house. Funny how he fit that so suit so very well......
Come to find out, Grandpa was the mall Santa Claus at Northgate Mall in the Colerain area of Cincinnati. Plus, he was also the Santa Claus at his Masonic Lodge each year for the annual family event. So, for several years, it was our own Grandfather's lap that we sat on while whispering our Christmas wonder Mom and Dad got it so right every year....Santa was on speed dial! The above photos were taken on my brother's first Christmas, which was still a year of belief for me, although I knew this one was Grandpa. The one below is from one of his Lodge gigs as Santa. From the look on my face, I knew it was him.
From those days onward, he was known as Santa or Mr. Christmas. It was his absolute favorite time of year, and it showed. From hardened soldier to lovable Santa, we were always so proud of him. When it was his time to leave us, he waited until very early Christmas morning, 2004, and hitched a ride upward in Santa's sleigh. He was 93.

Merry Christmas Grandpa! We miss you!

CD 12/6/10

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ancestor Approved Award!

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!
CD 12/5/10

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Advent Calendar - Tree Phases

Our collective family memory of Christmas Trees is solely based on which phase of tree you are remembering at the time. I will demonstrate for you below, but we seemed to run through differing phases, all related to tree types. For years, my only memory of a Christmas Tree was based on those toilet brush trees from the 70s. The cousins on my Mom's side of the family all had real trees, but in order to keep with the trend on my Dad's side of the family in Cincinnati, we all had artificial trees.....the move to Kentucky ushered in a new phase - real trees.....and so the pattern went. Here are some examples of the decades of trees through our family's relatively short memory....we don't have any Christmas photos earlier than the 1940s.....sad.
This little gem is from the very early 1950s - Dad and two of his sisters. I cannot tell for certain, but this looks like a real tree to me....which would have been in Ohio....gasp! We have one earlier than this from 1945, but it is very faint, and the tree also looked like a real one, so this would be an early phase for the Daniels family - apparently, a real tree! That tinsel behind them reminds me of a childhood memory....for a few years during my own childhood, my Mother decided to throw that sprinkle tinsel on the tree, but that stopped after she got tired of cleaning it out of the litter box....eww.... I know, but we had a cat that loved to eat that stuff, and we figured that was not good for her!
This next tree was Grandma Daniels' next phase...the metallic or tinsel tree! This one is from the 1960s. We have several photos of this one, so it might have lasted close to a decade....but completely ushers in the remainder of Grandma's Christmases as only consisting of artificial trees.
Once the 1970s arrived, I could finally grace them with my presence, and this ushered in my Parents' phase of the toilet bowl brush tree as mentioned earlier. This sucker was around until my brother was born in the early 80s. Ah, and then the 1980s arrived, and this picture perfectly reflects the memories I have of this newer model - the soft plastic branch tree. So easy to put up - after we had to wait for Mother to meticulously clean the entire house of course - but as you can see, the weight of the ornaments was not kind to this one, and it progressively got more and more droopy as the years went by. I guess these years were my favorite. Both my brother and I were still kids, and in our little Cincinnati house, the Christmas atmosphere was perfectly achieved every year.

Our family moved to Kentucky around 1993 and from that year onward we had a real tree. Mainly because we moved to a farming community and with the influence of our neighbors who happened to be family, we fell in love with the scent and uniqueness of real trees. Our first year down here, we even had a cedar tree instead of a fir or pine. There is a memory I will always treasure: Grandpa Watts taking my brother, cousin and Mom into one of the back fields to cut down that cedar and haul it back on an old wooden sled. The cedars were quite painful to decorate, but what a wonderful smell and perfect for an old fashioned country Christmas! I know the ease of an artificial tree has tried to lure me away, but even my own trees have remained real over the years - just hooked on this tradition I guess.
And for one last memory that surrounds Christmas Trees: While in Cincinnati - and even now when we visit - it was customary to visit several amazing sites around town. One favorite tradition was the Krohn Conservatory and their Poinsettia Tree. Beautiful - and a tradition that carries on for the future generations.
Merry Christmas everyone - hope your tree is up!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Obituary Stitches

Among the Daniels family items passed down by Aunt Mattie Daniels Townsend is a small (very small) collection of obituary clippings. From pedigree memory, I can easily connect each person's obituary back to our family tree, even if only remotely, with the exception of one: Frank Eamigh.

This obituary, despite its mystery, has always caught my attention. As a surname that failed to register on my genealogical radar, it was not the contents that caught my attention, but rather, the carefully stitched pieces of newspaper. Obviously, this obituary was very important to someone. They took the time to sit and stitch the two pieces from the differing sections of the newspaper to produce a small keepsake.

I did a quick search in Rootsweb and Findagrave for this fellow. Both produced an entry. However, from the lineage listed, I still cannot see a familial link to this guy. Of course, his wife (who is missing from the online pedigrees) could be our link, but I don't recognize her maiden name at all. Perhaps one of his sisters married into our family? It could also be from the Townsend side of the family since Aunt Mattie spent a lot of time researching and transcribing historical profiles of her husband's geographic and genealogical ties.

But then, it could also be one of those wonderful wild goose chases that litter our family documents. I use the term "litter" in a light hearted way because any information about our ancestors is valuable. The wild goose chase I refer to is the sprinkling of friend information within the items passed down to the descendants. My Mother's side of the family is rife with these sprinklings of friend information: photos, notes, etc. It just so happens that my Mother actually knew which people were friends when I couldn't place a name into the family tree. She also knew how the friend was connected and why their things might have been kept. But most keepers of the family heritage are not lucky enough to have that kind of extra information.

For a branch of the family that does not have such a wonderful guide through the items, the friend connection, while providing a glimpse into the social life of our ancestors, can actually be quite a time waster as we dig and dig, exhausting our research skills on a person that will never fit into that family tree no matter how much we try to fit them in there! So my advice, when processing a family collection, is to look at the whole collection with the same eye you would look at your own. Just as we live to day with friends near and dear, so our ancestors more than likely kept their dearest friend mementos, which eventually fell into the family keepsake pile as things were passed down.

If you suspect you have a family friend in the family archives, note the pertinent details and then do a quick search locally. For instance, many of the family friends in our collection are young people. If you know their name and which ancestor they resemble in age, check the class rosters. Chances are, they are a school chum. If the friend is in uniform, you probably have an old army buddy. If they are older, check the local atlases to see which family groups lived nearby. Back before TV or computers, local neighbors frequently maintained close relationships. And don't forget churches! Many friends can be found in the member rolls.

I have not ruled out a family connection for Frank, but noting his young age at death (25) and the care with which someone stitched together his obituary, I have mentally categorized him as a possible friend relationship. In other words, I have him documented and he stays in the collection, but I will not spend an exorbitant amount of research time on him unless I find another clue that points him back into the family category. Of course, all of this advice is for those of us who are pressed for time and cannot spend full time hours on our genealogy research......with that being said, the historian in me would like to remind everyone that we are trying to tell a complete story, and those friendships could someday prove to be invaluable links to further information, or lead to a story that would knock your socks off!
Happy hunting!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Too Much Turkey!

It is only right and proper that we should stop the onslaught of Christmas for just a moment to remember our blessings and give thanks before we head out, en masse, with credit cards in hand to storm the malls for decking the halls. So, as we are flooded with Pilgrim and Native American imagery, enough turkey and tofu recipes to gag on, this is the best time to reminisce about the good ole days. In other words: the food!

Thanksgivings with the Grandparents were crowded and tension filled, but the food helped us all get along in those cramped quarters. As a kid, I didn't notice the family tensions or politics, just the FUN. We kids played together well, and packed enough toys to supply an underprivileged country. However, as the years progressed, one thing stayed constant: that fantastic cooking!

The feasts on either side of my family were tremendously indulgent. As I look back, what seemed to me a feast meant for a small village was actually a familial act of appeasement. I was so impressed by what my Grandmothers made. Every wonderful side dish imaginable was there, plus that ginormous turkey, followed by several different desserts! But why did they go to soooo much trouble? As my Mom has taken over the main Thanksgiving meal over the years, we have a great turkey, plus a few side dishes, bread and then pumpkin pie for dessert. Nothing as complex as the "olden days". So what gives?

I finally realized that my Grandmothers were practicing that age old talent of keeping everyone happy. If we took a tally, each person would probably have a favorite something - and the Grandmothers cleverly remembered what those were. Which meant slaving over the stove for hours, making sure everyone got their favorite dish for Thanksgiving. This practice of appeasement.....or, aka, selfless love.....was the reason we had such a wondrous feast every year. And which is why the above picture of Grandpa was taken by my Dad back in the late 60s after the feast....obviously Grandpa had many favorites....and whoa to those of us who indulge in all of our favorites on the table, or you too will be grabbing for the first sight of that clever product placement as seen in the photo!

To wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving, a safe and profitable Black Friday, and a creative leftover turkey weekend, I will offer the following tidbits:
**Note, the number of adult married women present at the first Thanksgiving was 4! That's right! 4! And according to the accounts of who attended, there were 5 adolescent girls, 9 adolescent boys (good grief), 13 young children, 22 adult men....and drum roll least 91 Native American male guests! So, maybe our Mothers and Grandmothers have really just been carrying on the tradition of female exhaustion for Thanksgiving!

Oh, and try to spend as much time as possible WITH the family, and not glued to the TV like this group of naughty pilgrims:

From the Gizmodo Thanksgiving Photoshop Contest lots of Turkey...but not too much!



Ah! on Thanksgiving day....
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before.
What moistens the lips and what brightens the eye?
What calls back the past, like the rich pumpkin pie?
~John Greenleaf Whittier

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wedding Déjà vu? Sort of....

Among the photographic heirlooms passed down from my Great Grandmother Nellie Cox Beyersdoerfer is this wedding portrait of my Great Great Aunt, Ada Beyersdoerfer Mueller. The first time I opened its folded enclosure I giggled - a lot. Despite the beautiful details in the photo's clarity, that veil looks like a lace monster that completely swallowed her head!

Beyond the giggle factor, I really do love this photo for its family historic purpose and beauty. As a farming family of little wealth, this formal portrait is the only one we have from the Beyersdoerfer side. Despite the birth of many girls, I haven't seen any other wedding portraits. (For those of you keeping track, Ada was Anna's sister from the Looking at Anna post)

As a special treat, a few years ago as I was studying the photo closer, I looked behind it, and found the wedding invitation perfectly preserved behind the happy couple!

The invitation reads:
Mr. and Mrs. John Beyersdoerfer request the honor of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Ada to Mr. Henry E. Mueller. Wednesday, the Twenty-seventh of September, nineteen hundred and twenty-two at eight o'clock A.M. St. Boniface Church, Northside, Cincinnati, O.

I grew up in Cincinnati, over on the west side, well above Northside geographically, but travelled through that city often on my backroads way to the University of Cincinnati as a college student. I had never seen this church from the main road down the center of town, but it was always on my radar to hunt down someday. When our family moved to Kentucky about 15 years ago, I still had this church on my to-do list, but it was far down the list, and I honestly doubted if I would ever get around to it.....until....

One of my younger cousins on my Dad's side of the family, still in Cincinnati, chose this same church as his wedding site just a few weeks ago. When I read where the wedding was to take place, I was thrilled! For the privacy of the living, I will not name names, but I will include some photos from my turned out to be a stunningly beautiful church inside!! To attend the wedding of a cousin from Dad's side, while trying to imagine the 1922 wedding of an aunt from my Mom's side.....quite the Déjà vu moment!

Ok, that's sort of how it's a tip....make sure you research places BEFORE you attend the events! I was wallowing in that family history moment, "documenting" the past and present with loads of photos. The photos were of course valuable for documenting the current family event, but after returning home, I remembered a conversation my Mother and I had while I was snapping photos outside.....we both thought the building didn't look too old....perhaps turn of the 20th century, but no older. So a quick Google search brought me to the official church website.

Turns out, the congregation dates back to 1853, but after several buildings, the current building dates from 1927. Ironically, my Mueller relatives got married the year after the congregation purchased this land in 1921 on the corner of Chase and Pitts Avenues, but they must have held their ceremony at the former building at the corners of Blue Rock and Lakerman Sts since this newer building was not yet constructed. Which means, I still need to go traipsing through Northside again to see if that older building still exists, so it returns to my to-do list.

As a post script of sorts, I was reading the church's official history, and it turned out to be more significant than I realized. Apparently, the first congregation was begun to accommodate the influx of Irish immigrants that were filling the surrounding Cincinnati areas very quickly. When the influx of German Catholics rapidly rose to match the numbers of local Irish Catholics, the congregation decided to split - ethnically. The Irish congregants split off to form St. Patricks and the Germans stayed to maintain St. Boniface. Which, of course, fits my German lineage on Mom's side.....the Mueller/Beyersdoerfer clan was part of the German half that kept St. Boniface. Ironically, the two halves that split reunited in 1991 under the St. Boniface parish due to dwindling numbers in both groups. That link above to the history of St. Boniface has a great slide show from the early days at the bottom of the page.

So, without further ado, here are some photos of the current St. Boniface church built in 1927:


Twittering Trees

Within my circle of influence lately, Twitter has risen as a questionable issue. Be it work, other blogs (French Essence) or my own Twitter account, people have been discussing the merits or detriments of this format. I felt it was my turn to give my two cents on the matter - specifically because I think those holding out may be missing quite a genealogical treat - or tweet - whatever.

Ironically, as a 2.0 junkie, my fascination with all things social media, which began two years ago, did NOT include Twitter. Until recently, I was completely fact, when the news mentioned anything about this subject, or God forbid, someone used one of those hash-tags (#) in everyday use, I really wanted to go bird hunting. I viewed it as a colossal waste of time, and an ego-centric outlet for those who just loved to hear themselves talk - ignore the ironic presence of blogs behind that green curtain. In fact, "Twit" was such a great word for them....until....

When my own business was born, it was decided that we would begin a Twitter account, since all major companies had one. Of course, I drew the short straw on that one. So, back in August of this year, our Pastology Twitter account was born. For awhile, I was truly at a loss as to how to make this useful. I tweeted a few random historical thoughts, such as antiquing, or attending the FGS conference in Knoxville, but I knew if I didn't learn more and throw myself into this, I was not going to create anything of use, and I feared it would quickly fade from my daily to-do list. And they say, one of the keys to a successful Twitter account is frequent tweets, at least daily....or you become boring really quickly.

However, for those Twitter virgins out is the amazing lesson I learned:

In the genealogy field, Twitter is the news feed made just for us!

That's right, as I searched for historic and genealogical groups to follow, I was amazed at the wealth of information out there. I was hooked....not for my own tweeting, but for the tweets of others!

Which brings up another lesson for the anti-Twitter people who think they have nothing to tweet about:

You don't have to tweet at all if you don't want to!

To keep your finger on the pulse of genealogical events as they happen, just create an account and follow your favorites. Even local favorites are in there....museums, historical societies, libraries, etc. Trust me, if something happens in the genealogical world, you will hear about it FIRST on Twitter. With the apps on smartphones these days, I read Twitter feeds while out and about, almost as much as I read my RSS feed reader. And who knows, once you get an account and keep up with the other fascinating, genealogical/historical worthy tweets out there, you may begin to see great stories online, and gravitate toward that "Share this" button that allows you to share your link find as a tweet! There's quite the slippery slope!

To get you started, or to learn more:

Twitter: Main site

Twitter cheat sheet created by Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers

Hashtags: Search for #genealogy and quickly see who has tweeted about this subject within the past few minutes.

And I just had to include this adorable desktop background that teaches about Twitter shortcuts, all in a family tree style....too cute!

Happy Tweeting!

CD aka @Pastology (For now, I am Pastology. Perhaps someday, if the company grows larger, I may separate into my own Tweetdom, but for now, I tweet from the home base.....generally historical/genealogical links and comments - you can see my feed on the upper right column of the blog) 11/20/10

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oral History Promoted @Starbucks?

I will not divulge locations or calories consumed, but I happen to work in a library that has its own Starbucks attached to the backside. As my co-workers and I have been frequenting this establishment quite regularly lately due to that marvelous concoction, Peppermint Hot Chocolate, we took notice of this year's new Christmas slogan: Stories are Gifts - Share. Oral History is one of my side passions and I was thrilled to see this reminder to the masses that some of our most precious historical and cultural gifts are oral traditions and memories - but only if we share them! So, as the Holiday season encroaches upon us, and we attend gathering after gathering, try to get your family to share as many memories as possible! Even if you have no recording device, quickly jot things down as they were repeated as soon as you get home.....I did just that on one special Christmas back in 2002.

My Grandfather, the one seen in the previous post with all of his military medals, and seen below in his Christmas glory days back in the 80s, was 91 years old in 2002 and recently diagnosed with cancer. He was weak, but still strong in his own way, and this was the last Christmas we all spent at my Grandparents' house. The following Christmas we spent at my Aunt's and then on Christmas Day 2004, Grandpa made his final journey home at 93.

Grandpa had a few photo albums from his youth that I had scanned the previous year to have my own copies. However, when I scanned them and talked to him about them, he didn't seem interested at all in talking about the people in the album. If you asked about the Wars, that was a different story....he would proudly talk all day to anyone who would listen. It was odd to me that he would not talk about this side of his family and the many unidentified people in it, but I thought that to be a lost cause and kept the scans as my only tie to his background.

I have always felt that Christmas was a magical time of year. Regardless of how religious your beliefs about this season, you cannot deny that people act differently during Christmas. That Christmas in 2002 was a brief magical moment that allowed me to document some of our family's past.

As everyone had gone home and a few lingered upstairs talking to Grandma, I stayed downstairs with Grandpa in the family room just chit-chatting and photographing some of that old album again to practice reproduction with various light sources. He was watching my progress and when I brought it over to him to ask him about someone, he took the album and put it in his lap. I quietly pulled up a small chair and sat next to him as he walked me through the album, pointing out people he knew and telling me stories about his parents and extended family that none of us had ever heard before. I had no recording device save my own memory, but as soon as I got home, I wrote down every story he told me in his words as I remember him telling it. That type of memory recollection is not the best way to preserve important family stories, but beggars cannot be choosers, and since each of his little stories were short, my recollection abilities were able to retain everything until I could get home.

As magical as that memory is for me, I learned a few things: If you are forced to record a story from memory, write it down AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, the more time that elapses, the more details you lose - Never take an opportunity for granted, any family gathering is precious and could be the last one for a loved one in the room - Do not wait for a recording device as some relatives of advanced years can sense those things from a mile away, and balk at the idea. Besides, passing on family stories orally is a tradition as old as humanity itself - Don't knock the tried and true! One last tip: buy a nice quality journal to keep handy in case a relative starts telling a story that you cannot capture via device. I kept one during my years with both sets of Grandparents and I still use it when I hear a family story I want to make sure I remember.

So take Starbucks' advice and SHARE the gift of memories! Oh and BTW, their peppermint hot chocolate has been unanimously declared "Christmas in a cup" by the library ladies in my department.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Acts of Honor

As we celebrate Veterans Day this year, I spent some time trying to remember all of the members of my family that spent some time serving in the military. As it turns out, my Father's side of the family is the one that remains heavily devoted to serving our country. From the American Revolution, to the Civil War, to WWII, to the Korean War, to the current conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, this side of the family has had very strong ties to the military.

In remembrance of those who have honorably served our country, I will list their names, and a link back to their entry on FindaGrave, if they have one. As an act of honoring our relatives who served and have already passed, perhaps this is the perfect opportunity give them a small honor on that site? There are a few ways to accomplish this: add the entry if the Veteran has not already been added to the database; add a note or two about their service if you have that information ; add a flag or flower to their entry in honor of this special Holiday. These are our heroes and we should make every effort to keep their memories sure to celebrate their acts of honor today!
My Military Family:

Daniel Estle 1745-1821: American Revolution - Pennsylvania Militia

Henry Connelly 1751-1840: American Revolution - Captain - North Carolina Cavalry

Henson Mockabee 1792-1880: War of 1812 - Kentucky Militia

Madison Daniels 1838-1913: Civil War - Ohio Infantry

Myron Beyersdoerfer 1907-1979: WWII US Army

Charles C. Daniels 1911-2004: WWII, Korean War - LTC US Army (Grandpa)

Charles C. Daniels Jr. 1939-Present: Army Reserves - LTC (Dad)

Plus some other living relatives (Uncle Jeff, Uncle Bruce, Cousin David, Cousin Bobby, Cousin Eddie, Cousin Harold, etc.). Sadly, as I go through some of the old family photos, I see some other valiant men who served, but I do not know their names.....for all the Veterans out there, we say "Thank You for securing and preserving our freedom!!"

The photo above, is my Dad and Grandpa....we are very proud of these two Lieutenant Colonels! Grandpa was so proud of his only son who chose to follow in his footsteps and as you can see, he was there to celebrate his milestones at every opportunity. Dad still enjoys Veterans Day and will celebrate tonight by visiting the local Veterans in one of the Nursing Homes near his home in Georgetown. Sadly, we lost Grandpa in 2004 at the age of 93. The man who also took incredible delight in the Christmas season chose Christmas Day as his time of departure. Below is a picture of his flag as displayed at his wake in Cincinnati.

"How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!"
Maya Angelou

CD 11/11/10

Friday, October 29, 2010

Creepy Encounters

There are those moments, albeit infrequently, that we discover something among our research that sends a tiny little shiver down the spine.....or gives us goosebumps.....or makes us pass by it quickly because it's just plain creepy. History is full of genuine horror stories and unexplained phenomenons, and although I have never encountered the paranormal during my two decades worth of research, I have had my fair share of creepy encounters. For fun, I will include a few examples of what I mean.....tis the season to share the creepy....or put the family skeletons in the front room window!

Cemetery Creepiness:
These places are chock full of creepy. After all, as my mother always reminds me, I'm playing among the dead when I have to visit one for research. She uses the word "playing" because I actually enjoy roaming among these peaceful and beautiful places full of life memorials. However, there are times when we run across the death reminders, and they can be a little disconcerting.....

Here are a couple of examples of what I like to call the faceless figures. Time and weather have worn away the stones to the degree that no facial features remain....only a silent figure that stands guard over the lost loved one.....reminding us that time marches on and renders everything and everyone to dust.

Sometimes the site of a fresh grave with a mound of wilted flowers gives me a little shiver of creepy, but this photo below seemed to have a little dash of creepiness on the side. We were visiting Daniel Boone's grave in Frankfort Kentucky when I walked around to the backside of the monument. In the back corner of the iron fence that surrounds the rectangular tower, was this wilted token of remembrance. I suspected it was left by someone who had been in the cemetery for the purpose of funeral attendance and had this little rose leftover.....but then, it could be someone locally who does this regularly for old Daniel's tomb.....either way, the rose in wilted form on that dreary day was another reminder of our being like the flower that quickly fades.
And let us not forget the cracked above ground tomb.....getting the zombie vibe!

Those Eyes!
Let's face it.....we can all remember those odd family photos where the person's facial expression or fathomless eyes have almost made us jump back in startled response......

As exhibit A, I have this nameless, but pretty girl from my family. I know she is from my mother's side of the family, but from what branch, I am at a loss. However, those wide, pale eyes, while wearing white, among a white utterly ghostly!
And speaking of ghosts! From now on, when I read about Jacob Marley in Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I am going to picture this face forever. Poor guy.....Jonathan Harrington is actually one of our nation's heroes as he fought at the Battle of Lexington as a young man in 1775. You can read about his life in Maureen Taylor's book The Last Muster - pg. 75.

The Headless/Faceless:
After generations of relating stories about headless horsemen and apparitions, finding a photo that has carefully had the face or head removed speaks to a certain level of creepy. In my opinion, the physical act of intentionally removing that face or head from the photo is evidence of a tremendous emotional moment from the past. Either great grief, or rage spurred that type of action, and an object that has been the recipient of great human emotion from the past, kind of makes my creepy meter go off......and then there is the obvious creepiness associated with a headless figure. Double whammy in my book!

My first example comes from the Library of Congress' newest digitized acquisition: The Liljenquist Collection. This photo of the unidentified Union Soldier with his headless lady was quite a shocker while perusing this magnificent collection. Perhaps because they couldn't just cut out the woman's head, but they had to sit and scrape away the image of her face.....evidence of a pretty disturbed individual?

My second example is from our family collection - little Granville Hampton. I am well aware of the special challenge that had to exist back in the day when photography lacked any high-speed capability. This meant children were hard moving targets to capture on what was a mother to do? Drape herself in a bold fabric of course and hold the child still. Sorry, this registers on my creepy meter.
Open Caskets/Post Mortem:
Open casket and post mortem shots are pretty high on my creepy meter.....but I know it was highly popular once upon a time. The example below is the only open casket photo we have in our family collection. As you can see, it is of a baby, which removes the creepy, and replaces it with a twinge of sadness.....children in the caskets are hugely tragic, and due to the year range of the 1920s, I will not reveal the name of the little infant. As far as I can tell, she was not a family member, but a close neighbor from the northern part of Kentucky. Animals:
Yes, we have photos of dead moose from Canada in our family collection, and even a dead skunk that great grandpa John was skinning while drunk.....but those never creeped me out. This little guy below was a little creepy, because, how did they manage to capture his ears and tail in this perfectly erect state? And on second thought.....what did he see that made him so scared? Sure looks like he sees a ghost! For immortality purposes, the little guy's name was Spot...of course.
Hope you enjoyed this macabre posting.....what sort of creepy have you encountered? CD
Sepia Saturday #47


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates