Wednesday, August 24, 2011

School Days

When I arrived at work this morning, I was reminded that today was our first day back to school on campus. I know many other kids have already went back in our area, but now, even the college crowd has arrived. I will not name exactly which University I work for, but I was amazed at the amount of blue and white being worn by the students. Sure, some school spirit is natural, but on the first day it was pervasive.....and very fun to see. There was an air of excitement and a bit of joy....I can remember when sporting your school colors would have been seen as a bit nerdy......but I'm very glad to see things have changed for the better in this area. For the rest of the youngsters out there who were not as excited about returning to school I present this small token for your amusement.

This is quite the smart looking bunch sitting for their school portrait in Pendleton County Kentucky - but then, if you look closely - I see a whole lot of scowling faces! I know that smiling for the camera was not a preference in the above time period......but I see some girls in the very back row grinning for the camera. The rest of the students on the other hand were downright sour! Regardless of whether you are wearing a grin or a sour face - welcome back everyone!!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sepia Saturday - Tree Memories

Reuss-Beyersdoerfer Clan
The suggested Sepia Saturday theme for this week, trees, inspired me to look back on my own family tree memories, and what better way to celebrate genealogy than by honoring the image of the tree. I attempted to pull some sepia images from my family collection - but as other bloggers have learned today, there are not many "tree" photos in our collections. The family image that you see to the left is my favorite "tree" image. To see this family group, standing proudly in front of this equally proud tree that towers over them demonstrates a perfect blend of history and symbolism.

My other favorite family image that includes a tree is this one of the Cox family in Pendleton County Kentucky. Most family group images we have utilize a more family focused composition. In other words, close enough to only see the people. This family photographer took a little artistic license and let the trees be even more prominent than the human subjects - or perhaps they were so new at taking pictures that they forgot to get closer.....either way, we get to see the expansiveness of the trees on this property, and not just the expansiveness of the prolific family unit!
Within my other family memories, trees have played a prominent role. I spent a huge chunk of my youth and adolescence traipsing around, climbing, drawing and adoring trees. I was an outdoors kid all the way. Nature and all of its complexity was, and still is, a dear friend. This image is from my grandparents farm in Bourbon County Kentucky - an old walnut tree that sits between a small field and the vegetable garden. That farm was not only a source of spiritual and mental health for me, almost as necessary as oxygen, but it also embodied all of the love my grandparents bestowed upon us when visiting. And don't get me started on the adventures! So many I cannot count! As a side note, this farm in the far western part of the county was certified a few years ago as home to the second largest tree in the state of Kentucky! An amazing old burr oak tree that sits in a valley, just below one of the ponds. Each tree branch is the size of a large tree trunk.....awe inspiring.

I have always regarded genealogy as somewhat of a spiritual journey. There is nothing as humbling as looking back across the generations and realizing that you are merely one addition to the long string of people that have come before you. Soon, you too will be nothing more than someone's memory. But in this realization, it bolsters my belief in life eternal. Time is ever flowing. And yet, when I think of the spiritual realm, and perhaps the place where our ancestors reside, there is no time. This final tree was captured on "film" just this past June while hiking up to Laurel Falls in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. We all learned in school that the trees we see above the soil have a duplicate existence in size and proportion below the soil in the form of roots. I can remember thinking, as a child, that had to be a load of bunk.....they were asking us to believe in something we could not see. This is just another example of nature demonstrating to us that we only understand a small portion of the world we encounter. I've also heard it said that the spiritual realm is just as real as the world we can see with our eyes, like this tree and its roots - and if our roots are as important as most genealogists believe, our journey is never finite.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mystery Object - Candle Box?

I present, for your amusement, a box of mysterious origin and use. It is made mostly of a light metal, I'm guessing tin since a magnet does stick to it, and wood. The measurements are 12" long by 5" wide by 4.5" deep. I purchased this item back in the early 1990s at a Cincinnati antique store for $3.00. It had that lovely primitive appearance that I am still fond of even though it has passed out of style for many. My first thought was a candle box, based on its measurements and the way the lid hinges back to let whatever was inside, be retrieved without bending......but.....on second that really what it is? There are some odd design elements as I will display below. After you see the evidence, please give me your thoughts on what you suspect its original purpose might have been. 

Instead of a standard arched, extended piece that is flat enough to hang the box from the wall, like many candle boxes I have seen, this one has a heavy duty handle meant for carrying.
The lid is one metal piece that it beveled in design and attached at the very bottom. The three sides are made up of one piece of metal rounded and bent to make the box shape. However, the bottom (end and box bottom) are both made of wood panels.
The lid itself, is only connected at the base and easily swings back to open as one awkward panel - quite unlike many candle boxes I have seen where the lid is an inset wooden lid that slides in and out. There are two tiny holes at the top where a string-like latch must have been to keep the lid closed when not in use.
Here is the weirdest feature of all.....3 perfectly drilled holes in the back wooden panel. The holes vary in size, are not evenly spaced, and yet, if they were an accident (rogue child practicing with a drill for the first time), they were never puttied up, but rather painted inside, just like the rest of the box. My Mom once thought that due to its black paint, and odd holes, that it might have been a signal box of some kind. We even tried lighting a candle in it to see what happened with the holes.....odd experiment with inconclusive results.
No matter what it may have been, I continue to love it and have it prominently placed next to the cute little caned ladder back chair that I purchased at the Ewalt house auction in Bourbon County Kentucky in the late 1990s (for $8.00, can you believe that?). Every time I see this box, I still sense a mystery. So....your vote on this? I would also be interested to hear theories on age.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Hunting Wabbits...A.K.A. Warrens!

When I think of my Warren branch of the family, and our loss of contact within recent generations, I go through an odd transformation. It begins by getting inspired, then determined, followed by pulling their file for more research - but then my face eventually begins to take on that maniacal look of desperation as so wonderfully demonstrated by my friend Elmur Fudd. He is so representative of the genealogy search! He knows what he wants, he will not give up - nose down and moving forward - but sometimes missing his target as it sits and laughs at him - always taunting and being just out of reach! I apologize in advance for this note of a rather personal and specific nature. However, as the blogs get crawled by search engines, maybe someday, this entry will turn up in a cousin's search result to point them in my direction. I am searching for a specific group of the Warren family from the far Western Kentucky/Tennessee areas.

When I mean searching, I'm not talking about a record search, that I can do and have been doing on my own. I really would like to make some personal contact in the hopes of learning more about our family history as well as hoping they would have a photo or two from this side of the family they would be willing to scan for the rest of us abandoned cousins. Due to a family tragedy, my grandfather Roy Watts and his sister Estelle grew up in a Louisville orphanage with very little contact from the rest of the family. They were the children of James Thomas Watts(1891-1953) and Florence Warren Watts(1898-1923). For more on James' family history, see the previous post about his parents.

I will not plague you with too many details, but here is what we know:
Roy and Estelle's early childhood were spent hopping between Graves County Kentucky and Weakley County Tennessee. We believe the Watts side of the family resided on the Tennessee side of the area, and the Warren family on the Kentucky side - with some cross pollination across the border. Many of the orphanage records for the children have varying places of residence, birth, etc that reflect this transient pattern. We have heard that the two sides of the family did not get along because when this young couple got married (James and Florence m.1914), her Warren side did not approve of her Watts choice. Florence died from tuberculosis at the age of 25 after giving birth to a third child: James Thomas - who either died after being adopted by a Garrett woman from Alabama, or put in another orphanage down south - based on some conflicting family reports - apparently there was a scandal attached to this adoption and we have only gotten a few willing blurbs about the incident.

Roy and Estelle's father was still alive, but handicapped and had to move around a lot in order to find work. Since both sides of the family were at odds, Florence and James' wish at her death was to put the children in a home for a better chance. After entering the Christian Children's Home in Louisville, which was quite far away from the remaining family units, there was minimal contact with the children. James wrote some letters to his children, as did Florence's sister Mae Warren Wiggins. **Aunt Mae was in contact with the family again in the 1980s before her death, but we've even lost contact with her children.

Roy visited the Mayfield area back in the 50s or 60s to reconnect with some of the family, but sadly, no one brought forth much about the family, or he didn't take any notes. Roy and Estelle had a picture of their father since he didn't pass away until the 1950s (seen here), yet, went all of their lives without any picture of their mother. Mention was made of pictures existing, but none were ever shared - which would have been hard to do back then. Roy said one member of the family showed him a small newspaper clipping with a school group photo - which included his mother as a teenager. He spoke of this photo a lot and always told me I resembled his mother (my great-grandmother), and we assumed it was because we were told she had blond hair - my hair was blond when very young, and light brown when older. However, none of us have seen this photo, let alone any other photos from the elusive Warren clan.

My appeal goes out to any living cousins out there that may be descended from this bunch. The family unit that Florence came from is as follows:

John and Asalee (Azalee) Gray? Warren

Mae (married a Wiggins)
Edna (also married a Wiggins)
+ a few others, whose names I don't have on hand at the moment.
This family group can also be seen here in this 1900 Graves County Kentucky census clip:

I have some notes (oral accounts) that list the parents of John as James and Cordelia (?) Warren. As for Asalee above, we heard she was a Gray and in the above census household, Timpa Gray, the "mother in law" was living with them at the time. We had heard her name as Tempy, but always assumed it was short for Temperance. Imagine our surprise when I found this amazing tidbit in Findagrave:

Birth: Mar. 7, 1827
Death: Feb. 17, 1903

Tempay Warren Gray was a 73 year old living with her daughter Azalee and husband John Warren listed in the 1900 census.
wife of R. Warren and E. Grey
High Hill Cemetery
Graves County
Kentucky, USA

Soooo, she was married to both a Warren and a Gray...thanks Grandma for making as this clear as mud! This one alone is why I need to make some physical field trips down to the home counties....planning for a trip soon, Mom is chomping at the bit!

In order to snag some more cousins, here is a couple of obits that might ring a bell: one for Arthur Warren, Florence's brother, and one for Arthur's son Aubrey aka "Jay" in Calloway County Kentucky - both died in 1983.

As a final note, please do not be alarmed by Elmer Fudd and his shotgun, I am not literally hunting you as he would.....but we would be thrilled to restore contact to this branch of our family.
Btw, many thanks to the Watts cousins out there - you know who you are - who found my web site years ago and sent me some wonderful pedigree info and photos of our ancestors!
To the rest of my readers - thank you for the long indulgence. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programing.
**Newspaper articles taken from the Mayfield Messenger (1923,1983), with the exception of the last obit from the Murray Ledger Times.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lincoln Park Legacy - A New Journey

Telling the story of the Lincoln Park Baptist Church will require many voices. My voice, encased in my personal experiences with this institution will be here at my blog. However, the new Lincoln Park Legacy blog will be the newsfeed for the many voices I hope to restore to our collective memory. After my first segment of the Lincoln Park story told here, I encourage you to visit the new and official blog of the project to learn more and follow along as we uncover historical gems and past identities.

My introduction to Lincoln Park Baptist Church in Cincinnati Ohio came through my parents and grandparents. My grandparents were members of this church between the span of the late 1950s to the mid-1980s. My parents were married here, yet they did not belong to this congregation as they made their own family. Actually, many of my family members were married here: My aunts and uncles, and a few cousins.

Among my personal memories, I can relate a few: visiting many times with the grandparents, attending Sunday school on occasion with my cousin, attending weddings, and two favorite memories that my family love retelling when they need a good laugh. The time when I was 3 years old and had an accident that made my grandmother think her water pills were playing tricks on her, and the only time I was ever asked to be a flower girl in a wedding – I fainted dead away while standing so long, and hit my head on the seat of the hard wooden pew. This was my cousin’s wedding, and my aunt supposedly has an audio tape of the horrible, loud “bong” that my hard head made as it hit the pew. Have no fear, there were no lasting mental effects – at least that is what they continued to tell me over the years.

Back in 2007, my Aunt, who was still a member of this church, invited my parents and I up to visit during the “homecoming” celebration. This yearly event was special in 2007 for a couple of reasons. 1. The Church was celebrating 165 years of being a congregation. 2. This would probably be their last celebration because the building was about to be sold and the congregation had voted to merge with another in order to survive in any capacity. There was a third reason I was called up – due to the anniversary, all of the historical items of the church’s long history would be on display, and with my Special Collections training/history degree/genealogy experience, they could use an expert pair of eyes. At this point, the congregation knew they had a unique collection, but had no idea what to do with it once they merged with another church.

My visit in 2007 was thrilling. I instantly fell in love with this collection. It was rich and fairly well preserved. There were stories of women missionaries to China, immigrant congregations, healing ministries, hardships through the decades of American history, and just plain adorable social tidbits. After snapping some initial photos of the collection, I recommended some options if they intended to keep the collection, or if they planned on donating it to another entity.

Within the next year, I was invited back to take a closer look, give even more detailed preservation advice, and this time, advise on packing. By now, the church building had sold, and the moving had already begun. Knowing the long history of this church, I was saddened by these turn of events.

There were many in the congregation that understood the scope and value of this collection, but they were not ready to part with it. They had the foresight to plan for preserving the material, but were unsure how to go about this properly. They set aside some money to purchase preservation material and to house the items in an environmentally controlled space. However, after a few years of debating, a mold outbreak, lack of space, and re-allocation of some of the money, plans were altered by necessity. This is where I came back into the picture within the capacity of Pastology.
Under our normal operating procedures, we advise on how to set up digitization efforts in-house, in the hopes of preserving and digitizing items on a long term basis. With the Lincoln Park remnants, circumstances were changing fast, and it was evident that a long-term digitization/preservation effort was not possible with the few volunteers they had on hand. Also, their new facilities were not conducive to maintaining the items securely. Extra help was needed, and due to our unique relationship, Pastology agreed to digitize off-site, with each newly digitized batch of documents being donated to a local historical society, for longterm preservation of the original material. Another reason for this choice was the desire for quick and full access of these documents for the remaining members who are aging fast. Part of this new project will also include a portion devoted to oral history. Hopefully we can add to the collection with some oral history interviews in the near future.

That is about it for my personal connection to this collection. When I say Pastology will be digitizing the collection, that means, me, myself and I. This one is near and dear to me, so I’m taking this one on all by my lonesome. Disclaimer: Pastology is under contract and is being paid for the digitization efforts…..we are NOT however, being paid to wallow in how much fun wading through all of this content has already proven to be! What is it they say about a pig wallowing in mud? Sometimes it feels like that with the dust, and yes, a bit of mold from time to time, but I am as happy as that proverbial pig!

To follow along on the journey and keep tabs on the wonderful historical gems we uncover, please consider following our newest blog Lincoln Park Legacy. We also have a new twitter account: @oldlincolnpark. Once the newly digitized documents are entered into Pastology, they will be free to access. For any of you with Cincinnati relatives/ancestors… will want to keep tabs on this collection. The congregation was downtown for over a hundred years with as many as 1000 members at the turn of the century. One of the most fantastic things we have to digitize is a large number of completed member cards, some as far back as the 1920s. Many new Romanian and Hungarian immigrants attended this church for sometime as well…..and that is just the tip of the iceberg!

So far, my favorite serendipity moment:

I was allowed to come take charge of a few document tubs at a time. Nothing is in any order anymore, so I did poke through some of the collection to create a tub with some of the oldest things first – they will need the quickest preservation care. As soon as I arrived home with the tubs, I grabbed a few files to look through. One photo in a clear sleeve slipped out on top of the others – the subject: an adult Sunday school class from the 1950s – in the front row – my grandparents - well at least Grandpa and half of Grandma.....but still a fun moment!


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