It's been a while since I've posted - gosh, life right? In addition to genealogy, one of my main hobbies is reading. I love learning about the human story. It's why I do what I do. That being said, I don't really do plugs for books.
I'm breaking that rule now. I'm March, I had the privilege of meeting a Frenchman named Nordine Mohamedi. Nordine has spent his entire life not really knowing very much about his American father. He took an AncestryDNA test and not only confirmed who his father was - he also became connected with his father's family. Nordine flew from France to Texas so that he could meet his father's sister and some of his cousins. I was part of that journey and met him too.
Y'all. Nordine wrote a book about his struggle to find his father, what his life was like growing up as a child of mixed heritage in France, and what his future goals are. I encourage you, strongly, to read his first-hand account of what a $100 DNA test can do for you, and how it can change your life. See the link to the book below. Buy it. This is what family history and genealogy is all about. It's why we do what we do, as researchers.
Read more about John's search: http://www.reporternews.com/story/news/2017/03/11/son-finds-father-he-never-knew-after-50-years/99013728/
Well, it happened. I ran family DNA and now I'm writing SECOND DNA blog post...or is this my third? A few years ago I ran my DNA through ancestry.com and was really pleased with the results. Not only did I think the ethnicity estimator was awesome (because it is), but I also loved that the site connected me to other family members (I found my Dad's first cousin that we hadn't been in contact with in ages!). So the next goal was to encourage my parents and my grandfather to take their own DNA tests. For Christmas 2016 I bought 2 DNA tests - one for my Dad and one for my maternal grandfather.
I suspected that when my Grandfather's DNA came back it would confirm (once and for all) if our family had any Native American DNA. From my own DNA results I knew that this was highly unlikely. When I was a new researcher, the family stories about Native American heritage were very common. In looking at research done by other family members, several cousins had tried to identify which great-great grandmother they THOUGHT might have been at least 1/2 Indian. After running my DNA I felt justified in not being able to find any documents confirming that a great-great-grandmother actually was an Indian - Cherokee or otherwise (which is always the direction that family lore goes).
But then I found myself being guilty of the same sin as countless other researchers are also guilty of (especially when it comes to heritage without solid proof). My DNA showed that I had European Jewish DNA - 2%. So I KNEW that that had to come from my Dad's side of the family. His mom and his aunt both had Jewish related blood diseases - didn't they?
DNA truly is the most unbiased source. Documents may contain misspellings or wrong names. Documents can be easily overlooked in searches - or not found at all. DNA is a source that will not lie. It is not subject to research bias. It is what it is. It's information is all laid out on the table. And if you, as a researcher, aren't sure where to go next - it can steer you in the right direction and can even help you break down those brick walls (because depending on what you're researching - like possible Indian great-great grandmothers - they may not even have been there to begin with).
My 10 Favorite Family Names
Check out this list of my top 10 Favorite Family names! I love the elegant names, the jewel-inspired names, and the unique names. What are your favorite family names?
My parents decided, really it seemed like it was at the last minute to me, to visit my dad's first cousin in Weatherford. Weatherford is about a 200 mile drive from where we live, but this is Texas and distance hasn't ever stopped any Texan before (seriously, I don't know anyone in this state that has ever said "it's too far" because there is at least a 3 hours drive between where you are and where you want to be).
I gave my parents one request and some hurried instructions: "Come back with family history!"and "Take pictures with your phone - more than one picture of each item!" and "See if you can make pictures of Bible records!" and then they were off! My parents had a wonderful lunch with my dad's cousin. For a long time it was just the two of them; their mothers were very close even though their children were 12 years apart. They have always had a very special bond.
My parents returned with a yearbook. The yearbook featured pictures and stories of my great-aunt and poems
objectivity and think what a wonderful source of information my school records have proven to be.
Well, true to my word, I did NOT write another post in December. I do, however, want to do a reflection of 2016 because it was definitely a year of change for me. I remember in January thinking "something's got to give." I just knew that 2016 would be different, that my situation would change. And boy, did it ever!
I keep a list of goals that I hope to accomplish every year. I'd like to say that I always accomplish all 10 goals, but that's not true. For the most part, I accomplish 5-7 items on the list. I love feeling like I've completed something that I wanted to during the year. This year, I implimented something new into the list at the end of the year: an evaluation. What did I actually accomplish? Why? Why not? It made me realize 1) how monumental a lot of the goals were 2) how hard 2016 actually was. I would say that based on the projects that I took on last year, it was one of the most difficult. I lost a lot of people that I loved, I took on a house renovation, I began a new career, and I am in the process of changing religious denominations. That seems to be the story of my life, and as I told my friend Allan, when the times get tough I just seem to make them tougher.
In looking at 2016 I evaluated my overall health, career, personal/spiritual changes, relationship progressions, and hobby development.
Honestly, in 2016 my health was pretty poor. As a generally healthy person this hit me hard. I had a double ear infection during the summer that almost ruptured both of my ear drums (I already have eustation tube disfunction). I can't honestly remember a time that I've been that sick and in that much pain. I had a minor surgery that took me a little longer than anticipated to recover from (I thought it would be a walk in the park...apparently I was the only one). Then, torward the end of the year...I caught the flu. I haven't had the flu in at least a decade. My gosh, I was miserable. Honestly, I know stress was a contributing factor to a lot of the illness I had last year (not only from new job training but also from personal loss). The health of my family members was also poor. My mother had to have a pace maker put in and my father had a total hip replacement (both are doing great!).
My personal/ spiritual changes have been pretty significant. For several years I've been thinking about converting to Catholicism. I grew up attending Catholic school and the Presbyterian church. This decision has been very difficult. My family established a significant number of Covenenter Presbyterian churches in the United States. My granddad was an ordained minister and my grandfather was a lay minister. It was not an easy choice, but it is one that I am very comfortable with.
The relationships in my life...well that's been interesting. Renovating the house has been a strain on pretty much all relationships in my life. It's definitely been a trial. I've used all of my friend points, that's for sure. My relationship with my parents was strained because of the training that I was in. I had no time to help with family obligations, and that was hard on them. 2016 was also a year of loss. A beloved family friend, an uncle, died rather unexpectedly. Katherine also died. Katherine has been a surrogate grandmother to me, in addition to being a teacher and mentor, for a decade. Her health began to decline in February and she passed away just before Christmas.
In working on my family history I often wish that I had more writings from my ancestors in their own words. So, I decided to leave a record for my descendants. I don't write an entry every day, but I do record main events. I've also found that it's theraputic for me and I've come to enjoy it!
Overall, 2016 was a challenging year. It was emotionally trying, especially with so many people that I loved being sick during most if it. I love that it was definitely a year of change. The feeling that something had to be different this year, that it would be a great year, was also accurate. I'm working on a residential project that I love. I've got a career and am delighted with it. I'm thankful for my experiences in the past year. I'm grateful for my friends and family. I've been blessed by lost loved ones in my life. A friend posted that 2017 has big shoes to fill. Initially, I thought that she was mistaken, but upon further reflection I find that she is correct. I look forward to this new year. Happy New Year, friends.
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
Today is December first and I've already got a full holiday calendar. I've got one Christmas party of the in the middle of the month, a few Christmas Eve church services, and let's not forget the Christmas Eve family traditions, and Christmas itself. I love this part of the year. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of the time spent with family. I love that this holiday makes us all take time out of our day, come together, and just be thankful.
What I love about December and Christmas is that that feeling is carried on. I love the Christmas lights, I love the happiness that the general public has. I love how happy decorating for and celebrating Christmas makes me (I bought solar lights for some tomato cages and can't stop looking at how pretty they are outside). The Little in my life is now starting to become old enough to appreciate the tree, the presents, the nativity sets, etc. Which brings me to the real point of this post: Christmas traditions.
most of my Christmas decorations up BEFORE Thanksgiving. Yes, this year I was one of THOSE people (and my mother shammed me endlessly about it). At my mom's house, the Christmas decorations don't go up until after Thanksgiving. Don't even think about it, and certainly don't ask if the decorations can go up any earlier. They can't. The answer is a resounding "no." #sorrydad
2. We do stockings. My parents have always done stockings and presents for us - which is pretty traditional. Every Christmas my little sister would get up earlier than everyone else and go through the stockings comparing presents. Apparently, she still does this. This year, I've taken this tradition that my parents started with us and I'm expanding it. Friends, there are stockings galore at my house, with personalized and small gifts inside. No large presents. If it doesn't fit into that decorative hosiery, you don't get it as a present.
I'm going to find a wooden Advent calendar and modge podge the picture of the old calendar with the new one. I'm still working on specifics, but that's my plan. I like the idea of having a new Advent calendar with this echo of the past - it's pretty and sentimental. #thisbearadventcalendarismyfavorite
4. The ornaments that we use are all sentemental. Years ago my mother started a tradition of getting us specific ornaments that represent something big that happened to us durign the year. One year I painted a Christmas card with a quail for the Christmas light tour we have in town, and that year my mom got me a quail ornament. I love that this is a tradition we have in my family. It certainly makes our Christmas tree's interesting and not very Pinteresty, but more than anything when we look at our ornaments we are also reminded of the events that inspired the ornament (and that's better than any themed tree). Christmas was also my maternal grandmother's favorite holiday and she would often get us our own special ornaments. She would write our initials on the bottom of them. They are such a treasure to me now.
5. I've done blog posts before on recipies and their connection to family history. This is certainly true around the holidays in my family. I know that every year the Christmas meal with feature: Nellie's Jello Salad, Green Bean Casserole, Nonna's Cornbread Dressing, and Nonna's Pecan Pie. I love that these family traditions are present every year - yum!
Clause 5. Home Alone (to be fair, I just watched this movie for the first time this year - it's hilarious).
Anyway, Merry Christmas y'all. I probably won't post again before the beginning of the year, but I wanted to write a quick post. I hope that you'll think about your own Christmas traditions and why you do them. Better yet, I hope you write them down so that your descendants know what was important to you around the holidays.
Mary Isabel Huggans White, daughter of the late Dr. George Huggans and Sarah Winton Huggans has gone to be with her Lord on June 19, 1930. She was united on April 11, 1865 to James White. This union was blessed with seven children.
Mary was preceded in death by her husband, James White in 1907 and her daughter Mary in 1871. Mrs. White had been an active member of her community. Her beautiful life will be remembered forever by her surviving children: Albert White, Charles White, William White, Blanche Hansen, Ella Forcum, and James White; her daughters-in-law and sons-in-law; and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Day 3: Imagine your ancestor getting the keys to his first house or car. Write a journal entry from his point of view that describes the car/place and his feelings about it.
Homeowners! It's 1969 and my family has moved around for many years. We moved here because of the military base there. It's hard to imagine that this adventure began in Florida. This house is so different from the property and the trailer that we had there. It's nothing like Georgia either. I think the closest that any of us have come to having a real house before this one was the one we rented on Harris street. We also had a little flat, and then base housing when we were in Berlin. I painted a mural in the flat, a West Texas mural, to make it feel more like home. Kathy is 13 years old and this is the first permanent home she's ever had - it's our house! We paid $10,000 for the house - our savings - but it will be worth it. This house is a project! It had been an apartment building during World War II, and many of the components (kitchens, odd bathrooms, and locks) haven't ever been replaced or removed. The house is in bad need of painting and the roof needs some attention. But, as I looked at Dot today I realized that this was the right choice (no matter the headache and pain of renovation) because this is something that we finally own together.
Day 2: Think of your ancestor as a character in a novel.
She was a sprite, with a tinkling laugh and dancing eyes. There was something impish in her. Was it the way that she structured her grammar in her letters to her parents? Was it her frame: short, 4'11''? There was something inside her that filled her with an endless sense of adventure and travel. Later, she would describe it as having a "gypsy soul" and she would pass this on to her children, and through them to her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. But now, she did not have any children. She was not yet married. No, now she was just a young woman who had packed all of her belongings into a trunk to take to an unknown state.
Perhaps she had said to her mother, "Momma, I'll travel." Suppose she said to her father, "I'll make my own way."
No doubt there were tearful goodbyes that day that she loaded her possessions and herself onto that train, bound for New Mexico. She was the oldest daughter of her family. She was close to all of her siblings, and to her parents. Before this moment the only traveling that she had ever done had been with her family. Now, she was lone. It was hard to leave her family, but still there was something in her that craved adventure.
In the back of her mind she remembered walking and riding in a covered wagon with her parents and her siblings getting her first taste of travel. She had been so little then, so many of her siblings still really babies. She remembered stopping at school houses for a drink of water. She remembered visiting with people along the way. Now, there was no covered wagon. Now, a machine would take her to that destination so far away.
Still, she thought, as she smoothed the wrinkles out of her smart black dress with the peter pan collar, I will do this for myself. Yes, she knew that this was something that she had to do. She would be a Harvey Girl.
On Instagram this past week I saw a post from Family Tree Magazine found here. I haven't participated in a writing prompt challenge before, so this is definitely a first for me. I'm four days behind, so I have a little catching up to to. So, here we go:
Day 1: Write a letter to an ancestor you've never met.
You are my great-grandmother. I wish that I knew more about you. You died before a few months after your youngest child got married. You died five years before my father was born. I’ve got so many questions. If you could answer this letter, I would want to know how you met your husband. He was twenty-three years older than you were, and he out-lived you by fourteen years. How did he propose to you? What was your wedding like? I have so precious few pictures of either of you and just a handful of you together. It’s hard to know what you were like from those photos, but I can imagine the life that you built together.
I would ask you your thoughts on motherhood. You were the mother of four children. What were some of your greatest strengths, and some of your greatest weaknesses? If you had any general advice for your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren what would it be?
I would ask you what your favorite memory of your father is, and I would want to know what your mother was like. Did you live close to them? Did some your children know them well? What are some of your best memories from your childhood - your grandparents, your siblings, and your friends?
What was your favorite smell? I like vanilla and leather - but they are really the only two artificial smells that I can tolerate. I would want to know if I act like you or look like you in any way. What do you see of yourself in me?
The questions that I have for you are endless. Your legacy is what I make it: a loving mother, a good wife, a woman who did the best she could for those she loved. I’m the genealogist for my small family in Texas. I try to reconstruct your life through documents and a few pictures. I know that I miss a lot of the details. Just know, I do my best, and I am always searching for more of you.
I love family history and the various ways that it can be approached by researchers! I hope that this blog is interesting and inspiring!