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Archive for the ‘Carnival of Genealogy’ Category

Please go to Destination: Austin Family to read the 51st Carnival of Genealogy post. This Carnival was hosted by Thomas MacEntee. Thanks, Thomas! The Carnival was a tribute to Independence Day with the topic: “Independent Spirit. There are so many great posts about men and women who took a different path than others. They set out on their own and did things their way even when others said “it won’t work” or “are you crazy?

I urge everyone to read all the entries and please leave a comment on those you visit!  As a recent contributor to the Carnivals, it really helps to know what people are thinking when they read the posts and lets me put a (blog) face with a name!  Remember if you leave a comment on my blog, I will include you (if I haven’t already) in my Genealogy Links or Genealogy Blogs link in the hopes that you might get more visitors coming to your site. 

Once again, thank you for visiting and I hope you enjoy my contribution to the 51st CoG – Independent From Birth about my great-aunt, Eva Johnson.

Happy Fourth of July!

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The topic for this edition of Carnival of Genealogy is:
INDEPENDENT! Do you have a relative who was feisty, spoke their own mind, was a bit of a free spirit? Anyone who most people might consider a “nut” on the family tree but you know they really just followed a “different tune?”

I’ve spent quite a bit of time going through my family files looking for someone who I think fits this description.  There are two people who come to mind immediately – my great-grandmother and my mom – however, I’ve already written posts about them and felt the need to expand my search.  My only challenge is writing about someone who still has living children.  I don’t want to offend anyone nor write something that will give too much information.  With that being said, I hope to not only portray this person in a way that will honor their memory but possibly encourage surviving family to reflect more fondly about this person.

Eva was born to an unwed mother on an interurban car in Fortville, Indiana, on October 2, 1910.  They were taken to St. John’s Hospital where the young mother pleaded with a woman to take her infant daughter and raise her as her own.  The mother wasn’t able to care for her baby and knew that letting her go was in the best interest of the child.  Katie and John Johnson took her in and raised her practically from birth on just as their own child.  They were never able to adopt her but gave her their last name.  She was 12 years younger than their youngest son, Glen, and the daughter that Katie had prayed for. 

Eva was a very strong-willed child – following the beat of her own drummer.  She liked to imitate her favorite screen star – Clara Bow – in dress.  Apparently Eva was unaware that she wasn’t the birth daughter of Katie and John until years later yet perhaps there was something inside of her that made her go “searching” for whatever it was that would give her peace.  Since she was so much younger than Glen it was as if she was an only child without benefit of really strong family bonds a closer-in-age sibling might have yielded her. 

When Eva was a teenager, she married and her son was born in 1929.  After her foster mother, Katie, died, Eva began searching for her birth mother.  As a fairly new mother herself, it is possible that she was searching for that parent-child connection in order to understand her own standing as a mom.  A woman saw a notice printed in a magazine and recognized Katie’s name as the woman she had given her daughter to.  The woman, Clara  Badgly Grennells of Chicago, got in touch with an Indiana newspaper and requested that her appeal to meet Eva be printed. 

There are conflicting stories that Eva did meet her birth mother and learn the name of her biological father.  Another story is that Eva’s birth mother died prior to their meeting but that she did meet her father. 

Eva’s relationship with her husband was not all glamour, champagne and happily-ever-after.  It is reported that she was always searching for something – many times in the arms of someone else.  She and her husband split up and divorced and when Eva was in her early 40s, discovered that she was pregnant.  The specter of what lay ahead of her would surely be weighing on her mind: an older mother, a single mother, a mother of a grown son, a woman who had limited income.  Any number of reasons would have aided her in her decision to give up her daughter – just as she had been given up.  It was only many years later before Eva died, that she would be reunited with her grown daughter.

I wish I could have met this woman – my grandfather’s younger sister – as she lived for many years after his death.  Whenever the family discussed his relatives, we all knew he had a younger sister but I truly think that they had fallen out of touch many years earlier.  It isn’t known who stopped communicating.  Possibly it was a bit of both.  Knowing my grandfather he would have talked and talked until he was blue in the face about “straightening up” and flying right to her.  As independent as she seems, Eva probably decided to do what she’d always done – dance to her own music and “if all you’re going to do is lecture me, I’m not listening anymore.”  Theories that are probably closer to the mark than not. 

It seems rather sad to me that no one contacted her – or knew where to reach her – when my grandfather passed away.  We never sought to visit her when we were in Indiana.  I hope that in her later years, she finally found what she was searching for.  Life is really rather short in the grand scheme of things and family ties – no matter how strained or tenuous – should never be broken.  She left this world almost the same as she entered – alone and unwanted – except by those who truly did wish to be a part of her life – her foster parents and her only daughter.  Rest in peace, Eva.

(For information on Clara Bow go to The Clara Bow Page)

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Please check out the 50th Carnival of Genealogy – Family Pets hosted by Bill West (West in New England).  There are 29 authors and 30 stories about pets we or our ancestors owned.  And when you visit each post, please make sure you leave a comment so that the authors know you visited and how much you enjoyed reading the stories. 

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I’ve just uploaded some photos to previous posts. 

A picture of my mom and aunt sitting in front of the house they grew up in: The Old House

A picture of my mom in her cap and gown: Graduation Past and Present

Update: A picture of Slick climbing a lader and a picture of one of the dogs my mom had as a child: Furry and Feathered Family Members – Carnival of Genealogy

Possibly more later!

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My mom recalls with fondness the two dogs she grew up with.  Queenie was an Airedale Terrier and Jewel was a St. Bernard.  (Photo at left shows my aunt, uncle & mom with Queenie.)  

 

In the 50s after she and my dad were married, they had a bull terrier – Slick.  He was black and white and could climb ladders (below left).  When my dad was transferred to Japan, Slick had to stay with my grandparents.  My sister still has fond memories of Slick.  The picture at right of the two of them out in the snow.  I’m not sure how old he was when he died of heart problems.  Along the way my mom also had a bird (I never knew she liked birds until I was older). 

 

Yes, dogs were the main pets in our family.  Cats – well, not so much.  As a child, I always wanted a cat but mom wasn’t a cat person.  Didn’t like the whole litter box idea nor would she have wanted to let a pet “roam” outside and possibly get hit by a car.  She told me a story about what happened when she was a young girl.  Either she or her sister (or both) took a bunch of kittens and threw them down the outhouse.  Needless to say whoever did the deed, had to retrieve them and clean them up.  I’m sure that soured them more on cats!

 

Before I was born, my parents had a dachshund (Gretchen).  She had two puppies – one we gave to my grandparents (Lisa) and one we kept (Bridget).  Those were my dogs!  When I was about three, my parents had a sitter stay with me one evening.  I remember they put Gretchen in the car and drove away in the dark.  The poor dog had broken her back and for a dachshund, that was a death sentence.  From what I’ve been told, she died quite peacefully at the vet’s office.  It wasn’t long after Gretchen’s death that I began to insist that we needed to get another dachshund – as a playmate for Bridget. 

 

We drove to Marysville, Ohio to a dachshund breeder’s home and picked out a cute little red shorthair puppy.  In keeping with the tradition of naming them with German names, I wanted to call her Gretel.  I joked with my parents that if we got a male, we could name him Hansel.  But we just got the little girl.  Not only were the two dogs friends but they were my playmates.  No matter where I went they were there too.  When I played in my room, they slept under my bed.  When I took a bath, they sat quietly in the corner waiting until I was done.  When we had parties, I’d put a party hat on them!  And those poor dogs allowed me to dress them up in doll baby clothes and wheel them around in my doll buggy!

 

We bred Gretel when she was a couple years old and the result was seven little puppies!  There were five males and two females.  My brother and his family took one of the little girls – Heidi (again keeping with the German naming tradition!)  Here is a shot of the puppies in the whelping bin. 

 

Then Bridget got sick when I was about 9.  She died soon after she got sick.  I don’t think I ever knew what was wrong.  When my mom asked me if I wanted to see her, I said no.  I wanted to remember her as my energetic friend. 

 

Gretel became my confidante.  I could tell her anything and she’d just sit there and absorb everything.  I just knew she understood everything I said because when my grandparents had to stay with me for awhile when my mother was in the hospital, I heard my grandfather get upset because of her barking (she really didn’t bark all that much).  So I told her that when she wanted out to just go to the door and if no one noticed, to give a “quiet” bark.  Then when she wanted in, to bark twice.  I don’t think it was my imagination that from then on, that’s exactly what she did. 

 

When I was in 7th grade, I got up one morning to discover that Gretel was sniffling.  I really wanted Mom to take her to the vet then.  But Mom couldn’t miss work or she wouldn’t get paid.  I think we both talked ourselves into believing she just had a cold.  Since Gretel stayed in our “mudroom” area when we were gone, I left the door open a little as I left for school that morning.  I talked to her and petted her and then I left.  I usually arrived home from school about 30 minutes before my mom did.  When I walked in the door, I immediately called her name.  I heard nothing.  Somehow I knew before I got to her bed that she was gone.  The shock of seeing her lifeless body was more than I could bear.  I called my mom’s work, told them it was an emergency & when Mom got on the phone I exploded in sobs begging her to come home RIGHT NOW.  She said she would, however, knowing she only had five more minutes before her day was over, I’m sure she stuck around for those five minutes.  Nothing would change if she had left right then other than she would have been docked about 15 minutes worth of work time. 

 

After she arrived home, we took poor Gretel to the vet.  She wanted to make sure she hadn’t been poisoned and asked for an autopsy.  Mom said all she saw were dollar signs wondering what she had asked for!  It was concluded that Gretel had contracted bronchial pneumonia and her lungs had filled with fluid.  We had her buried in a pet cemetery in the Dayton area (I don’t even think I know where it is).  Luckily, the autopsy and burial weren’t as expensive as my mom had thought.

 

From that time on, she said no more animals. That it wasn’t fair to them to be alone most of the time – with her at work and me at school.  I think she was also trying to protect her heart and mine from any other pet losses.

 

Intermingled in all that time, my sister and her family had a dog and cat.  When they’d go on vacation, they’d board the dog but asked mom to watch their cat.  Remember the whole “not a cat person” story from above?  Well, I will say that at first Kitty liked Mom more than Mom liked Kitty.  But I think that changed.  Mom finally said she didn’t mind Kitty because she didn’t rub around on her legs or get under her feet.  She was a pretty laid back cat. 

 

As an adult, I’ve had several dogs and cats and birds.  No fish – I’m not a fish person!  The best cat I ever owned was found in a diesel truck yard – covered in black soot.  He wasn’t very old.  The first thing I did was throw him in a bath to get all that soot off of him.  He turned out to be a beautiful gray and white cat.  We called him “T.C.” for Tom Cat.  He quickly learned where he could sit (not on my kitchen counters or table), where he could scratch (on his cat post, not the furniture or carpet), and that he needn’t be afraid of people.  When my oldest daughter was an infant, he would sit at the foot of her infant seat and hiss at anyone who came near to her that he didn’t know.  We soon learned to “introduce” T.C. to people and tell him it was okay that they get near the baby. 

 

We had been in our present home a little over a year; listening to our son wish he had a dog.  His sisters were old enough to run off and play without him and he was still so little he could only go in the backyard – not in the front.  So one weekend the kids and I went to an Adopt-A-Pet event.  There was a little white dog who seemed so excited to see people who were interested in her.  We were told she was at least 2 years old, housebroken and spayed (all not true).  She was part terrier, part poodle – but her fur was shaved close to her body so she wasn’t all fluffy and hot.  After she arrived home with us, she found the kitchen floor and decided she wanted to mop it up for us.  That’s how she got her name – Mopsey.  We determined she was probably at least 6 months old.  But when she started chewing on everything we owned, it was outside for her.  I was working full time and with three kids, there wasn’t any time to housetrain her or anything else.  She had a carpeted dog house and was an outside dog for a long time.  My son had his friend.  He’d sit on the edge of the patio with his arm around her.  After our last child was born, she was very careful not to jump on the baby.  Finally we brought her in to let her have a place on the inside.  She had matured so that she wasn’t chewing on anything and was pretty laid back.  Mopsey was part of our family for quite a long time.  The spring before our son graduated high school, we could tell she was going downhill.  After all she was at least 17 years old.  She went blind and have a seizure every once in a while.  The weekend of graduation, we already had her on medication & a special diet hoping to halt any further damage to her kidneys.  But a few days later – she started seizing constantly.  We all knew it was time.  In the morning, my youngest daughter, grandson and I took her to the vet.  He examined her and told us that we really only had one choice to spare her any further indignity as he didn’t think she was aware of any pain anymore.  I called family to let them know and give them the option of being there at the last moments.  So with soothing words of comfort and love to our beloved Mopsey, we waited for the end. 

 

It took quite a while before we wouldn’t cry anymore every time her name was mentioned or a memory about her was shared.  She had been an important part of our family life and I believe she had waited until she got to see everyone one last time before giving it up. 

 

Almost a year later, our youngest daughter was ready for another friend.  So for her 15th birthday, we found a medium sized mixed breed named Oreo.  She was a year old, housebroken and spayed (all true this time).  She’s been a best friend to my daughter and we often wonder just who gets the bed as Oreo loves to lay her head on pillows and be covered up – just like a person!  She is smart and has similar traits to her human! 

 

Yes, pets have been an extension of not only my immediate family, but of my mom, my sister, and my grandparents.  They have only enhanced our lives and helped us be better people because of their unconditional love for us.

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The 49th Carnival of Genealogy – Swimsuit Addition has now been posted!  I urge everyone to go take a look and read through the stories.  There are wonderful old pictures of people in swim “gear” and some stories to go along with them.  Jasia, the host, even has her pictures put up on a really cool digital scrapbook page.  I spent about an hour this morning reading quite a lot of them and posting comments.  I want to thank everyone who shared their amazing stories, memories and photos with the genealogy world!

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For those who need some sort of validation about anything – now’s your chance to get on the bandwagon!  Jasia at Creative Gene posted that the Carnival of Genealogy is featured on Blog Carnival. I suggest you head over that way to check out what they’re saying! It’s a couple days late to submit for this Carnival but tomorrow all of the submissions will be posted & the new CoG will be announced. Why don’t you join the CoG?

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I was first introduced to the concept of “swimming” when I was just a wee little one.  Here’s a bathing suit, there’s the water, stick your feet in.  Something like that.  As a young child I had various experiences with water.  I had a small, child’s pool that during the summer Mom and Dad filled up with water.  She’d put my hair up in pin curls so it wouldn’t get wet.  My hair was so curly and unmanageable that she’d do anything to keep it from getting wet and frizzy.  There was also hotel swimming pools as Mom and Dad traveled a lot before I started school and we were always staying at hotels with pools.  Then there was the lake in Michigan.  My uncle (Glen Johnson, Jr.) lived in the old Kellogg mansion off Lake Goguac.  Every summer we would visit my aunt and uncle I would want to go “swimming”.  My excitement always faded with those first steps into that lake.  I wasn’t thrilled to feel the sand and muck on my bare feet.  I especially didn’t like it when fish swam by.

 

I was about six when my parents decided to put in a backyard swimming pool.  A genuine pool!  Below ground, 17×36 with a shallow end of 3 feet and a deep end of 8 feet, including a diving board.  Wow!  I remember that it seemed to take forever for them to dig the pool, shape it out, put in the metal frame, line it with a vinyl liner, and get the walkway poured and tiled.  Then an 8 foot chain link fence was erected around the whole thing to which my parents put out a call to family members.  Whoever wanted to swim in the pool needed to come and help finish everything.  We had quite a few family members show up to help!  We put slats in the chain link fence which made it very hard for the neighbors to peer into our pool area.  We had a gate with a lock so no one could help themselves to a swim.  Finally it was finished.  But it wasn’t warm enough yet to try.  Then I came home from school one day in April and my parents asked me if I wanted to swim.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!  The water was cold – barely warm enough to stay in for any length of time.

 

That first summer my parents tried to teach me to swim or at least learn how to hold my breath to go under water.  No dice!  No one was going to hold me on my stomach while I tried to perfect the technique of swimming.  It wasn’t until a neighbor boy was over and showed me that he could swim.  No boy was going to show me up!  From that moment on, I swam!  I jumped into the deep end from the diving board and used the side of the pool to learn to dive.  I was in that pool every moment possible!  A couple years later I became part of the “Flying Fish” swim team at the base.  I spent a couple afternoons a week learning new techniques – the butterfly stroke, the breast stroke, swimming backwards, dog paddling, swimming underwater and for my first race I had to use the butterfly stroke.  Swimming was my life and I was good at it!

 

The pool became “the” place for family and friend gatherings.  Sometimes we found out just who our real friends were.  Did they want to visit with us or did they just want to swim in the pool?  My parents hosted family reunions that always involved swimming or being out by the pool.  I stayed so tan that my bronze glow didn’t dim even during the long winter months in Ohio.  As I grew older, I learned how to skim the water for leaves and other stuff, test the pH and chemical levels, and tried to learn how to actually clean and backwash the pool to keep the filter running smoothly.  So it came as a great disappointment when we had to move when I was 15.  The house, the half acre lot, the pool – all of it was becoming way too expensive for my divorced mother to keep up with.  I’m sure she was also thinking of a time down the road when I’d leave home and then there wouldn’t be anyone to help her mow the grass, do the housework, or take care of the pool.  Unfortunately my swimming suffered as well.  Spoiled as I was by having a backyard pool that I didn’t have to share with anyone I didn’t want to share it with, I decline invitations to the community pools.  People there just want to sit, splash and play.  I want to swim and dive.  I don’t want to see other people in their bathing suits (or lack of them).  In a way child hood with its lack of worries and woes, ended when we moved from that house. 

 

Picture 1: Backyard Pool; Picture 2: Dad and I in the pool; Picture 3: Family Reunion – my nephew (in life vest), Aunt Margaret, friend Nancy, and me (chasing beach ball).

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Please make sure you go to Creative Gene: 48th Carnival of Genealogy” if you haven’t already and read all the amazing stories.  This CoG’s topic was “Mom, how’d you get so smart?”.  My contribution is listed there too!  Thanks, Jasia, for hosting these wonderful Carnivals.  Please leave comments on those posts you read and let others know how much you enjoyed reading about their moms (or mothers-in-law!).  And if you would like to contribute to any of the CoG’s – bookmark the Creative Gene blog and stay tuned for the call for submissions. 

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For the 48th Carnival of Genealogy the theme is: Mom, how’d you get so smart?  The challenge was to write about how Mom got so smart whether it was through book learning, self-study courses, or the school of hard knocks. 

My mother is primarily a very private person, and it took me three tries to write something that I think she would approve of just in case someone she knows reads this and tells her!  She hasn’t always been a hero to me – just ask my teen-age self 20+ years ago!  But as a mother with four grown children now, I look back on what my mother has endured over her 80+ years and realized just what a hero really means.  So here’s my take on what made my mother so brilliant in my eyes.

Highest School Attended: High School – received diploma in 1939.

 Domestic Skills: Learned the basics from her mother – cooking, cleaning, sewing, running a household

 

Parenting: Dr. Spock wasn’t around when Mom started having babies so she learned on the spot with some sage advice from her parents.

 

What College Might Have Meant: Had Mom gone on to college, she probably would have made one heck of a great CPA.  She could do bookkeeping and math in her sleep.  During her employment in Civil Service she moved quickly up through the job grades because of her accounting ability.  It also meant that later in life when she had to leave a job she didn’t want to leave, the company had to replace her with two people.

 

Unique Skills and Talents: Mom was the best seamstress I have ever met.  I didn’t say “designer”.  She could look at a pattern and know how to tweak it to make it fit a person the right way.  Shoulder seams where they were supposed to be (not halfway down the upper arms), the inseam just right (not too tight or loose), the hem perfect all the way around.  Nothing she ever made fell apart or ripped at the seams (unless the person tried really hard to rip it).  She’s the only woman I know who will walk into a department store, turn the clothes inside out to see if they are “made right”.  Most of the time – they weren’t.  She made most of my clothes when I was growing up.  I’d complain because I wanted to wear “store-bought” clothes.  True to Mom’s word, when I do that now – I see myself coming and going.  Most of my clothes became hand-me-downs to my niece, who is 6 years younger than me and some of those clothes I got back for my own daughters!  And the seams and stitching were all still in perfect condition.

 

Other Handicrafts: Mom wanted to knit so my dad bought her this big knitting machine that she had to take classes to learn to use.  But the things that she produced from that machine were amazing!  She taught herself needlepoint as a grown woman and that became a passion for her.  She didn’t just stitch “samplers” – she’d find the most elaborate needlepoint designs and when they were finished, had my brother frame them.  They truly are works of art!  She was also making all sorts of things when I was growing up: a Christmas wreath in pinecones or folded newspapers spray painted gold, hand painted Christmas ornaments, embroidered items, she’d arrange flowers like a professional florist – she was like that home decor goddess with the initials of MS – only BETTER!

 

Flying: Mom learned to fly when my parents lived in Japan (Dad was stationed there twice in the ‘50s).  At that time and in that place and thanks to the NCO Flying Club, lessons and pilot licenses weren’t that hard to obtain.  It was amazing to watch an insurance salesman almost fall off his chair when he asked her if she had a pilot’s license and went to mark the box “no” when she said “yes.”  He stared at her in amazement until she produced said license for him.  True, by then, she hadn’t flown in a number of years.  But it was still amazing and I was filled with admiration that she could “awe” someone else!

 

Fixing a Car: When Mom faced the future without a husband (or a male family member who knew much about auto engines), she enrolled in an Adult Community Class that taught basic mechanics to women.  No mechanic was going to pull the wool over her eyes.  It came in handy a few times when she actually showed the mechanic what was wrong for him to fix!

 

Pop Culture: If I hadn’t been a late in life baby, Mom would probably still be ignorant of so many pop culture influences.  I was (and still am) a huge fan of Alice Cooper.  Of course in the 70s, most parents thought he was evil incarnate.  I actually made my points clear enough that Mom not only likes some of his softer songs but watches him whenever he plays golf! 

 

Sports:  Mom played on her high school basketball team (still has the scars to prove it!), played golf for recreation, tunes in to pro baseball and college football and basketball games.  She is up on the all stats and knows who the up and comers are.

 

 

 

Religion: Mom was raised in the Evangelical and Reformed Church (which has since merged with the Congregational Christian churches to become the United Church of Christ).  She attends every Sunday that she is able to and has attended many adult Bible or study classes.  She’s served on the church’s council and as a delegate to their association and conference meetings.  She reads her devotionals every morning and has listened to or watched services on the radio or television. 

 

Languages: During their years in Japan, Mom learned quite a bit of the Japanese language.  I grew up hearing phrases that became standard vernacular in our household.  She learned more about the culture, language and people of Japan by living it.

 

Teacher: Without college or a degree, Mom couldn’t be a teacher.  Yet, she served as a substitute teacher many times at my elementary school and was a Girl Scout leader for many years.  My friends always wanted to be at my house instead of their own because Mom, through her words and actions, cared enough about them to teach them right from wrong.  Even after I’d left home for another state, many of my friends continued to visit Mom seeking her advice and counsel.

 

My mother may not have gone on to college or higher education, but she has learned through doing and experiencing.  If not for the low points in her life, she wouldn’t be the same person she is today.  If not for the happiest moments of her life, she wouldn’t have raised three children to “live today like it’s your last”.  She is a storyteller, a confidante, a friend, a teacher, a world traveler, a cook, a seamstress, a pilot, an accountant, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a grandmother, and a wonderful Mom!

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