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Archive for the ‘Inheritance’ Category

Genealogist Amy Johnson Crow has a fascinating podcast series at “Generations Cafe” (you can listen to it via any number of platforms – I use Spotify), and her latest is The Truth About Millennials and Genealogy. Yesterday, as I listened to Amy  and her daughter in conversation about what millennials think when it comes to genealogy, I found myself thinking about my own millenials.

First, Amy explained who the millennials are (those born from 1981-1998) which means that all four of my kids fall into that label. They are all adults with families and/or careers, bills to pay, and responsibilities. However, I probably only categorize my youngest as a millennial and even then, most of the time, she comes across as older in her thought processes.

Second, I was born toward the tail end of the baby boom. Some days I consider myself a baby boomer and other times I do not. Now that I’m getting closer to 60, I feel more and more like one! My parents were born prior to the depression so they lived through that as well as WWII. Could their life experiences have influenced how I perceive not only the world but my role as a family historian? Consequently, could it be the same for my children?

As I thought about topics that Amy had brought up during her podcast, I reflected on not only my experience but also my children’s. One thing that was mentioned had to do with heirlooms and reasons the younger generation may or may not want those items. Growing up, my mother would always mention how she ended up with certain items: “Mom Amore gave that to me” or “that used to belong to Gramma Clawson.” Often times I would hear stories to go along with her pronouncements. Then there were the items she used – the candy dish that always held M&Ms and the cookie jar that only held a certain type of sandwich cookie. There were things that my grandparents always had around – the Swiss kitchen scene plaque that hung in their kitchen (photo above), the Christmas bell that played “Jingle Bells,” and the wooden shoes they bought on a trip to Holland. There were always stories to go along with the items of note. I passed those stories – my stories – to my children. So when it came time to clean out my mom’s home after she died, the items we kept meant something – not only to my sister and I but to her children and to my children. Had it not been for the constant stories or the memories surrounding certain items, those heirlooms wouldn’t have meant much to us.

Another point in Amy’s podcast was the concept of “doing” genealogy. I grew up hearing family stories – all of the time. That didn’t mean I paid as much attention to them as I wish I had, but I’d listened just enough to inspire a spark of wanting to know fact from fiction. My sister enjoys hearing about what I find, but she doesn’t want to do the research. Most of my kids like hearing the stories – especially about black sheep relatives, but they don’t want to do the research. My son, however, likes the mystery and working the puzzles as much as I do. Reaching out to unknown cousins carries a certain risk – rejection or even finding that “crazy” relative – but it might mean making a new family connection that is wonderful.

The third item that Amy’s podcast brought to my attention was how to attract not only millennials to genealogy or historical societies – but people of all ages. Rachel even mentioned food! That’s good because my local historical society puts on a pretty good spread for everyone at our quarterly meetings! What will people get out of the societies? What’s in it for them? Are they artistic? Maybe they could be asked to volunteer some time to paint a sign for a special event? Do they want to read about what their parents or grandparents did 20-50 years ago in the newspapers kept at the historical society? Are they aware that their great-grandparents donated this really cool (insert item) to the historical society? Have they seen it? Do they know the story behind it? These and many more things are something I think my historical society can brainstorm about to come up with other ideas to get everyone more involved.

Perhaps there are members of a historical society who aren’t part of the Facebook (or other social media) crowd; maybe they don’t even have email or smart phones. I bet they have kids or grandkids who are. Pick an afternoon and have the grandkids pull up some information for you so it can be a tag team learning event. Pull out that item from the back of the closet the next time your millennial son/daughter/grandson/granddaughter/niece/nephew come over, and tell them the story behind it. Pull up a historic map and overlay it with a current one to show them where the great-great-grandparents lived in the 1800s and what that area looks like today.

I think one of the biggest thing genealogists and family historians can do to help millennials feel comfortable about learning more about family history is to not talk down to them when they do ask questions. Not everyone knows what FTM stands for or that ethnic breakdowns of a DNA test are just estimates. Not everyone knows what a Family History Center is or where one can be found. When they ask a question – in person or on social media – it’s best to find out what they do know in order to give them an answer that is neither over their head nor condescending.

I want to thank Amy and her daughter Rachel for a well done and thought provoking podcast. Please go listen – and then listen to the rest of her podcasts.

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Blog Throwback Thursday

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I’ve realized that I just can not do Wordless Wednesday posts because I always have something to say about a photo. I picked the photo above for Throwback Thursday not for the person (me at a very young age) but the items captured by my father when he photographed me.

A few years after this photo was taken, my dad built a bookcase to separate the entry way of our house from the living room. He also laid laminate tile on the floor so the carpeting on the upper left side of the picture had to be taken up. The new couch next to me was black and orange. Mom was never crazy about the color but she liked the way it sat so she had it recovered in a burnt orange color. Some forty years later, that same couch was where family sat mourning her death. A couch that no one wanted and no one could haul off. I wonder if someone is enjoying it now almost seven years after she died or if it ended up in a dump somewhere.

The dining chair now sits in my home in Missouri – along with the table and other chairs of the set. Who knew that when this picture was taken back in 1965 that I would know exactly where that chair was going to end up?

The table between the chair and the television sat under my vanity for a very long time in our Texas home. Inside – where once was magazines and needlework books – were wooden Disney characters from Bambi. Those figures had graced my bedroom wall as a young child. Now, they are packed away.

That old black and white television set was the only TV in our house. Many times when the TV would get a “snowy” picture, Dad would climb on the roof to adjust the antenna. I would stand at the open door while he moved it around so that way I could relay what was happening on the TV as Mom watched to see if a picture was coming in. I’m not sure what commercial was on the televison when Dad snapped the picture but obviously whatever medicine it was “effective as codeine!”

Many years later, that TV set was put in the basement when we got a brand new color television! But we still had to get up out of our seat and cross the room to change the channel!

When I see pictures of objects that were familiar to me as a child, I always feel a sense of nostalgia. For me, genealogy is so much more than searching for ancestors who have come and gone. It is a history and what transpired within the lives of those people to make them who they were. Such is it for me. Remembering how I felt at certain points in my life – and the objects and places around me – is part of my history. My kids and grandchildren will not know details about why a particular place, or thing, or moment in history is important to me unless I tell them. And tell them again. And again.

Have you shared your memories and history with your family?

(Photo by Eugene J Amore; original slide and digital version in possession of Wendy Littrell – Address for private use)

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 7: “Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.”

There aren’t that many “real” recipes that came from my mom. Most of her cooking was “little of this, little of that” because she “never measured.” In order for me to duplicate her spaghetti sauce, I had to stand next to her and write everything down as she made it. Since I didn’t have exact measurements of spices, I had to guess. I also added my own spin on it. My favorite pie was Mom’s butterscotch pie! Yum! So after I was grown and was cooking for my own family, I asked her for the recipe. Imagine my surprise when I found out it came from the red and white Better Homes and Gardens cookbook!

My mother-in-law used to send me recipes or write them down for me so I have many of those: cinnamon rolls, homemade biscuits, deletable desserts, beef jerky, salads, and other wonderful dishes. My sister has fixed some scrumptious lunches when I have gone to visit her, and I’m always asking her for the recipe. I hope I can pass down some of the recipes that I have either created, found, or “tweaked” to my four kids.

(Public domain picture of Cookbook cover from Wikimedia Commons)

 

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Heirloom

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 6:” Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)”

My most treasured heirlooms include some jewelry I received after both my mom and grandmother passed away. I have my grandparents’ wedding bands and her engagement ring that I wear on my right hand. After my grandmother passed away, I received one of her small Hummel’s. I have a china set that I received after my mom passed away. While my sister and I were cleaning out my mom’s home, I found some heirloom recipes with all the other cookbooks. One was from my great-grandmother, Martha Clawson. I also have photos and books that belonged to my grandparents.

The photo above is a small dish that came to me from my grandparents. Obviously it is something they picked up when they lived in Germany.

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For the last several days, Denise Levenick of The Family Curator has been on a whirlwind blog tour for her book, “How to Archive Family Keepsakes”, and like many other geneabloggers, I’ve been reading the posts. In the back of my mind I wondered just when I would have time to organize and archive all of the “stuff” I’ve ended up with. The “stuff” being letters (years and years and years of letters), photos, ephemera (brochures, tickets, etc.), and knick-knack type keepsakes (not to mention wall plaques, clothing, books, and dishware). The hours in the day barely give me enough time to do what I’m supposed to be doing (organizing, cleaning & decluttering regular stuff around the house). Then it hit me – all of this “stuff” IS part of the regular items in my household. How would I ever put a dent in organization and the clutter if I DIDN’T work on archiving and organizing the heirlooms! (What a concept, Denise!)

Yesterday, as I was weeding through the stacks of paper and magazines on the kitchen bar area, I decided that as I was dusting the knick-knacks, that I should start an inventory of those items via digital photos. I took 45 pictures!  Some items I took 2-4 photos each depending on the item. I wanted to make sure I was able to see details on each side as well as inside (if there was something there) and the underside – especially markings.

The item above hung on my grandparents’ wall in all of their homes for as long as I could remember. I was probably almost a teen when I made it known to my grandmother that I sure would like to have that item. Every time I saw it, I asked my grandmother to wind it for me (it plays music). (As an aside, I also enjoyed the musical Christmas Bell they had and now it belongs to me!) At some point before my grandmother’s death, she put my name on the back of that plaque. I also think I ended up with it because I was the “baby” (by 14 years) of the grandchildren and most of the other granddaughter’s (there are 5 of us and 3 grandsons) received items like crystal stemware, jewelry, and silver. I feel lucky that I even received a miniature German tea set just like the other girls. My grandparents must have had enough foresight to buy just one more when they lived in Germany!  They bought the item (above) in Garmisch (in Bavaria), and luckily I have the letter written to my mother that detailed their trip to Garmisch and the purchase of that piece!

It may take me some time to document everything I have received but I feel good that I’ve started.

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In April of this year, one of my distant relatives (by blood – close by choice!), sent me an email to let me know that she had ordered a 67-marker DNA test from Family Tree so that her first cousin (again, a distant cousin to me) could take it in order to get some information on the ancestors of our ancestor – Jacob Johnson born December 11, 1787 in New Jersey.  Johnson, according to Wikipedia, is the 2nd most common surname in the United States.  Good Grief! At least it’s not Smith!  My cousin told me that the Johnson project had 1000 members!

At the end of May, I received another communication from my cousin. She reported that the common 12 marker test showed that we belonged in Hapologroup R1b1a2 – common to Europe, the United Kingdom. That didn’t surprise me. The variation showed R1b1a2a1a1a – the country is “unidentified.” Good Grief!

Fast forward another month and a half to July, and more information came back – including the names of some other men who “matched” my distant cousin.  Several emails have been traded back and forth and family information has been shared. However, there aren’t any known relationship between their ancestors and our Jacob Johnson. We did see that there are a lot of the same given names: Jacob, John, James, and William. But then again, those names are almost as commonplace as Johnson!  Good Grief!

I have tons of information to try to sort out – I think I have finally straightened out all the emails so I have a way to read all of them without resorting to different folders in my email. Now, I just need to decide on a good way to sort out all of this information.

I do feel that I’m not “pulling my weight” as far as research right now.  The gal who started the ball rolling on this DNA project and one of our other cousins, have been digging into tax lists, land records, and other types of documents to glean as much as they can out of them while I have been reading and feeling pretty overwhelmed!  Perhaps once I am able to sort names, places, and dates, I’ll have a better handle on what still needs to be done!

Source: Family Tree DNA image from www.familytreedna.com, 2001-2012 Genealogy by Genetics, Ltd. 28 July 2012.

Source: Emails from Virginia Nuta: April 10, 2012; May 24, 2012; July 2, 2012. 

Source: Johnson surname rank – Wikipedia.

Blog post copyright 2012 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog.

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Back in May when my sister and I were going through our Mom’s things, I found the box (above) in an old footlocker.  There isn’t a footlocker, crate, or box that can keep me out when I think there might be a treasure inside.  So I opened the box.

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Inside there was something wrapped in tissue paper.  And I glimpsed something pink as well.  Obviously it was something very fragile or old that needed to be kept insulated somehow.  So then I unwrapped the treasure.

P9100722It was a very small bonnet.  I exclaimed to those who were around me that I bet it had been Mom’s baby sister’s.  Would there be more clues beneath the tissue paper in the bottom of the box?

 

P9100723Yes!  A calendar!  And not just any calendar.  It was from 1927.  The year my grandparents’ youngest daughter, Lois Evelyn, was born – and died.

As I carefully perused the calendar, I saw my grandmother’s handwritten notes on different dates.  What unfolded was truly heartbreaking.

To Be Continued in The Calendar

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