Thursday, June 23, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Going Back to my Roots

Get it?  Genealogy?  Going back to my roots?  Yeah, I know.....

Today in the Geneabloggers group is "Thankful Thursday" and I want to give thanks for the folks at the Estill County Historical and Genealogical Society.

As most of you know, I was adopted.  I worked on the genealogy of my adoptive family for some time, but met my birth family in 1992.  Shortly after, I began working on that genealogy.  I don't know if it was because it was "new and shiny" or if the family was in an area of the country that held more interest for me.  Maybe it was a bit of both.  Regardless, I was stuck.  I had no idea of anything past great-grandparents.  My situation wasn't one of calling Hoover, Henry, Allen or Sparks "cousins" because I knew of none!

I contacted the Estill County Library and they gave me the contact information for both the Historical Society and the then-President.  Immediately, I wrote to the Society, but made a call to the president.  I explained myself, my situation and what I was trying to do.  I know that small, rural areas are rather close-knit and closed lipped when it comes to outsiders.  I grew up in a small town so I knew the drill; however, I was met with such openness, I immediately knew there was something special about these folks.

As it turned out, the president of the Society and I were related through the Hoover family.  Within 15 minutes of that phone call, she took me back three generations to my 4th g-grandparents.  A few days after our conversation, I received a package from her with family group sheets.  I later received phone calls from various people she'd gotten in touch with on my behalf.  They shared photos and information with me and my files grew!

When I asked her how I could ever repay her for everything she shared with me, she told me, "One day, you may be in the position to help others.  Do that and you've paid me back."

So, for those of you that have enjoyed, learned or found information on a website I've managed, this is how you can thank me. 

Pay it forward.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Now That's a Hat....

I'm absolutely fascinated by the hats the ladies who attended the royal wedding wore.  We've seen all types and styles.

The closest we, as Americans, seem to come to this tradition is Derby Day, in Kentucky

In honor of the tradition of ladies' hats, I share with you a photograph of my great-grandmother, Mary Frances (Allen) Henry.  My birth-mom said that we should not be deceived by the sweet smile on my granny's face.  Evidently, Mary Frances could be hard as nails.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Neighbors

This week's prompt in the 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History is "Neighbors. Who were your childhood neighbors? Have you kept in touch with any of them? Do you feel the concept of 'neighbors' has changed since then?"

I grew up in a small town in western Kentucky.  While it wasn't Mayberry per se, the older I get, the more it transforms into it.  

The one thing that doesn't grow rosier with each year was the relationship with our neighbors.  We had some of the best neighbors - the kind that you hear stories about.

When I read this week's prompt, I immediately thought of our neighbors just down the hill from us.  They had four children, the youngest was just months younger than myself.  From my earliest memories, she and I were inseparable.  I have a photograph of the two of us - we were barely 2 and 3, but there we were in the sandbox my daddy had made.  She was in all the pictures of my birthday parties as I was in hers.    

Walks to school together, bike rides anywhere in the neighborhood, playing in the dying light of days during summer vacation - there we were.

Then, one day, she told me her family was moving to West Germany (yes, there were two then) because her father was being transferred.  We were in middle school by then, but it was like losing part of me.  She would come back to visit each summer and we wrote each other constantly.  I still have her letters!  Stories of going skiing on Spring Break in Switzerland or a track meet in Paris sounded much more adventurous than "I'm going to the Smokies" or "I'm going to Cape Girardeau", when in fact, they were the same distance.

She and I've come together again on Facebook.  It was wonderful finding her and part of my childhood again.

The neighbors on our street and the surrounding ones would come together again and again in times of trouble and times of celebration.  They kept an eye on all the children and, many times, my mother knew of my antics before I ever got home!  

There was a sense of community then; one that's sadly missing from today's society.  While I know my neighbors, I don't "know" my neighbors.  I wave, they wave.  We exchange baked goods on holidays.  We speak while in the yard.  But it's not the same. 

We went back to Calvert City last year when my sister and I took our mother's ashes for burial in Iowa.  We parked in front of our old house.  I can't help but wonder if that community is still there and if it's still Mayberry for the children of Cypress Street.

(I apologize.  I've not written any articles lately.  I started a new job about 6 weeks ago and have been stressed with re-entering the office environment.  Things have fallen into place now and I should be writing much, much more.)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

This is the Face of Genealogy

Henry and Mary Margaret Jane (Pursley) Plowman.  

Henry, in an effort to serve his country, lied about his age and enlisted for the Civil War at the age of 48.  He was classified as disabled due to various diseases contracted during exposure to the weather.

THIS is the face of genealogy.

In response to Thomas MacEntee's post

My post on the photo that started all this

Freedom of Speech or Yellow Journalism

UPDATE - The offending photo was removed from the article listed below.  To see how genealogists are handling this, visit Thomas MacEntee's site.

For those of you who don't know, the 42nd Annual Genealogy Jamboree will be held June 10 - June 12 at the Burbank Airport Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.  While I won't be attending, I have been vicariously sharing the enthusiasm of my fellow bloggers and genealogists who will be.  

Until this morning.

There was an article published on the LAWeekly website regarding this event.  I won't say promoting because that is far from what this author did.  Oh, she did get the dates right, as well as the place.  The name of the event is correct.  However, in what the author obviously thought was humor and what LAWeekly curiously gave the go-ahead to amounts to nothing but yellow journalism in my opinion.  In a world where newspaper circulation has been converted to web page views, she's done her job.

The graphic that accompanies her post is the offending item.  I won't even go into what it is, you can look for yourself.  What that graphic infers are stereotypes that have plagued my beloved Southern Appalachians for over 120 years.

This author did nothing more than what reporters have been doing all along.  Sensationalism sells.  That's how the stereotype of the "hillbilly" began.  She references the Hatfield and McCoy feud.  Thanks to journalists of her type, the lies that came out of the hills during the feud have meshed with truth until people don't really know what was real and what was made up to sell newspapers.  In the process, a whole group of people have become the last group that it is still socially acceptable to malign.  Not even acceptable - it's encouraged.

I remember about 15 years ago, I met someone and that person immediately asked, "You're from the South.  Do you wear shoes?  Do you live in a shack?  What about inbreeding?"  Yes, they were serious.  While I handled the situation with humor, I was horrified that in this day and time, people still thought these things, much less expressed them.

My family came from those hills and hollows.  Most have lived there for over three hundred years.  They came from Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Switzerland.  They carried their ideas and traditions with them.  The traditions, many times, were not to trust outsiders.  There were generally between 3 and 5 families that traveled to the new frontier together, hence the dreaded examples of inbreeding.  Some married Cherokee women and pushed further into the "Wilderness".  Some fought in the Revolutionary War.  A few of my ancestors were Overmountain Men.  They found their way through the Cumberland Gap - here's a hint - one of my uncles is famous for it.  Uncles and direct ancestors fought in the Civil War, yes on both sides.  I had three direct ancestors who lied about their ages, shaving off between 10 - 20 years so they could go fight!  That courage, that sense of duty to country cost them their lives.  They made it through the war fine, but they were never able to work again.  During the Depression, some of my family made the drive north to find a better life.  I believe that's called "Living the American Dream."

Yes, we have Freedom of Speech, but with that freedom, there is responsibility.  And with that freedom, there are repercussions.  And you, Skylaire Alfvegren, are feeling them now.