Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday’s Faces from the Past: “Where there’s a Will…”

My Father died when I was ten years old. Sadly, I never really knew him very well because my parents divorced when I was about two. But I knew beyond all doubt that he loved me and loved my brother. I was his “poochie pie,” and my brother was his little soldier. I’ll have to admit that being a poochie pie was easier and considerably more pleasant than being a Mini-Marine. Much less was expected of me; I was there to be adored. My older brother was always held to a higher standard. It was his job to “take care” of me. He had his hands full there!

None of that mattered, though, when it came down to the end. We knew, even as children, that we were not named in Daddy’s will. The phrase, “You were left out of your Father’s will,” followed us for years after his death. I remember being hurt and not understanding why he did that, and it wasn’t until I was much older that I finally came to appreciate his reasoning.

My Father was an invalid, left that way from the ravages of war, and his Mother took care of him for the last few years of his life after my parents’ divorce. He repaid her by leaving her his property and money.

One piece of property that he owned, however, was sold, and the money was put in trust for us until we reached the age of 21. He also knew that the Veterans Administration would take care of us – something they actually did for veterans back then. We were essentially declared “War Orphans,” and the government paid for our upkeep and education each month, year after year, until the day I graduated from college. My Father knew these things would be in place for us when he wrote his will. I personally came to recognize this in my heart and had accepted his decision as reasonable.

That is until recently.  I had the occasion a few weeks ago to attend a workshop that I almost didn’t attend because it was basically about a site with which I was extremely familiar: the Shelby County Register of Deeds site. I had decided to attend, however, because the Shelby County Register himself was giving the presentation, and, after all, I usually learn something new with every workshop I attend. (I’m a firm believer that we all have something to learn with each and every experience.)

I definitely learned something new that day.

The Shelby County Register of Deeds website is a jewel. The folks at the Shelby County Archives work diligently and constantly to update the records that they have on hand to get them online as quickly as possible. Consequently, every few weeks or so, something new is added. I often forget that and hadn’t checked the site in a while.

The Register mentioned in his presentation that the Probate Court Will Book Indexes/Images 1830-2000 had been updated, and my first thought was that I needed to get home and  check to see if my 2nd great grand aunt’s will was there. Elizabeth Dixon Love (b. 1812) had inherited most of the Love family land and money, and I’ve been trying to find her will for a number of years.

Her will wasn’t there - but my Father’s was. I was stunned! I had never even thought to look for it before, so I’m not sure how long it had been there.  But I was even more shocked to read the following words: 

“…to the express exclusion of my minor children, Richard Enloe Love, III, and Carla Lee Love.”
Selected portion of my Father's Will found at Shelby Co. Register of Deeds website

Why was I surprised? I knew that we had not been in his will. Yet there was just something about seeing those words in writing that was devastating.

Poochie Pie needed to get a grip on reality….and I finally did. I know that my Father loved his children, and that he did what he felt was the right thing at the time. As a mother, I understand how he felt about his own mother and what he felt he owed her.

Yet as a daughter, the tears appeared suddenly and unexpectedly as I read those words. The old, “You were left out of your Father’s will,” phrase haunted me once again. There is something about knowing about a thing and understanding it, but it’s quite another concept altogether to read it in print. I’m resigned to the fact that the will is out there now and can finally write about it.

Poochie Pie has put her sassy pants back on.

@2014 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Thrifty Thursday: Using Twitter as a Genealogy Resource

Cover photo I use on my Twitter acount
I’ll have to admit that I was drug kicking and screaming (well, not literally, but certainly in my head) onto Twitter a couple of years ago by a tech-savvy friend of mine. She convinced me that I should have a presence there to promote my new genealogy blog.

I certainly felt like a duck out of water because I’m truly not as knowledgeable as I should be about technologically-related venues. I will admit to being intimidated by new things, but I will also admit that once I get the understanding of something new under my belt, I’m fairly good with it.

Thus, I started my adventure on Twitter. At first I would post my own blog, and then re-tweet other posts, until I eventually built up a small following of fellow genea-friends, as well as a few others, too. I had wandered into other areas of personal interest that include history, archaeology, antiques and collectibles (shabby chic and vintage styles in particular), as well as books, libraries, museums, news, politics, and well – you name it! I’m one of those people who are interested in way too many things…a true Gemini, for sure.

In the beginning, I would only check Twitter every few days or so. Of course, that always left me behind on things, so I began to check it more often. In fact, today I can say without doubt that I’m a true twitter-holic; maybe a twit-holic? Perhaps twit might be a better description!

At first I found myself following everybody under the sun that I admired or in whom I had ever had any interest; you know, Patrick Stewart, William Shatner, and well, the entire cast of every Star Trek ever made. Important stuff. Seriously.

Before I personally had even 800 followers, I evidently exceeded the 2,000 number limit and was told one day that I could not follow anybody else until I got a particular number of followers myself. What? Well, of all things!

Needless to say, I began to pare down the list of people whom I follow. I had to make some tough decisions, but I will say that Patrick and William still remain on the list…naturally!

Through it all, I began to realize one major thing: I was truly learning more about the genealogy world, and I was being steered towards some wonderful research sites and opportunities that I would not have known about had I not been on Twitter. Twitter not only gave me the chance to learn new things, but it also allowed me to keep up with what was going on in the genea-world. I also ‘found’ some wonderful genea-bloggers.

So, I’m a firm believer that Twitter is indeed a thrifty approach to learning more about genealogy. I especially love the news ‘dailies,’ those online newspapers that some people put out each day that highlight what others have posted, whether it’s someone’s blog post, or some other news about genealogy, history, archaeology, and so many other subjects.

I generally take a few minutes every day to look at a few sites that post history, archaeology, or genealogy related articles. When I find something interesting, I’ll share it on Twitter. I’ve found that some of the articles I’ve found about archaeology have even made it into the genealogy news dailies. Of course, all three of those subjects are so irrevocably intertwined, I really should not be surprised.

Do I know what I’m actually doing on Twitter? Not really. But two years on, I do feel more comfortable about it, and I know I’m learning new things every day in all of my areas of interest. Somehow I’ve managed to accumulate over 1400 followers on Twitter, and I’m not even sure how that happened, especially since I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing myself.

Perhaps twit was the best description for me personally after all. But thrifty resource is the best description for Twitter by far.

Try it. You just might like it!

@2014 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sentimental Sunday: The Sad Demise of a Family Tradition

Birthdays were always special times in our home when I was a child. One of the most unique parts of the day was that each child (and even the adults!) always had a dime hidden in his or her slice of the birthday cake when it was cut. My grandmother baked the cakes for us, and I was always amazed at how she was able to make those dimes magically appear in just the right slice. (I didn't figure out that little trick until I was much older.)

I was also amazed when I found out that none of my friends had dimes hidden in their birthday cakes. How could that be? I thought that everyone got dimes in their cakes. A dime was a great deal of money for a kid in the 1950s. My brother and I could go to the little grocery store next door to our apartment building and buy sticks of peppermint, or maybe some gum, or any number of other goodies with that little dime.

My grandmother was Lorena Grace Sanford Wallace Werkhoven. Her mother, however, was Elizabeth Dorothy Zeigler Sanford, "Miss Libbie," as I always thought of her. Her ancestry was German, and according to family tradition, she was an outstanding cook. She passed those abilities along to each of her daughters, including my grandmother - who, unfortunately, did not pass them along to either my mother or to me!

I specifically remember calling my grandmother after I first got married to ask her a question about cooking a particular dish. I was always an avid reader and had determined that I could read a cookbook and therefore, I'd be able to cook. No problem. Boy, was I wrong! Things were going particularly bad with this meal, so I called her in desperation. Her answer? "I did not raise you to have to do that." "Well, thanks, Grandmother," I replied. "Your little girl can't cook, and I'm in a big mess!" (And what exactly did she mean by that, anyway? I failed to ask her that question for fear she might actually tell me.)

The "not-being-able-to-cook" eventually turned into "not-being-able-to-cook-very-well." And the idea of baking a birthday cake? Forget it. It was "store-bought" for me with all of my children. I remember when my oldest was truly old enough for me to consider putting that thin dime in his birthday cake. I actually took that "store-bought" cake and tried to get one in there. What a mess that was...and I never tried it again.

Consequently, my children missed out on that wonderful tradition. I regret that, but I did tell them about it over the years. I guess that counts for something. Luckily, I had all boys and didn't feel quite so bad about not passing along any cooking skills. My second husband is the best cook in the world, and he managed to do that quite nicely, thank goodness.

When I began my fervent research into my family's history years ago, I began to wonder about that special tradition that had sadly ended with my line. I wondered as to its origin, and I did find a source that confirmed that it was a prevalent practice in Europe over the centuries. The Germans, in particular, often placed a coin in a cake during special celebrations.¹

I truly wish that I had been able to pass down that tradition to my children. However, writing about it now is my way of keeping the tradition alive, so I'm passing it along - to them and to you.

¹Spicer, Dorothy Gladys. Festivals of Western Europe. (The H.W. Wilson Company, New York, 1958), 55.
@2014 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Census Sunday - Oh The Surprises You Might Find!

As a family history researcher, I've known for many years that I should never embark on the journey of discovery unless I was prepared for what I would find. For the most part, I've been intrigued, interested, and sometimes even a little surprised. However, I had not experienced that, "Oh, I wish I hadn't known that" until recently. Actually, it's been almost two years now, and I'm still trying to process what I learned.

When the 1940 census came out, I remember excitedly going through the members of my family whom I knew to be alive at that time. I didn't find my Mother (Evelyn Frances Wallace Love) until about a year after the census had been out there - and in some ways, I wish that I hadn't. When I finally found her, she was living with her mother and her step-father in rented rooms in a house that was owned by none other than her future mother-in-law! Mother was 21 years old at the time that census was taken on 18 May 1940. She had turned 21 the previous January. Her last name was listed as Walker, not Wallace, and everyone else's name was different in the transcriptions, too. No wonder it had taken me a while to find that little group!

As most researchers know, the 1940 census had different aspects to it than previous ones. One difference was that it indicated the person in the household who gave out all of the information. Another was that two people from the page were 'chosen' to be listed at the bottom with much more information available for them.

One of the people chosen to be given the full treatment at the bottom was my Mother, and the person in that house who gave out the information was my step-grandfather. Oh, lordy, did he ever give away the big family secret!

As you might know if you read the blog post I wrote about my Mother back in March of 2012 (see link under her name), I always believed that my Mother dropped out of school in the 9th grade to go to work to help the family out financially. It was the Great Depression, after all. I was very proud that she had done that because I knew how much she loved to read and to learn new things. It must have been very hard for her to make that sacrifice.

Imagine my surprise as I excitedly perused the line next to my Mother's name to read the information under the column headed, "Age at First Marriage." Someone had written out the number fifteen. WHAT?  I remember reading that number and the heading over and over, thinking that there had to be a mistake somewhere. But no, it was still there and it certainly didn't change. I finally got myself to look at the next column headed, "Number of Children Ever Born." Thank goodness a big fat zero was listed there.

Trying to contain my total shock and, I'll admit, complete devastation and disappointment, I remember thinking that at least I didn't have to go looking for a sibling or siblings somewhere! All I had to do, of course, was to find out who the heck she had married, where and exactly when.  And even more importantly, I'd like to know why! It honestly wasn't until much later that I looked closely at that second column which had in parentheses, "Do Not Include Stillbirths."

I have no idea why my Mother got married at age fifteen. Was she pregnant and lost the child? Or did she (as I suspect) think that she and her boyfriend of so many years should just go ahead and get married and start their own life. Mother was always so mature in looks in those old 1930s photographs. I think the teenagers of that era were impressed and influenced by the movies and aspired to be like the big-screen actors and actresses of the day. My Mother smoked, and she once told me that it was because all of the glamorous movie stars of her teenage years did.

Nonetheless, I may never know the 'why' of it all. I haven't even been able to start the search for the 'who' and the 'where.' I can't explain that. Maybe it's because when I do find out those things, it will make it real, and I don't want it to be. I'm pretty sure I know the name of the 'who,' and I do have a few leads on the 'where.' I'll have to follow through with that search one day.

I guess the biggest disappointment of it all was the fact that Mother never told me about it. My brother passed away in 2008, and for some reason I felt as though she may have told him. They always had a closeness that I didn't share because they both felt the need to 'protect' me. I knew that and it invariably bothered me, but I certainly did understand it. I was the 'baby' after all.

I even found myself calling my former sister-in-law with whom I still have a good relationship. I knew that if my brother knew, he would have told her. She was as shocked as I was, so I guess Mother never told anyone.  I imagine she would have told us if she had known what information was given out about her in the 1940 census. In fact, she would have probably been pretty angry about it! My step-grandfather was as honest as the day is long and probably never thought twice about telling the truth to the census takers.

So Mother, your little secret is out....and your little girl has to follow your trail. Thanks a bunch!

Did I say to be sure you are ready for the surprises you might find?

@2014 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Monday, April 21, 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: "Woodmen of the World" (John J. Blackmon)

In July of 2009 my husband and I visited Brown's Church Cemetery in Jackson, Madison Co., TN. We were looking for, found and photographed a number of tombstones and markers for members of my own family who were buried there.

The cemetery itself is so beautiful, and we found ourselves wandering around taking photos of some of the more unusual tombstones. The one pictured here struck us both. We loved the fact that it was "Erected by the Woodmen of the World." Not only did we take the photo of this one for John J. Blackmon, we ended up taking photos of the many other Blackmon tombstones that surrounded it.

Needless to say, I immediately began a Blackmon Family Tree on Ancestry. I just had to find out more about them - right?

John J. Blackmon (3 Sep 1845 - 5 Feb 1902) Born and died in Madison County, TN.

@2014 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland

Friday, April 18, 2014

The 18th of April in '75

"LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.        5
He said to his friend, ‘If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;        10
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

For many years I had my 8th grade American History students memorize those first few lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem, Paul Revere's Ride. Longfellow actually wrote the poem so many years after the event that the line "hardly a man is now alive" was truly accurate at the time of the writing.

What wasn't accurate was much of the information in the poem itself.  Longfellow was completely aware of his inaccuracies, but justified them to himself and others as a poet taking license with reality in order to give more meaning to the event. In truth, two other men made that ride with Revere, who didn't even complete the ride because he was captured during the first leg of his journey. William Dawes and Samuel Prescott were both lost in history due to Longfellow's taking poetic license with the true events that occurred that evening.¹

So why did I have my students memorize that poem? I did it because I've always had students memorize certain things in order to stimulate their brains. A certain bit of memorization is good for everyone, and those words will often stay with a person for many years. I always believed that it was good for students to use memorization in order to learn important pieces of history, such as the "Preamble to the Constitution" and the first three paragraphs of Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address."

But I think I mainly had them memorize it because I personally always loved the poem, with its beauty and its rhythm. The students often sang it or rapped it and made the memorization of it something they enjoyed, which was not often the case in the previously mentioned memorization pieces. It was also a good "teaching tool," as I let them know that as important and famous as the poem was, it wasn't altogether true. Ah, the lessons and discussions that came from those moments!

On this 239th anniversary of that famous date in history, I thought I'd give homage to the poem and the lessons that we should learn from it. If you'd like to know more about what really happened that night, use the link provided in my source to read a fairly good article about the night of the 18th of April in '75.

¹ Ewers, Justin. "Rewriting the Legend of Paul Revere." U.S. News and World Report. (June 27, 2008)
@2014 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland