I love January! In spite of the cold temperatures (although it was almost 70 degrees yesterday) and the snow that takes FOREVER to melt from the street in front of our house, I am invigorated by the invitation of clean calendar pages and pristine to-do lists. I am excited at the thought of 12 whole months spread out in front of me waiting to be filled with whatever I choose.
I’ve googled, pinterested, instagrammed and facebooked looking for my focus for 2015, and I keep coming back to blogging. This is my journal. This is my family history. This is my love. This is my job! I miss writing and documenting my life. And as I read back through previous posts, loving the memories they invoke, I know that this is what I want to do.
I had a rather rude awakening at Sunday dinner one evening several months ago when Peter commented that he hadn’t heard many of our Middle East experiences. Later conversations with Mark confirmed that we have been very negligent in sharing and recording our family history. How did we let that happen? Every kid deserves to know that his dad was held at machine gun point against a bus, and that his mother gave birth to his brother in a hospital where the bathroom lacked even a fundamental toilet seat!
And so I’m committing to getting back in the blogging groove again. I’ll divide my time between this blog and my family history blogs – Butler family and Berrett family. Even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve continued researching and organizing and gathering stories and pictures that I’m anxious to share.
And since those 12 months are almost now just 11, I’d better get busy!
“Time is the raw material of life. Every day unwraps itself like a gift, bringing us the opportunity to spin a fabric of health, pleasure, and content and to evolve into something better than we are at its beginning. Every passing instant is a juncture of many roads open to our choice. Shall we do this or that? Go this way or that? We cannot stand still. Choosing between alternatives in the use of time is evidence of one of the noblest of God’s gifts – freedom of choice.” – Thomas S. Monson
When we gifted the whole family with matching sweatshirts sporting “GO & DO” down the left sleeve, we talked briefly about making the most of our time and opportunities we encounter. Some in the family are facing new opportunities in employment. Others are making positive inroads in healthy lifestyles. Grandchildren are focused on good friends and schoolwork. And we’re all interested in making the most of our leisure time!
But my reality is that in spite of all that cheerleading, I’ve had a hard time getting into a productive routine since we returned from our Christmas vacation. The January slump has reared its ugly and lethargic head. But no more! The other day when I put on my Butler family “Go & Do” sweatshirt, I thought, “Yeah! Just go and do – get a move on!” After all that was the point of choosing that family theme. . .
And so here I record a portion of my seemingly inexhaustible, but very enticing, to-do list for this new year:
Exciting projects to complete – that headboard I thrifted a couple of years ago is just calling for some chalkboard paint in an awesome color
Childhood memories to record – do you realize that in the 1960s it wasn’t against any law to put down the back seats of the station wagon, spread out some quilts, and line all 6 children up to sleep while driving non-stop from Michigan to Utah?
Skills to learn – just beginning to crack the ins and outs of blog publishing with blurb using Grandpa Lou’s World War II stories
Books to read – I’ve got a list going, but feel free to send me your suggestions of must reads
Responsibilities to fulfill – Primary music time is so much fun with well planned activities and visual aids. I’m compiling an arsenal of resources. Music memory game, anybody?
Family history to share – 10 years worth of letters we wrote while living overseas are still languishing in binders on the bookshelves downstairs
Creativity to embrace – will this be the year I complete even a small quilting project?
* * * * * * *
I’m ready to use my raw material and freedom of choice to create full and happy days.
Every year on February 14, Don surprises me with a hand crafted Valentine. This tradition started in 1973 during our dating years at BYU, and has continued during the last 39 years with very few misses. He writes creative poetry, uses practical objects as symbols for our relationship (think an exercise balance disk to talk about how we balance each other), or leaves a myriad of love notes taped in unexpected places throughout the house.
This year was no different and brought this thoughtful display
which included his genuine observations for a happy marriage.
He writes from experience, and we will be happy forever!
I’ve been thinking a lot about you this week and missing you considerably. I’m sure you’re gloating just a little bit over my feelings of abandonment, because I’m certain that at least once or twice you warned/threatened/tried to guilt me with a statement to this effect: “You’re going to regret not getting involved in my family genealogy with me. Because when I’m gone, you’re going to be left to do it on your own. And you’ll be sorry!” Your threats didn’t move me far enough or fast enough, and you’re right – I do regret it – fearfully so.
Remember all those files that I brought home from Dad several months ago? All those files that harbored your years of genealogy research? All those files that I wasn’t quite sure how to handle? All those files filled with names I only had a passing acquaintance with? Well, I’ve cleaned and organized them several times since bringing them here, and this week I finally started the project of assembling my surname binders for “Compton”. Who knew you had such a treasure trove of family history memorabilia? I am impressed!
I’ve read the letters of research requests you made and marveled at your determination to find information back in the day before the internet. I even found a couple of letters Gram wrote in the 1950s. Oh, how you would have loved ancestry.com! How you would have been thrilled to find so much county record information online.
And I know you would have been as giddy as I was when I found the actual marriage record for Francis and Mary DeVall Compton, scanned and available on the internet, right from the comfort of my own home. (If you’re looking, their names are 4th from the top)
I’ve studied the pictures and seen a lot of history in them. I’m fascinated with the clothes and hairstyles of both the men and women, and I look for family resemblance in an effort to connect to these ancestors that I never knew.
I’ve decided that I take after the Compton side of the family – a little bit like Great-Grandma Iva and a little like her sister Pearl.
But I hope not too much, because their mother, my great-great grandmother Mary DeVall Compton, didn’t age too well. Maybe she was just having a bad hair day!
I wish you were around to answer my questions. Did you know Pearl Compton (Grandma Iva’s sister) worked at a silk factory in Belding, Michigan and lived in a dormitory there? I discovered a memory book of her friends tucked down in a file, and did a little internet research about The Belrockton. I wonder why she never married. And why did her brother LD not have a real name?
And even though you may not know the answers to those questions or a million others that pass through my mind, at least we could have a good laugh together when reading this letter Aunt Nonie sent with the obituary for Willard Parker Ross (haven’t yet figured out who he is):
“Of course you know Ross and Daisy Compton was my Mother’s brother. Maudie was their daughter. Willard & Daisy Ross, Daisy’s mother was Grandma Compton’s sister my aunt Matt. Also Willard was Aunt Matt’s second marriage. Of course we called him Bill. I hope this is clear.”
Are you kidding me?
So, Mom, know that you’ve been vindicated! How I wish I had spent more family history time with you – much, much more. How I wish I had responded to your pleas for help. How I wish I had you as a partner in this fascinating and addicting pursuit. But I’ll carry on, because I love it, and I know you did too.
And even though I probably don’t deserve it, could you drop me a few hints from time to time?
Ser-en-dip-i-ty: noun. The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
Last night while doing some random internet searching for the Carpenter family, I entered the name “James Buchanan Carpenter” into the search bar at ancestry.com. James B. Carpenter is Don’s maternal great-grandfather (Leona’s grandfather) and he lived with Leona’s family when she was a little girl. Using the site as a non-paying guest, I knew that if any possible matches came up I could go to the public library and look at the records. Only the index of records is available to non-subscribers, but it’s a good place to start.
You can imagine my surprise when the first hit was a tiny thumbnail picture labeled “James and Mary Carpenter and family” – WHAT? Somebody else knows these people? And has pictures of them? I could see a young boy in the front of the picture and was quite certain that it was Ream Carpenter, Leona’s father and Don’s grandfather. As I’ve been assembling the Carpenter genealogy binders, I’ve realized that we have almost no pictures of the Carpenter family; if any ever existed, they have been lost or destroyed over the years. And although I get excited about a census or a birth record bearing an ancestor’s name, a photograph truly adds reality to a family history.
I let out a squeal of excitement, and I felt a little like the featured celebrities on “Who Do You Think You Are?” who always find cool things in their research. However, my delight quickly turned into a groan of dismay when I realized that the picture was only available to members. I didn’t want to wait until the library opened Thursday morning, and I wasn’t even sure that the library edition of ancestry would allow me access to family pictures that someone else had posted. Well, it didn’t take me long to decide that I was changing my status from guest to subscriber, and I whipped out my credit card and established a user name and password right then!
Some further clicking around (I have a lot to learn about using ancestry) produced this additional picture of James & Mary Carpenter. She died in 1916, and Leona had never seen a picture of this grandmother. We were thrilled!
A huge thanks goes to a kind soul – who is most likely a distant relative – for sharing pictures. And a huge thanks to ancestry.com for providing the vehicle for this connection. They haven’t paid me a thing for writing this, and I’ll have to continue to pay my subscription, but these two pictures are well worth the money spent!
Watch for further posts over here as I continue this journey.
This is another in an ongoing series of my organizational efforts – here and here, for example. It’s an important part of how I work, so I’m documenting it here for my reference. This is my personal record, after all!
Last July I returned from a visit with Dad with this in tow.
All of my mother’s genealogy research and information was filed in this box, categorized by just a few broad labels like “Roberts” or “Pratt.” Mother had been researching her ancestry for years (I found several letters of inquiry dated in the 1960’s) and she had accumulated a wide assortment of documents. Dad was happy to see the box go; he had no plans to continue the research on the Pratt/Roberts side of the family, and I think it made him feel good to know that even if I never did anything with the information, at least I had it available.
I rifled through the files and decided that I probably had a treasure chest of genealogy information, but many of the names were unfamiliar to me. I knew I had heard “Buker” before, but I had no idea what family line that name belonged. “Benoni Pratt” kept turning up, and I finally realized that name belongs to two different ancestors – my great-grandfather and his grandfather. I wasn’t really sure how to make sense out of my inheritance, and I was very overwhelmed, so I did the natural thing and ignored the box for several months.
One day when I couldn’t ignore the hodgepodge any longer, I read about a filing system that made sense to me. So armed with file folders in 4 colors – indicating my four direct lines – I sorted and filed. Going into this project, I was very afraid that my need for organization coupled with my ignorance and inexperience in the field of genealogy could result in the loss of valuable information. So as a precaution, I threw almost nothing away, which is highly unusual for me. I simply filed every document where I thought it belonged, knowing that I would have to do some rearranging later. The file folders were still bulging, but it was a more organized bulging!
That system was a great improvement, but I still didn’t know which documents I had for which people or what information they verified. So following a genealogy class at the local library, I knew I had to do something to create easier access. About this same time, I saw this Organizational Checklist on Dear Myrtle’s blog, and I was pretty sure I had found my answer.
So now I’m in the process of creating my surname binders, printing family group sheets, scanning pictures and documents and getting everything for each family name all in one place. It’s great! I’m only making slow progress, because scanning and labeling scans and pictures is a time consuming and tedious process.
But I am making progress. And I’m finding some amazing things – like the death certificate for my great-great grandfather. I’m almost through with the Pratt binder – then it’s on to Berrett, Butler, Carpenter, and all the names within those families. . . Don’t look for this project to be completed this week!
I’ve accepted this challenge! I’m going to make a concerted effort to record stories from my personal history. I don’t expect they’ll be in any specific order, but I’m excited to write my memories. So watch this blog . . . we’ll be traveling from Saginaw to Saudi, Uniopolis to Isfahan, and many places in between. We’ll meet a lot of people along the way and learn a little of their stories also. Because really, our personal histories are greatly influenced by those who have come before and after us.
The challenge is for the month of February. I’m hoping to continue throughout the year and maybe even have something to publish by early next year. . .
The old organ looked almost neglected sitting in the back of the “chapel” of the funeral home. The finish was well worn and peeling in a few places, but that look was somewhat softened by the lace runner carefully placed on the top. The keys were smudged with accumulated dust, and based on the position of a couple of them, I knew some would stick when played. An old hymnal sat in place, open to a hymn about finding comfort in Jesus. I wondered if the hymnal was a prop, or if the instrument really had been played recently. Initially, I didn’t realize it was a pump organ, but when I sat down and looked for the power switch, I realized that the only power would be that which came from my feet pumping the large pedals below. The labels on the few stops gave me little clue as to how it would sound, but I quickly picked one labeled melodia and another that sounded close to that, and I began to play.
The initial notes were raspy and a little unpredictable, hanging uncertainly in the air as I tried to figure out the best technique for coaxing comforting music out of the old instrument. But the music grew in strength as I continued to play, gaining volume and confidence as I got into a rhythm coordinating my pumping feet with my hands. It certainly wasn’t a concert worthy of Carnegie Hall, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances!
In the front of the room, the widow was almost motionless on a chair just a few feet from the body of her beloved companion. Her shiny dark hair was a contrast against the white jacket she had on against the January cold. Surrounded by several family members, she sat quietly gazing at his face perhaps trying to memorize his features. I wondered about her thoughts, knowing that this would be the last time she would see or touch his body in this life. I tried, unsuccessfully, to put myself in her position. How do you feel when your husband dies before you are even 50 years old? Where do you find the strength to go on knowing that you now face the future without him? How do you make peace with your loss when it still doesn’t even seem real. He seemed so well just a few days ago . . .
My mind was spinning with these thoughts as I played the familiar strains of “Oh, My Father,” “I Stand all Amazed,” and “Each Life that Touches Ours for Good.” I continued to play other quiet hymns as I wondered what I could do for her. How could I serve her? How could I offer my comfort and deepest sympathy? Her English skills were even less than my Spanish, so our communication was limited at best, but I desperately wanted her to know my feelings.
After playing through a number of hymns, I returned to “Oh, My Father.” This time, after a few notes, I heard a male voice join the organ notes, singing the words in quiet Spanish. As the young man continued singing, another hushed voice or two joined, and they sang through the verses. I could hardly hear the voices, but I sensed a spirit of comfort fill the room as the woman continued to sit quietly, her eyes never leaving her husband.
Eventually our time was up and she said her last good bye. She turned and walked towards the door where I met her, and we clung to each other in an emotional hug. I whispered, “lo siento,” but words weren’t necessary.
Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
I knew she understood my feelings and accepted my love.