In my mother’s house, there was a small placard stuck to the fridge near the breakfast nook. It was one of those silly magnets mom had probably picked up at Target a long time back, you know, before Y2K might have destroyed the world as we know it. A notion really, the placard was inscribed with one of those quasi-wise sayings that, along with our mother’s penchant for feeding all the neighborhood cats, spoke more about mom’s philosophy of life than she’d ever care to admit. The placard read:
In my mind’s eye there’s always a crow, a silly old crow really. It follows me as I search after forgotten things, and spies out the burial place where my ancestor, Erastus Lee, ought to be – but isn’t. Indifferently, that darn crow watches me, as my mind traverses the Wolverine State landscape of St. Clair County and the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, there, in Wales Township. Like me, the old crow knows that, lost or not, this is where Erastus’s grave surely has to be. True enough, too, the crow knows that Wales Township is a place that neither of us (unless it’s the old crow) will ever get to explore. And, as much as it chagrins me to say, I’ve come to accept that there will always be “those places” in family research that many of us will never get to see. Places remaining only approachable in the mind’s eye – and visited on occasion by that old crow.
My own phantom bird travels there, northeast to Wales Township, revealing peaceful surroundings but few possibilities about the grave of Erastus Lee. Continue reading As the crow flies
I had stepped away from the holograms, weary, my brain consumed with the stories and research those images contained. I had come to Vita Brevis, really quite by accident, while researching the ancestry of my “several times over” Great-Grandfather Record, his rumored Mayflower ties, and the family’s legend of a Good Witch, a woman who’d lived in the old megapolitan areas surrounding early 21st-century Los Angeles. Someone had mentioned at the NEHGS Quincentenary Dinner that I should look into what they had once called “blogs,” the old “posts” out there in the archival ether – that there I might find clues about the people I seeking. They’d said Vita Brevis had been around now for literally centuries, and that while the postings there had gone through some name and ‘holographic changes’ over the past three hundred years or so, that, still, I might be able to find the answers to my questions… Continue reading Five hundred years on
My great-great-uncle Raymond is a hot mess. At least that’s what kids these days might say about him if they, like me, were trying to unravel the workings of his life. I first “met” Raymond Young – or, rather, I first became better acquainted with him – while researching the family lines of my great-grandmother, his sister Opal (Young) (Porter) Everett, and her family’s Mayflower ties. However, getting to know Raymond hasn’t been easy. He’s proven himself to be an artful character to say the least. Continue reading A hot mess
Kate had questions. Her father’s family history, with its many connections to the Stone family of Hollywood, had been shrouded in mystery for years. She explained that it had been covered up through old family rifts, and, as happens to many of us, become surrounded by proverbial brick walls.
I didn’t know Kate all that well, but as she spoke about her father and grandparents, and the few things that she could recall, I could see her family history start to take shape – in part, out of what she only thought she couldn’t remember. I sensed that for Kate, as for many of us, all those secrets, all of that family history, lay just beneath the surface. Continue reading Kate’s questions
She was right there, exactly where I had left her – twenty or so years ago. Even now, she seemed to stare back at me from her vantage point in time, one made up of long-ago names and foggy dates in an old ahnentafel. I like to say I’d forgotten all about Sarah, but the truth is I never have, as the “who of just who” Sarah was in this world has always nagged at me. I have to believe that Sarah would have known this about me, too, figuring that I’d always make my way back to study her life again. I guess it’s because Sarah’s life looks to have had no beginning or end to it; only “a middle,” if you will. It’s been those fuzzy edges in the middle that have kept drawing me back in – and leaving me wanting to know more about Sarah. Continue reading Something about Sarah
A year or so back, I was contacted by a favorite cousin of mine asking for help with questions his nephew had regarding our family tree. His nephew, a serious-minded young man (and a very typical teenager), was curious about any infamous or otherwise notable kin among our branches. And, since I’ve managed to somehow insinuate myself as the family’s alleged expert on such things, well, I guess I’d become their “go-to” guy for an answer or two. (I know, hard to believe, right?) I should mention that the young man who would be asking any of these questions was only thirteen years old! Continue reading A pirate’s life
One of my more inscrutable brick walls isn’t made out of brick at all. Rather, it looks to be made of cheese. No, not cheddar, bleu, or provolone, nor is it built from anything lost in the Badger State. I guess if had to describe the wall – you know, to say what sort of cheese it best resembled – I’d be forced to say “Swiss.” The reason for this is that the wall is somewhat genealogically airy, with both a cheesy truth and speculation leaking through it – at least in a manner of speaking.
The wall itself is a simple one. It was built around my mother’s date of birth, or at least the year in which she was born. Now, mom wasn’t born all that long ago, in 1935, so it’s amazing just how far back and out of memory “1935” can be – especially when one is trying to meld together “the rest of the story.” Continue reading Kitchen inquisition
She was just a little tyke, picture perfect really, her arms draped around a sheepish grandpa’s neck and shoulders. The only clue I had as to who she might be was in her name, Rosemary, penned out along with that of “Grandpa” in stylish ink beneath the old photograph. She and Grandpa (or rather a grainy picture of the same …) arrived in my mail box all the way from Alexandria a few weeks ago.
I didn’t start out looking for Rosemary, and I really wasn’t too sure who “Grandpa” was, either, but the more I looked at their picture, the more they seemed to be calling out to me. I was pretty sure I’d never “met” Rosemary before in the family tree – and I definitely needed to back track a bit on figuring out just who “Grandpa” was. However, like most of us who do family history, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to let it go. There seemed a reason for Rosemary to be looking at me from that old picture – and it was going to bug me until I found out just who she was. Continue reading A hint of Rosemary
Her gaze, somewhere between curious and indifferent, held me. Almost unable to breathe, I crisscrossed her Great Room, hoping against hope for the slightest glimpse of my once-alert mother. I had hurried to see her, and then as now, I believed there must be some sort of a magic spell that would bring her back to us, back from the prison of Alzheimer’s, and from the world of all things forgotten. Why hadn’t she taught me that spell? (Or had she?)
She’d always glowed whenever I discovered even the slightest bit of our family’s history, saying to me, “Oh, my, look at all you have learned…” So I had to believe that the cure for this, the cure to return all things unforgettable, had to be hidden away, recorded in an old family history book and just waiting to be discovered. You know, as if from a perfect Book of Spells, the cure called out to me, as if to say… Continue reading Unforgettable