Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. A former Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.
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Lately, it seems like I can’t catch a break! You see, I’ve been trying to put some good old-fashioned humor back into my life – without much success. Finding humor (or laughter) these days seems to take a whole lot of effort – and an even bigger dose of understanding. It’s as if the world has become filled with folks who are afraid to, you know … smile. I just don’t get it, as I’m pretty sure we were all schooled that facing the world each day with a smile makes the world a better place, right? Because of this, I’ve started to wonder about the ancestral origins of my own tomfoolery – and if any sense of humor isn’t “relative” after all.
Now, I can’t pretend to know the history or psychology behind humor or laughter. But it sure does function differently for each of us. Take the other day, for example. Continue reading Humoresque→
His name, Asa Schooley, seemed to jump out at me. It was a name I hadn’t been searching for, but there he was in black and white newsprint, clinging to his little spot on the back page of time. The details of how I got to Asa in the first place probably aren’t all that important, but suffice it to say I’d started out looking for someone else’s obituary – that of another Mr. Schooley. But like the rest of us I’d found myself stumbling upon a “rabbit hole,” this particular one belonging to Asa. (I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you that I never did find the obit. I had been looking for.) Asa’s sad life, lacerated with circumstance, caught me off guard, prompting me to look further for facts and answers – a search with still much left to uncover. Continue reading Wild honey→
We all have them. Yes, images of individuals from long ago staring back at us as we work our way through the branches of our family tree. I don’t know about you, but I often hope I might compel my research right past their telling faces; after all “they” are just another set of vital records to record – right? However it rarely works that way for any of us – if it did, we’d probably drop our genealogical oaths and get back to some solid and familiar stamp collecting. No, in our usual practice of gathering up any one of those timeless faces, we find faces that somehow look back “to” us, asking us to have their stories told.
This happened to me last spring while researching the life of my great-great-great-great-uncle, Samuel Norton Sprague. It was through “Uncle Sam” that I encountered Miss Carrie Dexter, his step-daughter. I admit it – I was immediately drawn to her, wondering who this beautiful young lady was from long ago. Continue reading A story told→
Just when one thought we might be done with John and Lucy Lee…
When I began to research the life of John E. Lee, I was fortunate when a photograph surfaced purporting to be that of his wife, my great-great-grandmother Lucy Melinda (Nestle) Lee. For me, a photograph of my primordial Lucy was a real prize. Hard to find, it was a photograph procured through more than just my own efforts, thanks to the amazing connections we all make with our distant cousins. Continue reading The original Lucy→
The death of my great-great-grandfather John E. Lee, and the circumstances surrounding it, has always fascinated me. His demise is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Born in Michigan in 1843, John served in the Civil War, afterwards moving west with his wife Lucy and their children to the “North Park” area of Colorado. It was here in the mid-1870s that John and Lucy homesteaded, near the icy waters of the Michigan River, with John earning his living off the land as a skilled hunter and trapper. Continue reading Possibilities→
My questions about him had been endless. He was, after all, the phantom in my ancestry, a great and impervious vapor, a Wizard of Oz if you will. He was my fleeting great-grandfather, the drawn curtain of my pedigree chart, his family lines going, well … nowhere. I don’t know that I ever really expected to find him, or to see his face. I certainly did not expect any DNA results to fall from the sky, making a picture of his smile even possible. Yet those DNA results did pull back the curtain (coming in just last week) and therein I was able to find his face, albeit grainy in brown and white, and sheepishly grinning down and away, as if to say he knew I’d been looking for him for a very, very long time. Indeed, I had been. Continue reading The hidden face→
“In a Wonderland they lie, Dreaming as the days go by, Dreaming as the summers die: Ever drifting down the stream – Lingering in the golden gleam – Life, what is it but a dream?”– Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
My mother is dying today. She is reposing, half-seated on “the community’s” divan, twitching and fidgeting, the vapors of her life coalescing, escaping in small electrical bursts. Utterances, half-heard under her breath, relay the signs of her ascension. Watching her now, knowing that she is treading her way through the muddy reeds outside Elysium, is gut-wrenching. It breaks my heart that she has been dealt this terrible curse of dwindling. She is, after all, a witch of sorts.
But hold your pitchforks! I call my mother a witch only out of the deepest respect, reverence, and love. Her devilish children and New England roots bestowed this title on her, a name of which she spoke with wry pride and amused regard. Continue reading The wintered leaf→
This past Christmas weekend I was re-introduced to a medium of family history that may have gone out of style. No, I’m not talking about my own use of outdated published materials (yikes!) or any of my attempted genealogical gleanings (snore…) or even my possible faux pas in giving dad a DNA test for Christmas.
Rather, I am referring to a medium of family history generally associated with oral histories and a medium where we (almost…) never actually hear anyone speak! Continue reading Intermissions→
The clickety-clack of my great-grandmother’s ‘old lady shoes’ resonated as I toddled after her down the narrow hallway to the old trunk. There, in that back bedroom she and I would sit in the dark brilliance of polished woods, with the old trunk somehow beckoning us as if the face of some minor deity or oracle. Indeed, my great-grandmother treated the old trunk as if it held all the wonders of the world, which, in many ways, it certainly did (and still does…). Continue reading The grafting trunk→
I’ve always wanted to know more about the life of my great-grandmother Opal Young (1895–1978). To do this, I decided to see what researching her siblings might reveal about her. By and large, information about her siblings has been limited to meager ‘raw data.’ An interesting exception to this has been the life of my great-grandmother’s brother John Alfred Young (1890–1960). He is called Johnnie on the back of this Hitchcock-like cameo – it is the only known photograph to show him.
Johnnie Young came to California about the time his sister Opal did in the late 1920s. Their lives as children back in Kansas seems to have been pretty normal – other than there were a LOT of people living with them in the Young household.Continue reading Fadeaway→