Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year’s Genealogy Resolutions for 2010

So little time, so much to do. That’s the first thought that occurs to me as I reflect on the accomplishments and shortcomings of the past year and try to plan and make resolutions for my genealogy research in the coming year.

During the past year I have I have devoted more time to genea-blogging, and it has definitely paid off. It achieved one of my stated blogging goals, putting me in contact with other researchers and especially with relatives: my younger brother and many newly found cousins – generous Brinlee cousins who have kindly shared family pictures with me, GeneaBlogger cousin Vicky Everhart, and Ethelene Dyer Jones, a cousin through my Dyer line. In addition, blogging has provided me much needed practice in writing about genealogy. I loved the research – the thrill of the hunt – but had not been disciplined enough to write up the results. Also, having to write up research results often provided the necessary prod to put the final touches on my research and tie together all those little scraps of paper. The articles are not always perfect, but they do the job and I have even been happy with the results for a few of them. It was especially gratifying to write about the things I had learned about my great uncles William Henry Lewis and Preston E. Moore, to outline my brickwall smashing strategies for my great-grandmother Lizzie Smith Brinlee, and to actually record some memories for descendants to read in the Memory Monday posts. Genealogy blogging carnivals, Amy’s blogging prompts, and Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun have truly helped to focus both my research and my writing efforts. (A special nod to Randy – there were a number of SNGFs that actually ended up in something resembling a real research outline – I never expected that!)

Work has been responsible for taking a chunk of time away – sometimes for travel and sometimes simply because I am so tired after work that I cannot sit down at a computer and concentrate. The final thing that has reduced genealogy time for me has been something that I can only describe as a guilt complex – the feeling that there is always some household or yard chore that I should be doing or errand I should be running before I can indulge in the luxury of sitting down to do genealogy. Yes, sometimes I actually feel guilty doing genealogy because I enjoy it so much!

So my first resolution is to make more time for time for genealogy research as well as for genealogy writing. This will definitely include devoting a large block of time to transcription, which was one of my resolutions for last year. This resolution was only partly carried out; I did transcribe a large number of obituaries that I ordered over the course of the year, but did next to nothing on the Civil War service records and pension applications or any of the newspaper articles on Sheriff Henry Lewis. Those must be made a top priority this year.

Though there were some research accomplishments this year (mostly on the Samuel Moore project), a lot of it was scattershot and many projects suffered constant interruptions. So, unlike last year, I am going to make some specific project-related resolutions:

- Finish inputting information on the Joseph Madison Carroll family. The day after Christmas I learned that the Heritage Book for Garland County Arkansas has been published and is available for purchase, so I immediately sent in my order. I’m hoping it will provide a wealth of information on my Normans.

- Input the information for the Hiram Carroll Brinlee Sr. and Betsy McKinney family, which will wrap the great-great grandparent level of data entry.

- Push my Lizzie Smith brick wall research as far as I can. Try to track down the origin of “Knoxville” as her place of birth. If this is credible, focus on Smith families in that area. Also work up a database on promising Bonner (first husband) families and try to correlate them. A large map of Tennessee with color-coded push pins may be in my future….

- One of the “big” projects on the next (great-great-great grandparent) level I want to work on is the Elisha Lewis-Rosannah Dalrymple family. Many (perhaps all but one) of their children may be “backward orphans,” which was a subject of the 85th COG, so this will definitely be a research project of love for me.

General resolutions and plans:

- Join at least one additional genealogy society (I belong to the Fairfax Genealogical Society), either NGS or a local one in an area of interest.

- Having taken advantage of the half-price deal for a Footnote subscription, now I really need to make that thing pay for itself. Also need to do a serious survey of online newspaper resources to see which, if any, are available for my geographic areas of research (thank you, Miriam Midkiff of Ancestories, for taking up just this very subject with your new website and blog!).

- Serious photo scanning may have to wait until finances are favorable for the purchase of a high-quality scanner, but I can at least do some photo organization to get ready for that.

-Blogging: Continue with regular features such as Family Newsletter Friday and Follow Friday and occasional features such as Please Keep These Things. I will continue with Memory Monday as much as possible, but may occasionally substitute with Amanuensis Monday (nod to John Newmark) to highlight some of those documents that I am going to be transcribing… Do more research-related posts. And, to mention my other failed resolution from last year, I would still like to become a more technologically proficient blogger (maybe switch to 3-column format?).

Submitted for the 87th Carnival of Genealogy.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent Calendar Day 24: Christmas Eve - Holy Supper

When the first star is spotted in the sky on the eve of Christmas, it is time to go in to have the last meal before the end of the pre-Nativity fast, also called St. Philip’s fast, or the Filippovka. This meal is called the Holy Supper. At the end of this article there are some pictures of common dishes eaten for Holy Supper.

Spotting that star used to be the job of our youngest daughter, but as she reached her teen years, we realized that she was not quite the reliable lookout that she had been, so these days we all try to be the first to spot the star, since we’re all pretty hungry.

The following is a description of the Holy Supper taken from a booklet given out to parishioners at our church; it is simply called The Holy Supper and does not contain any information on the author.

“The Holy Supper [Svyatyj Vecher’] on Christmas Eve occurs among the people of Central Europe as the immediate preparation to welcome the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. While it varies in details from one group to another and, in fact, within groups and nations from one town and village to the next, there are certain common features.

“The origins of the Holy Supper predate the arrival of Christianity in Central Europe. Like many Christmas customs, it began as a pagan rite, in this case, called Korochun – the greeting of the Sun – as the days grow longer after the Winter Solstice. Certain elements, like the twelve courses to be served, reflect the twelve months of the year and, expressing hope for a bountiful harvest of food for the whole year, hearken to its origins as an agricultural ritual feast for blessings in the year to come. When Christianized, the twelve courses were seen to represent the Twelve Apostles. Likewise, the Paska-like bread in the center of the table called the Korochun, comes to be understood as the sign of Christ, the Bread of Life.

“…[I]t is suggested that we observe abstinence on Christmas Eve, that is, no meat products, but not restricting the use of dairy products. The meatless meal should be one of great abundance: meatless, to symbolize the humility and poverty in which Christ was born; the variety and abundance of food to remind us of God’s blessings and grace.

“The house is cleaned for the coming of the Messiah, and the dining room is specially prepared. The husband is to feed all the animals, whether the household pets or, if ones lives on a farm, the farm animals, with great abundance. Likewise, after the wife sprinkles the family with holy water during the Holy Supper to purify their minds that they may be open to accept the mystery of the divine birth, the husband is to bless the animals with the holy water. All this is done as a sign that the animals of the stable were the witnesses of the mystery of the birth of God in the flesh.

“A candle is placed in the window, a sign of welcome for the holy family and, indeed, for family, friends, and the poor or strangers who have nowhere to spend the night like the Holy Family had no place to stay at the inn at Bethelehem.

“The dining room table is set with a white table cloth, a symbol of purity of the Virgin birth and the white swaddling cloths. The husband will scatter straw over or under the table cloth, to symbolize the manger, and place hay under the table, to transform the dining room into the stable. The Nativity Bread, a round bread like the Paska, representing Christ, with a candle in the middle representing both the star and Christ who is the Light of the World, is placed in the center of the table. An extra full place setting, to remind one of the faithful departed of the family, and, at the same time, to serve as a prepared place for any who come in search of a meal, is set.

Wine glasses for the toast are set, and two small bowls of honey, one for the anointing and one for dipping the garlic, are set. The holy water the family had reserved from the previous Theophany – January 6 – is placed on the table."

I do not anoint my family with honey, because that is too sticky, but we do sprinkle holy water on all family members, human and furry. In our house we do not have all 12 dishes, but usually have something along the lines of the following:

Setting the table for Holy Supper

Mushroom-Sauerkraut-Barley Soup

Christmas Eve Bread

Brown Rice

Green Beans


Salmon with Hollandaise Sauce

Pierogi with Sour Cream

Cider or Wine


Table All Set

Freshly baked Christmas Eve Bread, though simple, is especially delicious. Here is the recipe we use:

Bread for Christmas Eve

1 package dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups water, warm
6 cups flour
4 tablespoons salad oil
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Dissolve yeast in warm water with 1/8 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon sugar. Set in warm place to rise. Sift 6 cups flour in deep bowl, add 2 cups warm water, 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons salad oil. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture.

Knead well and set aside to rise. When double in bulk, punch down. Divide dough in two. Shape one part into round bread, cover and let stand 20 minutes. Punch down and reshape. Place in greased pan. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

[Recipe from Epiphany's Seasons: Twenty-five Years of Parish Recipes, compiled by the Epiphany Ladies Guild.]

After Holy Supper, we rest for a while, then it's off to church, where we attend services and then share Christmas dishes with fellow parishioners. This lasts until about 1:30 or 2:00 in the morning.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent Calendar Day 21: Christmas Music – Avoiding Overload

Music plays a big part in my family’s celebration of Christmas. When I was growing up, this was not so much the case. We heard Christmas music on the radio, on television, and I remember singing Christmas carols in school, but I don’t think we had any records of Christmas music. The one exception I can think of was that I asked for a full recording of The Nutcracker for my birthday when I was around 14. That set of records just about got played to death.

Now we have an entire section of our music library devoted to Christmas music. A lot of people get tired of Christmas music after too much exposure, but we try to avoid this by bringing as much variety as possible to the selections we listen to. Television and radio programs tend to replay a limited set of carols over and over, though some stations are a little more adventurous (reason #48 on the list of reasons for saving our classical music radio stations).

Some of our favorite Christmas music consists of Eastern European hymns and carols. Here are a couple of my favorite collections, Russian Christmas by the Theodorovskaya Mother of God Icon Church Choir and Christmas Hymns by the Seminary Choir of Blessed Theodore Romzha Academy of Uzhgorod.

We also attend the local Christmas Revels in Washington most years. We love all the shows, but our favorites have tended toward the more ethnically-oriented themes: the Northern-themed To Drive the Dark Away (Karelian (Finnish, Lapp, and Russian), Norse, and Swedish), Roads of the Roma, and last year’s French Canadian Revels.

In addition to the Eastern Christmas liturgies we have on tape and CD there have been many classical Christmas works for both liturgical and concert settings that have made their way into our collection. The following is a fast-paced Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah:

Our favorite way to enjoy the popular “White Christmas” is to watch the movie Holiday Inn. Another family tradition at Christmas is to watch the video “A Tuna Christmas.” You’ll never think of “Jingle Bells” the same way again after you have watched Didi Snavely sing this carol while smoking a cigarette: “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle (puff) the way.”

Other favorites are carols played on the hammered dulcimer. "The Zither Carol," as played by Joemy Wilson on the dulcimer on Gifts – Traditional Christmas Music, Vol II, has been known to set me atwirlin’ around the room (when no one is watching, of course). And there are many, many more odds and ends of Christmas music we love: music box carols, shapenote carols, Cajun and Zydeco Christmas songs, you name it.

So in this post, "avoiding overload" does not mean reducing the amount of Christmas music, but rather increasing the variety. Because anything worth doing is worth doing to excess. In fact, writing about all of this and looking up Christmas music on Youtube has put me in the mood for … more Christmas music. Wonder what I can find on iTunes?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent Calendar Day 18: Christmas Stockings

I had Christmas stockings as a child and I have them as an adult (though not the same ones, unfortunately). My teenage daughters still have Christmas stockings and are angling to continue to have them for as long as possible.

When I was a child, the Christmas stocking was for fruit (mostly oranges, sometimes apples), nuts, candy canes, and possibly a little bit of change.

My husband and I bought a pair of stockings from Afghanistan during our graduate school days in the late 1970s and still have them. For some reason, our cats have always loved them. It may be the lanolin in the wool; whatever it is, the effect is almost as strong as catnip. Below is a picture of Fred, from our first quartet of cats, rubbing on one of the stockings. The current cat crew do the same thing.

Fred and the Afghan stocking

We try not to go overboard with gift-giving in general, but to make things fun, there is some focus on stocking gifts. Our daughters’ stockings are usually chock-full of smaller presents. When they were younger, many of the items were small and usually inexpensive toys, supplemented by things like Christmas candy, socks, and hair bows. Now they still receive socks and Christmas candy, but the other items might be make-up, lotion, inexpensive earrings, and sometimes Mombux (3x5 cards with stickers and a promise of a purchase or mini-shopping-spree with Mom: “A pair of shoes,” “$15 at the thrift store,” “$20 at the bookstore,” etc.). And there is always a shiny new penny in the bottom of the stockings for good luck. Mom and Dad each get candy and a penny in their stockings.

Stocking loot

(Yes, there was still a Halloween pumpkin decoration on the wall.)

In addition to getting to rub on the Afghan stockings on Christmas morning, each of our cats has a stocking with his or her name on it. Their stockings usually contain catnip and cat toys (mostly furry mice with things inside that make a rattling noise so that they “skitter” really well and get the cats all excited).

Rocky rests under the Christmas tree after a heavy session with the Afghan sock followed by the catnip bag

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blog Caroling: Heaven and Earth

Many thanks to footnoteMaven for hosting Blog Caroling!

Heaven and Earth (Nebo i Zemlya)

Heaven and earth, heaven and earth
Now welcome their Redeemer.
Angels and people, angels and people
Join in celebration.

Salvation is begun, born is the Virgin’s Son;
Angel’s voices ringing, Wise Men gifts are bringing;
Shepherds tell the story; star proclaims the glory;
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

In Bethlehem, in Bethlehem
God’s Word is given birth.
Born of a virgin, born of a virgin,
Master of heav’n and earth.

Salvation is begun, born is the Virgin’s Son;
Angel’s voices ringing, Wise Men gifts are bringing;
Shepherds tell the story; star proclaims the glory;
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Nebo i zemlya, nebo i zemlya
Nyni torzhestvuyut.
Anhely i lyude, anhely i lyude
Veselo sprazdnujut.

Christos rodilsya, Boh voplotilsya,
Anhely spivayut, Tsariye vitayut.
Poklon otdayut, pastyriye hrajut,
Chudo, chudo povidayut.

Vo Vifleyemi, vo Vifleyemi
Vesela novina.
Chistaya D’iva, Chistaya D’iva
Porodila Syna.

Christos rodilsya, Boh voplotilsya,
Anhely spivayut, Tsariye vitayut.
Poklon otdayut, pastyriye hrajut,
Chudo, chudo povidayut.

If you would like a tune to go with the words, below are a Russian version and a Ruthenian version of the carol. There is also a Ukrainian version, which is just a bit different from the Russian version. The transcribed verses are from the Ruthenian version.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Memory Monday: Birthdays

There is both an Advent Calendar theme (for 15 December) and a Carnival of Genealogy topic on December birthdays and events. This is a topic with which I am somewhat familiar, since today is the “big day” for me.

If my birthday falling before Christmas wasn’t enough, my parents’ anniversary was three days after Christmas, on December 28. It seemed that they were constantly going to parties from Christmas to New Year’s. And I have a daughter with an early January birthday that coincides with Orthodox Christmas. We never take our Christmas tree down until after her birthday.

So what is it like to have a December birthday? It would be interesting to ask this question of some of my ancestors who were born in December. A search of the relatives that have so far been entered in my Reunion genealogy program revealed quite a few December birthdays. There are two first cousins and two first cousins once removed. And there were a couple of direct ancestors: my great-great grandfather Hiram Carroll Brinlee Sr. (25 December 1808) and my great grandfather Harlston Perrin Moore (4 December 1845). Finding H. P. Moore’s date of birth on his death certificate was especially delightful; he was my first “discovery” so he is kind of a favorite.

What did Hiram and Harlston do to celebrate their birthdays? I do not know, but I imagine that it was not very elaborate; they were farmers and not especially rich ones. And if I am ever tempted to feel sorry for myself for having a December birthday, I should certainly keep my ancestors in mind.

The thing is, for me, the December birthday has almost never felt like much of a burden or loss. For my parents, however – that was probably another matter. This did not occur to me when I was younger. The first time I heard the sentence, “This present has to be both for your birthday and for Christmas,” I felt a little bit of disappointment, as though I was being cheated out of something. Maybe the second time, too. But it started to dawn on me that were my birthday and Christmas not so close together, perhaps I would not be receiving these presents at all. As I grew older, the sigh and the eye-roll when mention was made of December birthdays were pretty much an automatic response rather than a deeply felt indignation.

And you know what? In college, early December through early January was pretty much one long party. My birthday would be celebrated right before everyone went home for Christmas vacation, then at home with my mother, then with my Texas friends, and finally back at college with the friends who missed the first party. There was never any real holiday letdown.

I hope Hiram and Harlston had at least a few “very merry birthdays.”

A picture made following my one and only childhood birthday party: there probably would have been no Tiny Tears for me without the December birthday

Advent Calendar Day 14: Fruitcake (Memory Monday 2)

Is there no one who loves fruitcake?

I do. Kind of. If it’s moist (= has lots of booze). The fruit must not be old and the nuts should also be in top condition; pecans are the best.

All right, so I’m a self-proclaimed fruitcake expert.

Because I started making fruitcakes when I was 12 years old.

That was the year my mother broke her wrist when we all went ice skating.

You need a really strong wrist to make a good fruitcake.

The men in our family (my father and brother) were almost totally helpless in the kitchen.

So it was up to me to keep the tradition going.

Fruitcake baking in our house was done on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Step one: Put the butter and brown sugar together in bowl; stir until thoroughly combined into a mixture of smooth consistency. This was where the elbow grease came in. (A mixer would have been a wimp-out and also posed the danger of a mixture that was too lumpy or too liquid to support the fruit.)

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no need to worry about flabby upper arms if you make enough fruitcakes. I stirred and stirred and stirred. I used my left hand to support my right arm. I changed to stirring with my left hand. Then back to the right hand. After what seemed like hours, that “smooth consistency” was finally achieved.

The rest was pretty easy. The only tricky part was to bake it for exactly the right amount of time; too much would ruin the taste and too little would leave it with no structural integrity.

And structural integrity is important. Because for the next month – and this is why fruitcakes are baked on the Friday after Thanksgiving – the liquor of choice would be added in generous doses every other day. And if the fruitcake is underbaked, that equals a runny mess.

My family showered praise on me that Christmas for producing an outstanding first fruitcake. My Smugness Coefficient skyrocketed and my nose didn’t come out of the air for a full week.

My mother and I must have made a few fruitcakes during my high school years; these were probably cooperative efforts.

I don’t make fruitcakes any more. I have one labor-intensive dessert to make for Christmas – kolaches – and that is enough. Plus my mother-in-law makes a killer fruitcake (sooo moist … mmmmm).

(Whew! At least there are a few people out there who like a good fruitcake: Miriam Midkiff of Ancestories, Alex of Winging It, and Karen Packard Rhodes of Karen About Genealogy.)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear Genea-Santa: 86th Carnival of Genealogy

We can't go into the Christmas holiday without our genealogy wish lists for Genea-Santa!!! So write up a list of what you'd like Genea-Santa to bring you and share it in the COG :-)

Dear Genea-Santa:

This is my second letter this year to Genea-Santa, but I think you must be a different Genea-Santa, because that other one is kind of stingy. He only let us ask for one thing. So, in order to improve the odds that I’ll get at least something that I ask for this year, like a little kid who has received a refusal from one parent and has decided to do an end-run by approaching the other parent with the same request, I am going to write to you, too.

I also have to admit that you have already started out the Christmas season for me with a bang when you fixed it up with my Brinlee cousins for me to receive a picture of my Grandfather Lawrence Carroll Brinlee. That was so cool and a big surprise, too, and I am so grateful. Then there was the picture of my great-great grandfather Joseph Madison Carroll Norman that was also sent to me this year by a Norman cousin. Awesome!

I do have to start out with my Number One Request: I would like one document – any type of document, but I would like for the document to have had a reliable source – that provides the names of my great-grandmother Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee’s parents.

The pictures reminded me of a couple of other things that would be nice to have. Since I now have pictures of four of my great-grandparents, it would be great to have a picture of the other four: Harlston Perrin Moore and Martha E. Lewis as well as William Henry Norman and Sarah Jane Sisson.

If it is not too much extra trouble, I would love to have a really good clue that would help me find the wife of Samuel Moore (d. 1828) of Greenville County, South Carolina.

And, like many other GeneaBloggers, I think it would be wonderful to have a lot more time to devote to genealogical research and preserving my family history.

Although there are many other things I would like, I’ll save them for other years, Santa. This seems like plenty for you to do and I think it would keep me quite busy, too. With just a little more time and a few good clues, I could take it from there.

So take it easy and rest up, Genea-Santa. If you only answer a fraction of the requests on the GeneaBloggers’ wish lists, you’re going to be a busy guy.

Yours faithfully,


Friday, December 11, 2009

Family Newsletter Friday: 11 December 2009

Not much genealogy going on, even though this Family Newsletter actually covers two weeks (a guest whose initials are COG kept me kinda busy, and oh yeah, we’re preparing for Christmas). One of the many good things about the COG was that it forced me to write up my Preston Moore research. I had wanted to feature my table comparing the two Prestons, but it seemed to be excessive on top of the article, plus you couldn’t read the scan I made of it. However, just for the heck of it, I have increased the font size (which means that it won’t fit onto a single page any more - and I had to remove most of the two Prestons' service histories to get it to fit into one page to begin with) and am posting it here (I see the first page comes out rather small, but you get the idea):

Did the happy dance over receiving, through the kindness of cousins, a picture with my paternal grandfather in it. It makes me happy every time I look at it or think of it.


A little bit of work done on the Normans. I’m hoping to have some time at Christmas to work on them.


Lots of Advent Calendar posting. Love reading everyone’s memories of Christmas and the holiday season! They are really getting me into the Christmas spirit. I especially appreciate learning that my family was not the only one with some unusual or even goofy traditions.

The You Go Genealogy Girls have an article about making an Ancestor Tree! Great idea; now if I just had some talent….

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wordy Wednesday: About That Happy Dance …

Here is the reason for it: above is a picture of (from right to left) my Great-Grandmother Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee, my Grandfather Lawrence Carroll Brinlee, my Great-Uncle Austin Franklin Brinlee, and my Great-Uncle Cecil Odell Brinlee. This picture was recently sent to me by Brinlee second cousin George at the request of another Brinlee second cousin, Raymond.

Receiving a picture of my relatives would be an occasion for a Happy Dance in any event, but this picture is extra special: it is the second picture I have ever seen of Lizzie, Austin, and Odell, and it is the first and only picture I have ever seen of my Grandfather Lawrence, who died before I was born.

This was an early birthday and Christmas present rolled into one. I even considered making this post my contribution to Smile for the Camera: Gift, but I had already written an entry.

I cannot say enough wonderful things about the generosity of my cousins on the Brinlee side who have sent me family pictures I had never seen: George B., Raymond P., Gale W. and Edna S. Thank you all – you are the best!

Advent Calendar Day 10: Gifts (Smile for the Camera)

All of my favorite gifts are my favorites due to a combination of practical and sentimental reasons.

My daughters have made me a number of beautiful presents over the years, but it’s difficult to choose my favorites among them, so I won’t list them here.

Nor have I included the gifts I received as a child.

Instead, I can think of four very special gifts I have received, from my college days up until the recent past, that stand out in my memory – for longevity, meaningfulness, and practicality. Two were given to me by my mother, and the other two were given to me by my husband.

The coffee cup featured in My Dear Daughters: When I Am Dead and Gone, Please Keep These Things.

This winter scarf, designed to cover head and neck. It’s a bit ratty from use by now, but I still use this scarf on the bitterest of cold winter days. This was another present given to me by my mother for Christmas during my college days. Nothing beats it for keeping my head and neck warm and the rust color is a good one for me. Mom had a “gift” for getting just the right thing.

Next among my most treasured gifts is this Byzantine three-bar cross. My husband bought this for me at our church for the Christmas right before the Feast of the Epiphany on which our family was baptized into the Byzantine Catholic Church. In addition to its other religious significance, it symbolizes the journey into faith that my husband and I took together.

Lest all these choices seem to fall more on the sentimental side than the practical, here is the fourth gift: my KitchenAid. Yes, a kitchen appliance. It has been used to bake so many Christmas, birthday, and other desserts; it is one of those household appliances that has earned a place of honor for its years of faithful service filling an important role in our family life: the means for concocting delicious culinary creations. Some women want furs or jewelry; I wanted a KitchenAid.

Unfortunately, I was not able to take a picture of the KitchenAid for this article, because it is in the shop being repaired: after 25+ years of use, the motor gave out.

Here's hoping the KitchenAid gets repaired in time for Christmas baking. I have kolaches to make!

(And if it doesn’t, those who may remember my one-beater wonder from Memory Monday: Fads and My Mom, don’t worry. My considerate husband bought me a new hand mixer for my birthday next week.)

Submitted for the 19th Edition of Smile for the Camera.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Now Here's a Really Happy Dance!

I'll tell you why I'm doing the Happy Dance tomorrow, for Wordy Wednesday.

Advent Calendar Day 4: Christmas Cards

Above is the Christmas card my family and I sent out last year.

My mother did send out Christmas cards, and we displayed the ones we received. The location might vary; one of the Christmas tree pictures for Advent Calendar Day 1 shows Christmas cards on our TV-radio-record player console. (The console was made of blond wood. Oops, whole 'nother subject...) Other years, Mom wanted to be more inventive and taped the cards around a doorway, but that did not work very well. The heavy cards did not stay up, no matter what kind of tape she used. I don’t believe I have any old Christmas cards; it seems that Mom threw them all out. I, on the other hand, hold on to almost all of them like a packrat. The ones from insurance agents might get tossed.

Most of the cards we received when I was a child just had signatures or a brief note, though a few had letters enclosed. These letters were not “Christmas letters,” just regular personal letters written specifically to the addressees and enclosed with the card. We considered it a big bonus when we got a letter along with the card, so that’s probably why I started writing longer and longer notes inside the Christmas cards I sent out.

Finally, it became so much of a chore to write all the different personalized notes that I started sending out “the Christmas letter.” I felt so guilty for sending the same letter out to everyone that I started adding personalized notes to the bottom. That was self-defeating.

Another thing that inspired me to write and send Christmas letters was the fact that we had received some very good ones from friends and relatives. Some of the writers of these letters are very witty and produce funny and newsy letters, so I took them as my model. In an earnest effort to provide some fun for our Christmas card recipients, I would try to write a funny letter that avoided sounding pompous or cloying. That is not as easy as it sounds. If I wrote about a child’s accomplishment, I tried to balance it with a report of the latest natural disaster or major household system failure we had endured during the year. As I read over past letters, I am amazed at how many times our basement has flooded. Well, maybe not. Our house is situated on top of marine clay, after all.

This year is pretty safe, which is to say, boring. And we have found that we do not mind that at all.

(Still trying to catch up on Advent Calendar posts.)

Monday, December 7, 2009

Advent Calendar Day 3: Christmas Tree Ornaments

There have been several Advent Calendar posts by GeneaBloggers in which they describe their obsession with/passion for Christmas tree ornaments. I’m another one of those ornament fanatics.

As you can tell from the Christmas Tree post below, when I was a child, there was more tinsel than there were ornaments on our tree; the few ornaments appear to be mostly Christmas balls.

In college I was given some ornaments made by a friend’s mother, and that ignited my passion for all different kinds of ornaments, including handcrafted ones. Many ornaments have been added since then; no effort was made to have ornaments that "match" or "go together." They come in all different colors, have many different themes, and are made of many different materials. No attempts have ever been made to be ... tasteful. Just bright, shiny, and colorful.

Some of my favorite ornaments were a few I bought when I was a graduate student in Cambridge, Massachusetts. They were part of a set made of cookie dough on the “12 Days of Christmas” theme. These were very well executed and were painted in vivid colors, which made them quite striking on the tree. I bought about three or four, and now only two remain: the partridge in a pear tree and a lord a-leaping, who resembles a Cossack. Unfortunately he is short part of a leg, because one year someone, not me, did not pack up the ornaments very well. I have always regretted not buying the entire set, but then I was a poor college student. If anyone is familiar with this set of ornaments and knows where I can get the molds and instructions for it, I’d be eternally grateful.

At the top is one of my all-time favorite ornaments. Our beloved Donna bought this painted sand-dollar ornament for us the year she started babysitting my older daughter. She saw it at a craft show or store somewhere and thought it resembled our daughter so much that she just had to get it. I cannot remember whether she painted the inscription on it herself or had the artist paint it.

Below is one of the ornaments painted by my friend’s mother that started this whole obsession. I think it is supposed to be a downy woodpecker. As time permits I may feature other favorite ornaments – for you other ornament fanatics out there, of course.

Advent Calendar Day 2: Holiday Foods

Yes, I am aware that today is the 7th day of December and that I am posting for Advent Calendar Day 2. My excuse is that I was busy with the Carnival of Genealogy last week, so I didn’t get to post for days 2 through 5. In an effort to catch up, I’m going to try to post for Days 2 and 3 instead of doing Memory Monday today.

I don’t remember a great deal about our Christmas dinners when I was a child, but fortunately I found a picture of one of those dinners in one of my albums of old photos.

So now I’d like to do a little bit of “photo detectiving” using the clues in the picture to reconstruct one of our Christmas dinners.

Not much of a challenge guessing which Christmas: the date – January 61 – means that this was taken at Christmas in 1960.

There are at least two items in this picture that have been discussed in previous blog posts: in the lower left is the infamous banana pudding that starred in Grandma Moore, Banana Pudding, and the Telephone: An Evening of Terror (well, not the actual pudding that she ate, but you know what I mean), and the table is set (I think) with the China that my Uncle Bill brought back to my mother from his Navy tour in the Pacific that was mentioned in Memory Monday: Our Edsel.

The ham is the usual traditional meat with pineapple. That dish in the lower right corner may be ambrosia salad, and I believe the round dish toward the back contains yams with marshmallows, which I detested. The other dishes appear to be the usual vegetables plus olives, which all of us loved. Finally, there is the ever-present coffee which my father could live without.

In a later post I hope to describe my family’s current tradition of Holy Supper.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent Calendar Day 6: I KNEW It! I KNEW Santa Was Real!

Did you believe in Santa?

Boy, howdy, did I ever. I was a faithful – and I do mean faithful – follower of Santa. He did not always bring me everything on my list (above you see me reciting my list, and from the intense look of concentration, it was probably a long one), but he would always deliver on one or two items that absolutely delighted me.

It was so exciting to see Santa in the stores when I went shopping with my mother. At some point, I realized that there was more than one Santa around town, but I had also come to have an inkling that there were thousands, maybe even millions of kids around the world, so it stood to reason that Santa must need helpers – not just for making toys back at the North Pole (that was what elves were for), but also here in the regular world. I figured these guys must be specially initiated helpers who helped to make sure that Santa had lists and input from every single child in the world. My logic was impeccable.

Then second grade and Scott happened. Scott was a snotty, superior, Scut Farkas-like brat who just had to announce to everyone that Santa was a fiction created and maintained by our parents and only babies still believed in him. Well, that didn’t hold water with me. Because I had additional information: I was convinced that Scott was stupid and that was why he would say such a stupid thing. Every time Scott would repeat this heresy I would stomp away in indignation. One of my worst faults is that I hold a grudge. Over the years I have tried to learn to let these grudges go and forgive people but, I am sorry to say, Scott is still on my list and is most likely going to be the very last one I let go.

But as second grade wore on and then third grade came, especially Christmastime, the doubts began to creep in. By this time, many of my classmates did not believe in Santa. But to me, to abandon my faith in Santa seemed to be equivalent to killing Santa. I just could not do it. By fourth grade, however, the cause was lost. I began to notice the winks and nods adults would give one another when Santa’s name was mentioned. I began to think about the improbability of eight reindeer flying around the world with a large man and enough presents for every child in the world. Hmmmm…. I even pretended to still believe in Santa that Christmas, even though I saw my parents sneaking presents under the Christmas tree on Christmas eve.

The loss of faith stung for a while, but by fifth grade I was reconciled to the fact that I was no longer a True Believer. I would smile benevolently as I saw Santas in the shopping malls, listening to the wishes and dreams of little children.

Then I had children. I looked forward to promoting the “myth of Santa” with my own children. We decided to take our then-11-month old daughter, our first child, with us to pick out some Christmas tree ornaments at the local garden center. When someone mentioned that there was a “wonderful Santa” with his own shop right on the grounds of the garden center, my husband and I decided, “Why not? We can at least get her picture taken with Santa, and it will be so cute.” So we headed on over to one of the outbuildings. It just looked like a little wooden outbuilding on the outside. But on the inside …. ohhhh …..

It was a little bit dark inside; most of the light was provided by Christmas lights. But it was beautiful. There were lights and painted figures everywhere. I do not remember the theme that year – it may have been a Dr. Seuss Christmas or it may have been Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; we learned the next year that the theme changed from year to year. There was a train set with a winter/Christmas theme – the main part was in a window display set-up, but there was also a train that traveled around on a track overhead. There was a big box for children to bring used toys in good shape to help Santa and the elves bring a little bit of extra joy to children whose parents could not afford to give them much for Christmas. There was a little area with pencils and pads so that children who had not yet made up their list for Santa could do so at the last minute. And there was a special display, prominently located, of Santa kneeling before the bed of hay in which Jesus lay.

There was an entire wall containing letters from children to whom Santa had given much joy over the years – and from what people wrote, it was obvious this had been going on for quite a few years. Many people who wrote to thank Santa were parents who had themselves seen Santa when they were little. The stories were amazing, and I began to see the outlines take shape for the logic behind Santa and all the magic he needs to use. It all made sense now. Suddenly, we heard bells jingling.

And then Santa arrived. These four words do not give justice to what actually happened. It was earth-shaking. It was triumphant. The children cheered. The parents cheered. Some of us even jumped up and down.

Santa took his place in a beautiful sleigh set up a room separated from the larger room by glass. I got a good look at him. I was hit by a thunderbolt. My arms went rigid by my sides, my hands clenched into fists. In a whisper that was so piercing that those around me turned to look, I hissed: “I knew it! I knew Santa was real!” The parents smiled and looked at me knowingly; some nodded. (If this quote rings a bell and you have ever seen Galaxy Quest, you have some idea of the intensity of my reaction. And this was before that movie was made.)

You may not know it, but the real Santa is a bit more slender than the image we have. Oh, there is plenty of adipose packed in there, but behind that beautiful white beard, the face is rather slender, and his long, eloquent hands are also thin. (Just an FYI on the beard: Santa loves milkshakes when he visits our houses, but he prefers vanilla ones because they don’t stain his beard as much as chocolate ones do. It’s true. He says so, himself.) Some people have described him as looking more like a lacquer-box Santa. Perhaps.

Before talking to the children individually, Santa went up to a lectern set up on the second level, above our heads. His voice was gentle, but he could be heard by everyone. The roar of noise had quieted to a rustle. He didn’t go on for a long time, but he did explain a few things: how the elves were organized to do what they did (they were divided up by the types of toys they made, with each different type having a different color or pattern of elf hat), how reindeer fly (magic dust, DUH), how they were able to fly around the world (there is some serious messin’ with the time zones going on), what it’s like at the North Pole, and most importantly, why Santa and the elves need some extra help in providing toys for children whose parents can’t do as much. Santa also laid out the rules for what is expected of everyone’s behavior leading up to Christmas. He included the parents in his instructions: we may get tired and impatient, but we must always remember how precious the ones are for whom we do so much. We all then sang some Christmas carols, followed by the snow dance: “Snow! Snow! Snow! Ho! Ho! Ho!” accompanied by a lot of hopping and jumping around. (If you ever visit Santa, be careful with this song. It works a little too well.)

Then it was time to begin. The children and parents were led into the little room with the sleigh. Some sat on a bench, some on the floor. Santa took each family into the sleigh one by one to sit with him, with time allowed at the end to take pictures. He was absolutely patient, listening to everything the children had to say, discussing certain things with them and their parents. It turns out there are certain procedures that have to be followed. First of all, it’s a good thing to leave some munchies out for the reindeer so that they can keep going. What do they like? Mostly greens, but a few nuts and M&Ms mixed in doesn’t hurt. Special Santa presents will need to be marked, so he may give the kids a long piece of plastic tape to put on the tree, which will then be incorporated into the wrapping of the present. Mom may be asked to leave her shoes out, and a special present for her will show up inside one of the shoes.

All this attention to each child and family means that the lines can get a little long sometimes. But then there are so many things in Santa’s house to entertain us.

And this is where it gets truly spooky (but in a good way). Santa really does know whether you have been naughty or nice. And he knows a lot of other stuff besides. He knew that I needed to straighten up my bedroom. He knew that a family friend who came along with us was an artist – “a truly gifted artist” (even at the age of 7, she was) – and he said there would be some art supplies for her. And one year, when my four-year-old younger daughter earnestly asked Santa to help her find her missing beanie babies, Eiger (aka Chops) and Rudolph, he replied: “I’m not sure I can, but I’ll try my best.” No need to have worried. Rudolph and Eiger, who had been missing almost four weeks (and we had been tearing our hair out trying and turning our house upside down to find them), were found about an hour and a half after we got home that day. One of the girls was playing near our breakfast table, which in a previous life was a billiard table, and noticed something in one of the tubes for the balls: there were Eiger and Rudolph. True story.

And what does Santa do when he is not making and delivering presents? The rumor is that, like many older people who like to escape the long stretches of cold winter weather, he comes down South – to Virginia, to be specific – and spends a good deal of time here. That he is incognito for most of this time, ditches the beard and perhaps a bit of the weight, and pretends to be just an ordinary garden center employee (maybe even a retired one at this point) named Dr. John. That would be to avoid causing unnecessary excitement and commotion at the proximity of such a celebrity in our midst.

According to this same grapevine, the “back story” behind this fictional alter ego is that he was raised in an orphanage and at the age of 14 decided that the yearly Christmas present given to each child in the orphanage – the exact same present for each one – was not enough. And so at that young age, for the first time, he donned a Santa suit and found a way to give a little something extra to children in unfortunate circumstances. Further, he has been doing this every year since then. Throughout the years he has headed up numerous charitable endeavors and even has a couple of programs, one on gardening and one on living our Christian faith, on the local TV channel.

And on Christmas eve, he assembles the best of the presents donated by the many families who come to visit him, takes them into the very poorest parts of the city, and delivers them to families with children.

At least those are the rumors.

For my money, he is the real Santa, the true embodiment of the spirit of St. Nicholas of Myra. His generosity is very real, as is the aura of magic that surrounds him. And, as the living icon of that generous Saint, he would probably want me to forgive Scott. I’m trying, Santa.

We no longer make the annual pilgrimage with our daughters to see Santa in person, but my husband and I bring him toys every year. We don’t want to let Santa down.

I lost you once, Santa, but I will never lose you again.

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Dear Santa

From Randy Seaver at Genea-Musings: Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission: Impossible music), is to write a nice letter to Genea-Santa Here are the directions:

1) Write a letter to Genea-Santa and ask for only ONE thing. It could be hardware, software, a missing family Bible, a record that you desperately want, etc.

2) Tell Genea-Santa what a good genea-girl or genea-boy you've been this past year and give examples.

Dear Genea-Santa:

I would like one document – any type of document, but I would like for the document to have had a reliable source – that provides the names of my great-grandmother Susan Elizabeth Smith Bonner Brinlee’s parents.

I have been a pretty good genea-girl this year, though I know I could have been much better. For one thing, I was pretty good about keeping my resolution to write down a memory every Monday. There were a few Mondays I missed, but then again, a few memories were written down on different days so they might all add up to 52 at the end of the year. My performance on keeping my other main resolution, transcribing the documentary materials I have, has been rather spotty. I did, however, transcribe about 200 obituaries for the next item, which is completing the first and major phase of one of my big research projects, “The Descendants of Samuel Moore (d. 1828) of Greenville County, South Carolina.”

As for writing up research in my blog: so-so. I was happy to have written up posts on two of my great-great-uncles: William Henry Lewis and Preston E. Moore, both of which, by the way, were Carnival of Genealogy submissions. (There is nothing like the COG to inspire you to get cracking on writing up your research!) I would like to have participated in more carnivals and prompts, but was often too disorganized to do so. In addition, I have not been very good about posting regularly in my two Graveyard Rabbit blogs, The Graveyard Rabbit of Northern Virginia and The Graveyard Rabbit Afield. I hope to do better next year.

Carnival of Genealogy 85: The Continuing Saga of Orphans and Orphans

As I suspected, there is at least one “Orphans and Orphans” post I missed, and it has several intriguing twists, so you won’t want to miss this one: Charles Hansen’s “Orphans for the Carnival of Genealogy #85” at Mikkel’s Hus. (This is cross-posted in the main Carnival post and as a separate post). The biggest mystery in Charles’ story of his great-uncle Laurits Hansen is this: How can one of a pair of twins, the one who was reported as dying at five days after birth, have survived to become father to a family of a family of 11 children? The path to the solution of this mystery involves twins, an early christening, a flood, and one of the pitfalls of research using microfilm. My apologies for missing this one, Charles - it's a humdinger!

Friday, December 4, 2009

85th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Orphans and Orphans

Many thanks to Jasia for all her encouragement and to footnote Maven for coming up with another wonderful COG poster.

Welcome to the 85th Carnival of Genealogy. I cannot describe how excited I am to be hosting this edition, which deals with a subject that is very dear to me, particularly in the context of genealogy: Orphans. (Even the problems with the blog carnival site have not been able to dim my enthusiasm.) Participants were invited to write about one or both types of “orphans” we encounter in genealogy:

The first type of orphan refers to those ancestors or relatives who lost their parents when they were young.

The second type of orphan would be those siblings or cousins of our ancestors who could be called “reverse orphans.” They are the relatives who, for whatever reason – death at a young age, never having married or had children, or having children who did not survive to provide descendants – have no direct descendants of their own, so it falls to us, their collateral relatives, to learn and write their story.

And, with her usual ingenuity, footnote Maven has come up with a third type of orphan in genealogy!

No matter what type of orphan, their stories are touching and often inspiring. In addition, these tales often carry a mystery within them. I am delighted to see what a strong emotional hold our “orphans” have over those of us who do genealogy research. The message comes across loud and strong in these articles – whether expressed in so many words or demonstrated by the loving care devoted to the research – that the stories of these people deserve to be told. As these articles demonstrate, studying these relatives also improves the quality of our research as a whole. It was also striking how groups such as the Graveyard Rabbits and geneablogging themes such as “Tombstone Tuesday” help to perpetuate the memory of people who might otherwise be forgotten.

If you submitted an article to the Carnival of Genealogy using the submission form and do not see your article below, my profound apologies. The blog carnival submission site stopped worked after the first few days. Just let me know and I will include your blog in this article as well as post it in its own separate article.

Now let the stories begin:

In “Tombstone Tuesday – John S. KINNICK,” Dr. Bill Smith of Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories describes a mystery involving a “reverse orphan” ancestor in which a family legend is smashed by a tombstone. You’ll have to read the story to see what that means!

Cathy Palm of Cameron Collections tells of a wonderful relative she was privileged to know personally in “Who Else Would Tell Her Story? Adelia McCrea – Renowned Mycologist.” Adelia, a pioneer in the field of science, was quite an accomplished woman - you can even take a look at one of her patents! This is not Cathy’s first Carnival post, but it is the first for Cameron Collections.

Over at the Folk Archivist’s Blog (this is a new blog to me, and am I glad to find it!), in “Spinster and Bachelors, not just lifeless limbs in our family trees,” Liza Painter provides a superb analysis of the importance of our spinster, bachelor, and childless relatives, emphasizing equally the important roles they played in family life, the contributions they made to society as a whole, and how they enrich our family research.

Dorene from Ohio has written a touching tribute to a young football player who life was cut short by an automobile accident in “Chester John Thompson, Football Star” at the Graveyard Rabbit of Sandusky Bay. This article illustrates how the work of Graveyard Rabbits and GeneaBloggers can help to preserve the memory of people like Chester, who died too young to marry and have a family.

The Carnival provides an introduction to another interesting new blogger: J. Mulder over at Tracing My Roots. Her “Orphans” COG entry is “The Forgotten Uncle” – love that title! J. M. writes: “I choose the second definition of Orphans, the reverse orphan. This ancestor fits the bill exactly, and so I decided to write an article about him. It brought some surprises, to say the least!” Imagine finding out that you had an uncle you had never heard about before. J. M. was able to locate pictures and several documents, and has used them to put together an informative and moving portrait of her “forgotten uncle.”

Far from being forgotten, the memory of an aunt who died as a baby has been preserved and cherished, as described in Joan Hill’s article “Carnival of Genealogy’s Orphans and Orphans: Baby Irene” at Roots’n’Leaves. Joan’s telling of the story of Baby Irene’s short life packs a powerful emotional punch and skillfully conveys the “need to tell the story” that compels us to write about these orphans. It involves a picture of a beloved family member, family stories, and, what is quite fascinating, the possible genetic explanation behind Baby Irene’s death and the family childbearing pattern.

At Reflections from the Fence, Carol’s story of her “orphan” relative in “85th Carnival of Genealogy, Orphans and Orphans” is particularly intriguing because the relative to whom she has written a wonderful tribute is both a “reverse orphan” and a “regular orphan.” Carol’s story of a talented and witty woman whose life was cut short too early has some dramatic twists and turns that will draw you in.

John Newmark at TransvylanianDutch, who seems to have a full plate of orphan relatives of both types, need no prodding to preserve the memory of “reverse orphan” relatives; he has already posted a number of articles on his great uncles Mandell Newmark and Samuel Van Every. Moreover, in “Orphans” he outlines a fascinating “orphan-related” (or more precisely, “orphanage-related”) mystery in his family history. The ultimate fate of another family of orphans also remains unknown. Given John’s sleuthing skills, we can look forward to reading about how he gets to the bottom of these mysteries.

Apple’s touching story of “Rose” at Apple’s Tree really tugged at my heart because it reminds me so much of my own brick wall great-grandmother. It is an irresistible combination of mystery – actually, several mysteries – with a heartrending tale of how her great-grandmother had to experience the fate of an orphan even though her parents were still living. Apple has done some outstanding detective work to fill in the blanks in Rose’s life, and her yearning to learn the remaining “whys” and “what-ifs” is contagious.

Katrina’s tale of the McQuarrie twins at Kick-Ass Genealogy, “Ausker and Olive McQuarrie: Carnival of Genealogy 85 (Orphans and Orphans),” demonstrates how compelling we find the stories of those we research, even when we’re not quite sure that we are related to them. Katrina details her efforts to explain discrepancies in records and we are left wondering if the continual reappearance of the twins in her searches is their way of telling her that they want their story told. You’ll have an itch to learn the true story of these twins.

Ruth Stephens’ thought-provoking and affectionate article at Bluebonnet Country Genealogy, “85th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Orphans and Orphans,” poses the question that must nag at so many researchers: “What if?” Ruth has orphans of both kinds in her family history and has compiled a brief photo history of each of them. By the way, I am embarrassed to admit that I did not original include Bluebonnet Country Genealogy in my list of Texas-connected GeneaBloggers (“The Texas Team”); that has been corrected.

In “Miss Johanna Tieking,” Bev Bird of Tieking – Stevenson Families pays tribute to one of the very people who accumulated the family treasures that Bev is now able to use to learn and write her family history. Bev eloquently expresses the sense of responsibility many of us feel for keeping our childless and single relatives’ memories alive.

At The Pieces of My Past, Tracy spins the tale of how a paper with seven names gave but a hint of the tragedy-laden story that lay behind the list in “COG 85: Orphans and Orphans.” Tracy also makes a good case for looking at all the family circumstances when we form our definition of an “orphan.” An excellent example of weaving a story from all the little bits of information!

In “Orphaned by Another Means,” TCasteel of Tangled Trees presents the challenge of learning more about a great-grandmother who lost one parent and was abandoned to a harsh fate by the other parent. There is a family legend and some conflicting scraps of information – a familiar paucity of information to anyone who has researched a brick wall. As I also have a great-grandmother who was said to have had to work for another family at a young age, this story touched me and I am eager to learn more.

In “COG: Lee Rutter – How Do You Connect?” Jen of ShawGenealogy shows the tenacity that genealogists need to have when they pursue the story of an “orphan” relative whose story consists of puzzle pieces that don’t quite fit together. And, of course, the compulsion to learn more never goes away, no matter much meticulous research may have uncovered, as Jen so ably demonstrates.

Bill West of West in New England pulls together all the pieces of information on his Grant Aunt Winnie, who died at around age forty without every marrying, in “Winifred McFarland.” Bill’s article is a good example and reminder to assemble and record all the documents, photographs, and oral history about each of our relatives who may still be present in the keepsakes and memories of the living.

The beautifully told and poignant story in Tonia’s article for the COG, “Orphans and Orphans: A Sad Bit of History,” at Tonia’s Roots, begins and ends with headstones. What I especially love (among other things) about this article is that it puts the story of the family in question into historical context.

At Genea-Musings, Randy Seaver’s “Orphans of two kinds” recounts the histories of both types of orphans who have appeared in his family tree. He has posted previously on these orphan relatives and you should click on the links to the articles if you have not read them already in order to experience the full poignancy of all these short lives. The recounting of the causes of death alone is enough to make you grateful to be alive in the 21st century.

Jasia of Creative Gene honors her Aunt Gee in “Remembering an Aunt with Many Names.” This beautiful tribute is a wonderful way to remember a generous and beloved aunt who had no children of her own and at the end of her life did not even have a funeral or memorial. My wish for all of our “orphan” relatives would be to be remembered in just this way.

footnoteMaven, ever alert, has caught an omission in my typology of orphans. There is yet a third type, described in her contribution, “An Orphanage.” I am definitely eager to follow fM’s progress as she tries to identify her orphans. (From now on I will always think of any collection of orphan photos as an orphanage.) Good luck with your quest, fM, and please keep us updated on what you learn and how you learn it!

Preston Moore was the first “reverse orphan” ancestor I ever researched and he is the one who pulled me into this obsession. It just did not seem fair that my cousin and I knew what happened to all of his siblings and knew nothing of his fate. My ignorance about Civil War military units and lack of experience in genealogical research probably made my search for him more circuitous than it needed to be, with some false starts and dead ends along the way, but I am glad I never gave up. I have recorded the tale of this search and its results in “Orphans and Orphans: Searching for Preston Moore” and “The Two Preston Moores.”

As I suspected, there is at least one “Orphans and Orphans” post I missed, and it has several intriguing twists, so you won’t want to miss this one: Charles Hansen’s “Orphans for the Carnival of Genealogy #85” at Mikkel’s Hus. (This is cross-posted in the main Carnival post and as a separate post). The biggest mystery in Charles’ story of his great-uncle Laurits Hansen is this: How can one of a pair of twins, the one who was reported as dying at five days after birth, have survived to become father to a family of a family of 11 children? The path to the solution of this mystery involves twins, an early christening, a flood, and one of the pitfalls of research using microfilm. My apologies for missing this one, Charles - it's a humdinger!

That concludes the 85th Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. My thanks to all who participated; I am certain that readers will enjoy your submissions and learn from them, as I have. And now, you all know what comes next:

Call for Submissions! The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be: The Other Holiday Happenings! Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we're going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples. Share it in the COG!

And this edition will have a Part 2 as well (separate blog post)! We can't go into the Christmas holiday without our genealogy wish lists for Genea-Santa!!! So write up a list of what you'd like Genea-Santa to bring you and share it in the COG :-) The deadline for all entries is December 15th. This edition will be hosted by Jasia at Creative Gene.

Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy using our carnival submission form. Please use a descriptive phrase in the title of any articles you plan to submit and/or write a brief description/introduction to your articles in the "comment" box of the blog carnival submission form. This will give readers an idea of what you've written about and hopefully interest them in clicking on your link. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Advent Calendar: The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree was (when I was growing up) and continues to be (now that I am grown and have children) an important part of my family’s Christmas tradition. I am slightly obsessed with ornaments and have more than I can fit on my tree. When we had an addition put on our house, we made sure that there was at least one little section where the ceiling was high enough to have a really tall tree.

Starting with the Christmas trees of my childhood: below are pictures of our Christmas tree from 1960. Until I was about nine years old, we always had a real tree. Sometimes we bought it from a lot and sometimes we would cut our own. This was a real adventure with my Dad – he was extremely picky, and I believe I followed in his footsteps in that respect. The type of tree would vary – pine one year, spruce another, fir still another. That made decorating it a challenge, since different trees have different types of “gaps,” different needle lengths, and branches of different strengths. Some ornaments look good on one type of tree but not another.

The biggest nightmare with the Christmas tree were the lights. Remember how the strings of light used to operate? If one bulb went out, the entire string went out. I believe that one of the great inventions of the 20th century was the string of lights that would stay on, no matter how many individual light would go out. My husband and I laugh at the Christmas tree decoration scenes in Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story every time we watch it (and we have watched it many times).

As you can see from the pictures, there was a lot of tinsel on our tree, and that was a major component of our tree decorations. It took hours to do properly (no throwing it on the tree!) and was, we believed, a real art. (My husband and I put tinsel on our tree for a couple of years, but with cats … that didn’t last.)

Then my mother bought one of those silver aluminum Christmas trees, and my brother and I thought it was an abomination. I believe she would put blue Christmas balls on it.

Later, when we lived in Texas, my mother bought a nice-looking artificial tree, which is the best you can do in a part of Texas that has mostly scrubby trees. We started to collect ornaments and used to have some beautiful old glass ornaments, but I don’t know what happened to most of them. The oldest ornaments I have are some that were made by a friend’s mother. If I have time in the coming weeks, I will try to feature some of my favorite ornaments.

One of my favorite Christmas tree memories is described in Memory Monday: Visiting with Grandma Brinlee. My Uncle Leroy let me pick a tree to cut down and we decorated it with strings of popcorn and ornaments made with the silver liners from cigarette packs.

My husband and I buy real trees, the tallest ones we can fit in our house, and although I am still picky, I guess I have developed more of an eye and can pick out a good-looking tree fairly quickly (provided there are any good ones on the lot). Our daughters can and do provide plenty of input on the choice. We try to buy it the weekend after Thanksgiving and leave it up until my daughter’s birthday (also Orthodox Christmas), January 7. The smell still transports me to some of those Christmases from my childhood.

Orphans and Orphans: Searching for Preston Moore

I just wanted to find my great-grandfather’s oldest brother, Preston E. Moore.

It seemed that this should not be too difficult. I was flush with success at finding my great-grandfather Harlston Perrin Moore on a Texas Death Certificate and then, not long afterwards, finding his family in South Carolina – just where my mother had always said we “had family.”

There were two main possibilities: Preston had stayed back in South Carolina with the rest of the Moore family, or he had come out to Texas with his brother Perrin Moore. The first did not seem likely: my third cousin Jo Ann S., a skilled and tenacious researcher, had not been able to turn him up after the 1860 census as she had the other three children in the William Spencer Moore and Emily Tarrant family – Anna Jeusha Moore, Commodore Worth Moore, and William Brewster Moore.

However, Jo Ann had also lost track of Perrin Moore after the 1860 census because he had gone out to Texas in 1877 and nothing she had found before this indicated that any members of this family had gone to Texas. Ergo, Preston Moore must be in Texas. So the first thing I did was to look in Texas, specifically the Dallas area, for Preston E. Moore.

A glance at the date of birth of Preston Moore – circa 1843 – suggests a strong third possibility: lost in the Civil War.

But I was optimistic. Didn’t families tend to travel in groups when they migrated? As it turned out, Harlston Perrin Moore and Martha Lewis Moore did travel in a family group – with Martha’s Lewis siblings. I could not find Preston E. Moore in Texas.

After I obtained a copy of H. P. Moore’s Confederate Pension Application from the Texas State Archives, I realized that I would have to start searching for records of Preston E. Moore’s Civil War service. H. P. Moore was just old enough to have served, and his service was in one of the “old men and little boys’” units, the 2nd South Carolina Reserves. His older brother Preston, however, would have been old enough to have served in a regular unit.

Preston became my first “reverse orphan,” and I became a little obsessed with learning his fate. I spent much of my first Memorial Day after getting hooked on genealogy searching for Preston Moore in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System. There were no Preston Moores from South Carolina. There were, however, P. Moores and P.E. Moores. However, I could not really match up any of the P. or P.E. Moores listed with South Carolina units with our Preston; I could eliminate some who were identified in unit histories as being other people, but believed that I would have to wait to find more detailed histories of the other units until I could know where to start tracing what happened to Preston. Preston would have to remain “in limbo” for a while.

A few months after this I obtained a copy of the will of William Spencer Moore, the father of Preston and H.P. Moore. I tore open the envelope and read: “…should my said wife ever marry then I will and bequeath that said Estate both personal and real be sold and the one third of the proceeds thereof be given by my hereinafter Administrator to my said Wife and the remainder thereof be equally divided among my beloved Children Share and Share alike Viz Preston E. Moore (should he be living), Harlston Perin Moore Commodore Worth Moore William Brewster Moore & Anna Jerusha Moore.” That brief parenthetical phrase – “should he be living” – made my heart sink.

The will was dated 25 July 1865, more than two months after the end of the war. I had to face the fact that the most likely scenario was that Preston E. Moore had died in the Civil War. But how could I find him among all the P. Moores and P.E. Moores from South Carolina?

Once again, I let Preston languish in limbo for a while; and to be honest, I had just about given up hope of finding him. But I could not forget him. I always dutifully entered his name in the search box of any new database I came across that had any remote chance of turning him up.

This was the first thing I did when I learned that there was a Civil War Prisoners of War database on Ancestry, and two hits came up: the first brought up an image from a list of prisoners of war at Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania, with Preston Moore’s unit given as the 37th Virginia. The second had a Preston E. Moore from Anderson District, SC (this piece of information was what made me dance with joy in the certainty that this was “my” Preston Moore), with his unit listed as the 37th Virginia, followed by two words which were difficult to distinguish. A check on Footnote turned up a number of pages in the Compiled Military Service File pointing to quite a checkered history: illness, AWOL, desertion and capture, taking the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and enlistment with the U. S. Marine Corps as a condition for release. Preston was even incorrectly identified as killed in battle at the Rappahannock River, only to turn up again on a Receipt Roll for clothing at Guiney’s Station right around the time Stonewall Jackson died there.

There was so much information on Preston Moore!

There was too much information on Preston Moore.

The Two Preston Moores