Imprinted on DNA?

April 4, 2009 at 00:53 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, family history | Leave a comment
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Growing up there were always shelves and shelves of books in our home. They would be almost bursting with the books! I cannot remember a time as a small child when my mother did not read to me… mostly there were children’s bible stories at bedtime but always there was time for the classics too at some point during the day. My mother also wrote her own poetry. Some were humourous and some serious. But she had a small brown notebook where she  would add poem upon poem whenever she was inspired. Each special occassion in our lives would have another of her poems just for us.

My father invested in books, wonderful leather bound volumes trimmed in gold leaf on the edges. All of the classics. Later there would be year upon year of Readers Digest Hard Cover Condensed Books™. I still have a huge box with several of my favorite ones. This box has travelled with me, moved from house to house, state to state with me for well over thirty years. Then followed several years’ worth of subscriptions to National Geographic Magazines™. They joined us on all of our moves too. It felt irreverent to destroy any of them. When a small flood or a hurricane destroyed a book, it was like losing an old friend. For my father even the reading of a newspaper was not undertaken lightly. He taught me to read every section, every article no matter how uninteresting they seemed at the time. The point was to read it, to learn from it, to file it away mentally against the time it might have more meaning or be useful. If nothing else, it taught one how to learn, how to think, how to become more informed so that one could form an intelligent decision later because you were informed enough of the facts as well as the emotions of a topic. When it came to writing reports, he taught me to properly cite sources. He taught me how to find those sources and he taught me to write those reports in a detailed concise logical manner using the information he had already taught me to read and remember. He always emphasized to not be stuck in a habit of reading only one genre of literature but to read all types to gain a full appreciation of everything written.

I never kept a diary. Oh, I owned diaries, a cute pink vinyl Miss Ponytail series, or later more “adult” type ones with cute little gold keys to hide somewhere private. But I never filled those diaries beyond the “If found, please return to…..” line or the “This diary is the private diary of ….” line. I was not willing to write out my private thoughts for someone else to read. The very thought of someone finding the book and reading my thoughts terrified me. What would they think of me? Would they think me crazy? Or would they think me conceited that I could possibly think anyone would be interested in me? My cheeks would burn in shame at such thoughts – and yet I enjoyed writing assignments in school. Just not my own personal diary type thoughts written in neat little books.

Every holiday since I was a newborn my grandmother would send me a card, an Easter or Christmas, or even a Halloween card. Later they would become a wedding card, congratulations on the new baby card, baptism cards. Then soon each baby would begin to receive their own special cards from her. Now they are neatly tucked away in scrapbooks to be read again and again. Through all of my college years, every week the mailbox would hold a beautiful envelope addressed to me in her neat handwriting. I would love those missives from home. There would often be a cartoon or little newspaper clipping tucked inside. I would answer her back writing letters on lined notebook paper.

When my dad passed away I realized he was truly gone when there were no more bags of books being dropped off along with the admonition to not let little hands tear or scribble pages. How I missed those books! No more talks about which story was the most interesting or about some new unusual find detailed in the pages of the magazine. Soon after my grandmother also passed away. Suddenly my mailbox was also empty of the cards I so loved. No more beautiful scented stationary or pastel envelopes with pretty flower decals on the back sealing the flap or with neat address labels pasted in the upper left corners.

I began to find myself drawn to boxes of all occasion cards. Two for one sales at Hallmark Cards enticed me more than other sales. Flea market books stalls lure me with their rows and stacks of old books, drawing me to browse for hours feeling their old jackets and reveling in the smells of old books. A trip to Barnes and Noble is a favorite way to while away a day. It is the wonderful collections of journals that now tempt me. Not the cutesy diaries of my youth, but the luscious leather embossed journals filled with lined pages begging me to write in them. They call to me to pour out all of my thoughts, my personal dreams and fears and aspirations and ramblings. Delicate rice paper books and elegant linen stationary beg me to take them home. Who will I write such important letters to? Who will read these letters and journals? Maybe no one will want to read them. Maybe they will simply be tucked away hidden from everyone only to be burned someday instead of read. I only know that for now I must write, I must fill them. It is something burning inside of me that cannot be ignored, cannot be denied. Is this then some act of DNA, something passed from mother to son to me? I do not know if my grandmother wrote to me because she wanted to stay in touch with her granddaughter or if it was something more for her. I know she loved me unconditionally and shared that love in every letter and card, not ashamed for anyone else to read her private emotions so beautifully written out. Was she also driven by some force of DNA to write instead of calling on the phone? She never said. I do know this legacy of the love of the written word and the power it holds is one she passed to her son who then passed it on to me. It came also from my mother who could not deny the call to write. Was she also passed a speck of DNA that compelled her? Is this love of the written word imprinted deeply, so deeply in our family DNA? I only know as I hold those poems, those books, those magazines, those cards and letters, I sense again their love and know that this is the legacy I hope to pass to my sons and their children.

Master of Lists…or ?

March 26, 2009 at 16:49 | Posted in Bits and Pieces | Leave a comment
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I am the original authoress of lists – seriously – I must have invented the concept – or at least I perfected it (?) – I certainly have managed to take it to a new art form. I will grab a scrap of paper and write a list anytime anywhere. Speaking of scraps of paper, I never met one I did not like so I am also very good at saving scraps of paper – old envelope backs are wonderful, cut bottoms off partially used papers, turn over misprint pages, etc. Anyway, once more in my life I digress. I love to write lists.

I find myself rewriting these lists to consolidate and re-date them. There is comfort in seeing all my bills listed in neat (or not so neat) rows, tallied at the bottom. To the side paychecks are listed and subtracted. Sort of like a budget maybe? (he he) Or how about long lists of tasks to be done, things to not forget to do. It seems at time my time is so over-scheduled, it is easy to forget to do something. Did I remember to write down sleep on any of this week’s lists? An agenda list is nice to have. Then there are those long time lists, the goals, the things I would like to accomplish in my life. And places to visit. My favorites places folder on my PC is FULL of those lists. Everything neatly categorized – until I try to find something I know I read somewhere once before – sigh.

But these lists are not an obsession. I can survive for days without thinking about one and I certainly do not obsess when I lose one or do not have paper at hand to write one down. There is no stress in not making or reading lists. It is just a de-stresser for me when I do have a list to cross off as I go along. A safety valve of sorts to be sure I have not forgotten something when I am so busy all of the time to take enough time to not forget something. Phew. Anyway no stress about it as I go along crossing off my lists if something is undone — well, let me qualify that. There is some stress on the bill thingy part – unpaid bills are stressful, especially if not paid because I forgot them or forgot to cross them off the list (we are NOT going to talk unpaid because I ran out of money first – THAT is beyond stressful and worthy of its own blog). Usually within a few days all items are crossed off of one list and it is crumbled and tossed or shredded. Soon another list is started on another scrap of paper. Sometimes months later I will find an old list in a book or in an unused purse. It is fun then to see what was finished, what was accomplished, what is still undone (that bedroom floor comes to mind here).

I often wonder now if blogging isn’t just another form of lists? An extension of writing lists as we try to make sense of life around us or a hobby, a passion? A list like a blog is a tool to organize our thoughts.  Pleasure and relaxation can become objects of guilt if we are neglecting those other pesky necessary details of life. If we cross off enough of those, do we earn free time, me time? Or is it the me time that gives me the impetus to cross off more of the obligations times?

So it is the same with blogging for me. It allows me to sort and list, to organize, to cut through all the little details, to find the nugget at the center. And it becomes the ultimate list of myself – here and now – and the travel back to family long ago as I do research. It is a comparison list of now against then as I use it to guide me forward and backward towards family and myself.

Tick, Tick, Tick…

March 11, 2009 at 14:33 | Posted in ancestry, family history, genealogy | Leave a comment
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If today’s post seems to ramble, bear with me – my thoughts and emotions are also rambling today. I hear the ticking of a clock in my head and I would rather not be hearing it. Today I am sixty… 60…. SIXTY… how did this happen? When? Why? I am not ready to be sixty….that is more than half my life gone. I do not feel sixty (although there are admittedly days I feel 120 but that’s another post some other day).I am still trying to come to grips with forty. Yes, the photo found here online is current. I just plain am not ready to be old. Who wants to be old..OLD?? Sigh. When I was young(er), I often would comment on women who tried to be younger than their age. This observation of course, does not apply to Sophia Loren .. probably one of the most beautiful women ever — someone I want to be just like when I finish growing up! Talk about gorgeous in style, looks, attitude!

See — told you I was rambling today! I wanted to grow old gracefully – be the gracious, sophisticated, even elegant older woman.  We seem to respect only youth and beauty – hence the booming plastic surgery statistics. It’s not that I want to undergo the knife – I just am not ready to give up energy, vitality, sexy life yet. Who is proud anymore of being their age? We all seem to want to be something we are not. For me it is not just tied up in a number. I never discuss age with anyone. I hate they think of me as old and over the hill (yeah.. I know dumb point given conceivably the entire world could be in the know now thanks to the Internet). At work, I strive to be a little better, a little more efficient, a little more organized, a little more knowledgable than the others to compensate for age. At home, I struggle to be more active, to do more work, again to belie my age. But it is still more than that. What have I accomplished in my life? It is more than half over – what do I have to show for it or have I wasted too much time? Even though I went to college for five years as a teen and twenty-something, I returned to college for a BS in Business Administration to update myself. I finished with a 3.8 overall – so old dogs do learn new tricks. I changed careers in my fifties from retail and office management to the medical field. I know I have contributed to saving lives. So that probably also counts for something. My husband and I together raised four great sons to adulthood. They are all successful in their own rights. That should count too. In the past I did church volunteering to feed hungry folks, taught classes at church for women’s groups, did church counseling. We have done emergency shelter care for families and for children when a need arose.

Yet, has it been enough? I realized today I have lived longer than my father – he died four weeks before his sixtieth birthday. Last month we celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary – by today’s standards, that is an accomplishment too. As I work on all the family records from Itri, I note the women in the family who died in their twenties and thirties. There are few records to detail why or how – life in old Italy was difficult and death early was not unusual. Did they have time to think about growing old? Did they want or expect to accomplish anything worthwhile or bigger than themselves — or did they consider being the best person they knew how to be enough?  Was their focus merely surviving – or did it entail wanting to make a better life for their children than they knew? Once again I find myself caught in thinking of the past generations. I want to know, to understand, to feel what they did — I want their lessons to be ones I learn and then pass on to the next generations to come. That is the accomplishment I seek – to pass that love of family above all to the next generations to anchor them no matter what they face.

Happy Birthday me.

An Almost Tragedy

March 4, 2009 at 11:01 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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Last week I almost lost an ancestor – or at least the proof she was ours. It was a frustrating experience but it was “only” paper technically. She had been dead over 150 years and no one I know knew her while she was alive – matter of fact most did not know she personally existed ever. Sure, they knew someone was married to great great grandfather but no one ever thought about it before. Now they are more interested.

This week a friend called many times from out of state. We live several states apart and we see one another rarely. We originally met right here “online’ in the vast Internet world. It was (gasp…) over ten years ago already in the then so new chat room environment. And from ‘chatting’ and then sharing online IMs and online bible studies, we graduated to phone calls and then to the actual face to face meetings! Sure wouldn’t recommend that scenario to anyone anymore knowing what we all know about online predators now! But I digress – sorry! She phoned because her elderly and not healthy Mom had gotten on a bus to the other side of the US and did not arrive when and where expected to!

I could hear the pain in my friend’s voice and feel her panic. She tried calling bus station after bus station across the country seeking any snippet of information or at least some advice. It was little to none. All I could do from this distance was pray and try to offer words of comfort that seemed so empty. We could complain about the lack of responses and this could bring us to new causes to embrace such as authorities listening to a family sooner rather than later when even an adult is missing.

It brought back painful memories of a  visit from my mother in law many years ago. She was in her eighties traveling from Italy to Boston to visit family. She would spend 6 weeks in Maine with family there and then make a flight from Boston to Orlando to visit us. Family drove down to Boston to meet her flight. My husband was not at home – he had gone to help a friend a few miles from us for the afternoon when the phone call came. Mama had not gotten off the plane in Boston. A quick check with the ticketing agents showed she did not make the connecting flight from NYC. Family was near panic level. The first step was to gather up Val and get him back to the house to inform him – a not so pleasant task. And then everyone waited for me to spring into action. I called the airline and got nothing in response. Then I tried to phone the Airport Authority – seemed logical that police would search the airport for her. What a foolish assumption that was! So I began a series of phone calls to first the corporate headquarters of the airline – it was a weekend but I left voice messages with every executive’s answering service I could. And then I began calling every airline ticketing agent I could think of and beg them to contact agents in NY. About two hours into this the phone call came. A Delta agent saw an elderly woman sitting on a suitcase crying. She took the time to speak to her – the agent spoke Spanish and Mama spoke only Italian but they understood each other relatively well considering. Mama had our names and phone number – soon she was on the phone crying with her son in Florida! Then this agent got her on a flight to Boston to family – pretty remarkable considering her original tickets were not with Delta. The next morning we received several phone calls and apologies along with restitution from the original airline (no longer in business interestingly enough). Tragedy averted.  About the same length of time elapsed for my friend and she too finally heard welcome news. Mom had also missed a connection – or at least it ran behind what everyone thought. Another tragedy averted.

And then there was last night. I am babysitting – or actually dog-sitting – for vacationing elderly parents. Their dog is a huge beautiful black standard poodle. She is a love bug and a half with one bad bad habit that no one has broken her of. She sees an open door and bolts for it – and she is gone! Yesterday I went out for a bit. Upon returning home I saw my front door wide open in the cold weather here – not normal for us by any stretch! Seems the sons had gone out and not closed the door tightly and wind blew it open. Misty was gone! After frantic phone calls, all four sons appeared to help search. Poor husband drove back and forth up and down the streets as did the sons. We walked the neighborhood calling her name. No one was reporting her seen even. It was looking uglier by the moment. As I walked, I phoned my friend and asked for prayer – realizing it was not like her Mom missing but this was not going to be easy to tell my Mom about!  Misty is a vital integral part of my elderly parents’ lives. Most conversations always include something Misty did or was doing as we spoke. We’ve even been appointed her guardians if and when something happens to my parents. They did not want her going to an animal shelter naturally. After about three hours I was spent emotionally and physically. I collapsed on the couch in tears when one of my son’s friends came in the house calling me. “Mom – why is Misty running loose out here? She won’t come to me!”  Sure enough – there she was cowering behind a neighbor’s car. Once she saw it was me, she went crazy jumping and yelping and wagging her tail! Tragedy averted! Again!

But – this got me to thinking. What important places of honor our pets are to us! Did our ancestors also have favorite animals? The cattle baron must have had a favorite breeder. Or how about the poor farmer? What importance did his best milker hold for his family? Did the shepherd have a special dog that worked the herds with him? Or did grandma have a favorite cat that slept at her feet near the fire on cold wintry nights while she read or knitted? How many of us have added that special animal to the family genealogy? Even though not technically a relative, they were sure to be a part of the family and certainly played a role in family history. I am going to go back and devise special pages for these beloved creatures. I want to share a bit of their history with future generations in order to share a more complete family view. How about your families? Did they have some special members that deserve to be included?

Protect and Preserve

February 24, 2009 at 09:38 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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I previously wrote about organizing all those notes, Pedigree sheets, surname databases. Today I want to discuss how to preserve and protect those precious photographs. My sister inherited many wonderful antiques and ephemera from her mother-in-law. Wonderful trunks full of family journals, old calendars, cards, letters. All fantastically organized and labeled. Then there were boxes of old family photographs, most labeled with names and dates. Then there were the boxes of super old (more than 100 years old) photographs completely unlabeled, undated. Too wonderful and poignant to toss but no clue to who, what, when, or where. We figure she inherited and did not have the heart to toss either. But that is the unusual – or is it? What will your children say to you in about twenty or thirty years? Mom, dad, who are these people? What were you, they doing? Where was this taken? Will you be there to answer or will they have inherited shoe boxes of photographs of the unknown? When they open those shoe boxes, what will those photos even look like? Will they be stuck together like glue and tear as they attempt to separate them? Or will ink and colors be so faded that the faces are rendered unidentifiable? We live in Florida – land of rain, , lightening strikes, brush fires, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. The time to think about protecting and preserving is sooner rather than later! One horrible occurrence could wipe out years of family memories and years of family research. Start by taking some tips from contingency planners and insurance companies. Be prepared ahead of time instead of thinking it will never happen to you. Instead assume it will!

First — keep copies of everything possible. Scan and burn to CDs. Then pass a copy of that CD to an entrusted friend or family member who lives elsewhere. Do a sort of round robin exchange – everyone can find space for a few CDs for someone else. If your cousin holds for you, you return the favor and hold for her. This is even better if you do not live next door to each other! Some folks even go so far as to rent a safe deposit box for safe keeping of the really old special family certificates such as foreign birth and marriage certificates. You have to decide how valuable those are to you and if your budget can handle the expense. Some banks used to offer one free with an account.

Second – back up any of your information on your computer to an external hard drive. I make special folders for the photographs and back them up to the external hard drive along with any family files. Computers do crash and it is not easy to reclaim lost data when that happens.

Third – use a watertight container to store your photographs and other papers. When the roof falls in allowing in rain, or the flood waters rise, this may save those precious photographs.

Fourth – take those digital photographs of the family keepsakes and heirlooms. Maybe it isn’t even a priceless (financially) object – I have an old hat of my dad’s. He’s been gone 25 years but that old straw hat is seen in many photographs and it is priceless to me! Label and caption the photograph. That way at least everyone else will know what it is!

Fifth – don’t forget cassette and video tapes. Burn them to DVDs – not that difficult or expensive to do at home now via SDS cables and a little time. Again remember that CDs and DVDs also degrade, break, or scratch. Make extra copies to share.

Lastly – There are commercial web sites that one can pay to back up computer files  to and store photographs. Using the commercial genealogy sites is an option but remember that the information you post there can bring privacy and copyright issues into play. Research who owns those files you post if you want to be sole owner. Remember too that some family members may not want their information posted on the Internet – so a family tree specifying Living as a name is not really helpful to recreating that destroyed or lost tree! Be especially careful posting information and photographs of children.

I have been spending a lot of my spare time scanning all of our family photo albums. Each photo is scanned, touched up if needed (old color inks faded) and then labeled with names, dates, locations, occasions. Maybe a funny or accurate caption is added when appropriate. These are grouped into manageable file folders. All my wedding folders are into one folder, honeymoon to another, baby’s first year to another, etc.  I tried to take time to label many of the actual photographs also. Never use ink on them but soft pencil on the back to at least give names. If you really want to be industrious, you can print out a scan and label that. Those are a great solution for the family group shots to know who was whom!

If you feel overwhelmed, start with family groups shots, especially the old ones. Then pick one or two favorites from each holiday to save and protect. The reality is that it is not likely all of your children will want all those scenery photo shots from all the family vacations anyway. Trees are nice – but how many tree photos do they want? They will be taking their own someday too! Do this in small bites and you will not be so overwhelmed. And as you take new photos, make it a habit to label them instead of going back later! Your children will thank you someday!

Organization Tips I

February 23, 2009 at 18:38 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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This past week I told about losing track of a source document on a family member. Being rather detail oriented about my research, this was a disconcerting issue to resolve. I maintain separate databases on each family line in addition to the combination file tracing the entire family. Each database is backed up and saved to avoid losing information in case one file becomes corrupted. Everything is backed up to an external hard drive every session as well as new discs burned and saved every month. Computers are wonderful time savers when they work but horrible when they fail. A contingency plan is not something just for a business but also necessary for anyone who depends on computers for their research work. Having these safeguards in place meant my recovery was only a matter of a couple hours to find my missing work instead of redoing years of family research. I knew that a recent upgrade in software was partially to blame for the missing documentation. Somewhere along the way I lost the physical piece of paper also. Fortunately I was able to narrow my searching to a specific microfilm to go back to in order to again print out documentation.

I keep Pedigree sheets on each family member. Although these are easily printed out from most software programs, I enjoy filling my out by hand. Information included puts as much information as known on each member. Most important is that each is color coded. My basic research started with my husband’s grandfather. As the tree then branched, grandpa’s maternal and paternal lines are both color coded. The male line is blue and the maternal line is yellow. All subsequent Pedigree sheets are printed on color paper to match those codes. This makes it so easy to know where each goes. I keep notebook binders with the Pedigree sheets to take along when I am working on research. Grandpa’s wife and the in-laws are color coded in different colors to track their family lines. By the time these lines go back a few generations, we begin to deal with 16 surnames to follow. Not being able to differentiate would become overwhelming! If preferred these lines can again be branched off into separate files that are assigned their own color codes to follow. As I file each sheet in the notebook, I use index tabs to notate the family surnames. It is easy at a glance to then find appropriate surname as I work on a line.

In addition to the notebook system I also make a manila file folder for each surname. The main surnames are color coded to match the notebook information. The surnames and sources are written on the front of each folder. All scraps of paper whenever I write notes are slid into the appropriate folder. That way nothing is lost until I have a chance to go back and research or document those scraps of notes. I can easily save information I might want later but not have to spend time on sorting it all immediately. This is especially true if also following collateral lines and not just the main branches. I often run across bits of information that I cannot immediately tie into family but do not want to lose track of until later. These folders each hold that information safely until I am ready. While researching online or at the FHL, if a familiar surname is run across, I simply print out the information. Internet URLs are printed on the bottom of the pages and I write in the proper information on the bottom of any certificates I print off of the FHL microfilms. These are slipped into the proper manila surname folders until I know what family they directly tie into. Then they will be rearranged into the proper permanent notebooks. Certificates are slipped into plastic sleeves to keep intact.

I won’t discuss what format to use to document your sources. There are books written on the subject and each proprietary software has templates to use. I will however warn you to document the sources. I document my sources not only on the computer but also on the Pedigree sheets and Family Groups sheets. Especially important is to document the microfilm numbers and complete dates. Even if you lose a piece of paper, those sources will allow you to replace what was lost. If done from the beginning, keeping track of the sources will be habit. It is a bit more difficult if you need to go back a year or two into research to find those sources but even that will be worth the time spent. After six years of research the paternal line along of my husband’s family is over 800 people strong – all thoroughly documented so I am not chasing someone else’s family. I should mention here that all of my in-laws are overseas. Yet all of the research to date has been done here stateside. Documenting and good organization have made this possible. Often information has been passed to me that others feel blend or merge with this family that I find does not. The first names are often repeated in a generational naming pattern and it would be horrendous to straighten out if the wrong information was merged into the files without proving who belongs to whom. By having names and dates documented, it is easier to verify if someone is a direct relative than if no sources had been kept track of.

All of this may sound time consuming and overwhelming. It is much easier to set up and not as frightening once you begin. The initial set up took only two or three hours to make the folders and notebooks with index tabs labeled with surnames. Once set up, it takes only a minute or two to add a new surname to the front of a folder or to make a new index tab for a notebook section. By having it done, my free time is not wasted looking for a surname or a piece of scrap paper. Instead even only 30 minutes of free time can be time spent researching instead of looking for notes and lost papers.

Spring Cleaning and Organizing

February 23, 2009 at 14:30 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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My next one or two posts deal with some tips to being organized. That will make them a bit lengthier but hopefully worth the reading. If followed most of these tips will save you a lot of time when you research your family tree. Being organized and methodical helps accomplish the research rather than wasting time searching through old work. The further your tree spans back, and the more surnames found, the more important being organized means. All of this will take one afternoon or evening to sort and set up but you will be happy when finished. There will be no more hunting through envelopes, looking behind cabinets, or clearing through a messy drawer or desktop looking for a scrap of paper.

Update to Missing Maria

February 14, 2009 at 22:11 | Posted in family research | Leave a comment
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Maria V. is no longer missing but has been found exactly where she belongs! I had already set up my post for today when Valentino and I decided to spend our morning at the local FHL (well, not so local – it is a 25 mile drive one way). Hat tips here to our favorite volunteer John Whitney – he is a true gentleman and a delight as well as one of the most knowledgeable genealogists I have met in person or read! His guidance has taught us so much over the last few years! We brainstormed with him and decided Maria V. logically had to be connected via a marriage certificate or marriage promise because of the information I had on her. I spent the next few hours reviewing microfilms without any luck. But then with five minutes literally to closing – suddenly success was within reach!
The film I was browsing had a section of marriage banns – not something I expected on this film… and they were in the right year range! Sure enough – there it was 1835 and there was Maria V.’s son promising to marry. And there was Maria V. exactly where she belonged – proper parents, proper dates, and married to Raffaele! Even the street addresses matched!
So Maria V. has returned again to our family tree, this time with sources already documented and saved. And copies are printed out and filed in their proper place with plenty of notations on pedigree charts as well where we found her!
Welcome home – la famiglia is happy! What a perfect ending to St. Valentine’s Day !

Maria Has Gone Missing?

February 14, 2009 at 21:26 | Posted in family research | Leave a comment
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I have learned a valuable and painful lesson this week. Even though I have been a stickler about genealogy organization, I have messed up somewhere. One of my future posts will be about organizing and the beauty of proper sourcing from the beginning. Even saving scraps of notes  helps to recreate in order to prevent double tracing over territory already investigated. But that is for a future post. This is about why we all need to be organized and thorough. So do as I say and not as I foolishly did! One of my documents that would prove my research went missing. If I cannot not have that paper or source in hand, I can not definitively prove three generations are properly in place. Two years of work will be worthless and I will end up possibly chasing wrong family lines. Our family tree will take on the appearance of an over-pruned olive tree not yielding olives!

The woman in question has an unusual name unlike any of the more common and frequently used given names in the family… Maria Veneranda. I had her name and approximate dates. I even had her parent’s names! It seemed pretty likely that I did not therefore simply pick a name out of thin air but without proof, sources, I am at a loss. Why this woman took this particular time to go missing is beyond me – a bit of a curiosity. I “know” I had my hands on her paperwork just before Christmas while working on all the genealogy and history books for our sons.

What makes this all the more curious is that she went missing last weekend when I found evidence that her husband had remarried when their son was approximately four or five years old. Interesting because I had no prior information about her death but there was Raffaele living at the same address, correct age, same parents marrying another woman. What was Maria V. trying to say from all those years ago? Was this a painful hurtful episode for her – had she still not been able to let go of jealousy of another woman raising her son? When my youngest was still a baby, we were handed bad news about my medical condition at that time. Doctors warned me to prepare and to expect the worst – there was little hope given for recovery. The admonition to “put my affairs in order” infuriated me, and I burned with jealousy at the thought of another woman taking my place in my husband’s life and raising my children! Even now after 32 years next week I am still very much Valentino’s wife! Suddenly I felt a kinship to this woman; I could sense the agony of a woman over 100 years ago knowing someone else would replace her – had replaced her. If I find her again soon, I promise to be more careful, more respectful of Maria V. She is the direct familial link – it is her son who would be the great grandfather of my husband – it is her genes that pass down to our sons. I have learned once again to source and document and back-up all information! Maria V. is not forgotten – we will search for her to bring her back to her rightful place in the family tree!

Unexplained Urgency Part I

February 9, 2009 at 11:54 | Posted in ancestry, family research | Leave a comment
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I have been pulled in so many directions and left feeling like there is never enough “me time” and that leads to feeling so selfish that I want to be left alone to indulge in my personal passions. Working nights on twelve hour shifts 3 or 4 nights weekly means days spent sleeping. During my off days I work on all the normal family tasks of keeping a house running smoothly and get to relax with my personal projects only in small increments.

One of those selfish projects is scanning all the old photo albums from my own childhood, my children, and any other photos I find laying around. Most of our photos were labeled and stored in albums fortunately but I do have the usual unlabeled ones that take research to learn who those people were/are or where that one was taken and when. One copy of a photo is saved to a file of similar photos and each labeled properly and completely – then the file is both burned to CDs and saved to an external hard drive. CDs will be given to each son along with his own albums of the actual photos. (This cleans Mom’s house in the process too – ha ha) Hopefully it will mean the photos will last to hand to another generation someday and preserve that much more family history.

My dad used to be a part time photographer around WWII era. He would take portrait photographs of the children in the area, my mom would then hand tint them with color in the style of that era – using a delicate hand to bring the photos to life! He then sold those photos to the parents. By the 1950’s he no longer was selling his work but enjoyed the hobby and passed that love and skill on to his daughters.

My grandmother was the family photographer as I was growing up. Everywhere we went, she held her Brownie camera – an old box camera – in her hands taking photos, posing everyone at every chance. Family would be so frustrated as she made each stand for their picture to be taken – sometimes alone or sometimes in groups. They dreaded those photo sessions at every family gathering. I recently realized that is probably what caused me to avoid taking many photos of people. Mostly I have enjoyed photos of places and things, with people only incidently there. Or my real passion has been candid photos of the people taken without intruding, without posing. Instead I love taking photos of people being themselves. My request to our wedding photographer had been to take candids, not pose groups of people.

It is these bits and pieces – candids in time, or a flower, a tree, a mountain,or a landscape, or an object that for me evoke an emotion, a feeling, a memory. It is these photos that speak to my soul, that call to me to be taken. Yet, recently I have found another call to my spirit, a call to photograph faces, expressions, eyes. There is a need to save those snippets, to preserve the emotions shown there. Now it remains to be seen where this new urgency takes me.

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