Sunday, January 30, 2011

Ancestor Approved

 As is usual these days, I am running way behind, but I was pleased as punch when in December Shelley from A Sense of Family gave me the “Ancestor Approved Award.” The award was started by Leslie Ann of Ancestors Live Here in March 2010.  Thank you Shelley for your recognition of my fledgling blog!

Recipients are asked to make a list of ten things they have learned about their ancestors that have humbled, surprised, or enlightened them. Then they are to pass on the award to ten other bloggers who are doing their ancestors proud.

It's kind of hard to know where to start because it seems like everything I learn about my ancestors surprises me.  Just when you think you know what to expect they knock you for a loop!  And I think it goes without saying that the lives our ancestors led are very humbling to us all.

Where to start, what to say!  Well here goes:

1.  When I first started researching back around 1994 I expected to discover that my ancestors immigrated to the United States within the last one hundred years or so.  Imagine my surprise to find most of them had been here much longer than that, in fact, many coming here in the 1700's and some in the 1600's.  I only found one ancestor, who emigrated for certain in the 1800’s from Germany, my 2x great grandfather Sarillas Lofink Neibel.

2.  It was humbling to me to realize that my ancestors were flesh and blood people with real lives, problems, loves and hardships.   Somehow I had this cartoon picture in my head, perhaps from watching old movies where the people looked and acted silly.  This truly has been one of the most mind-boggling things to wrap my head around.  These people really existed and because of them, I am here.

3.  When I first started genealogy in 1994 I was more concerned with how many names I could put on my chart and how far back I could go.  Now I care more about what I can learn about the lives of the people I discover.  I am obsessed in learning who they were, how they lived, what they thought, what they experienced.  This sea change in my thinking has been truly humbling and enlightening.

4.  I know that some people start their genealogy research hoping to find some famous and rich ancestors.  Even though I have a couple of very "minor" celebrities, I find I am more proud of the everyday, working people in my family.  I come from a long line of farmers, coal miners, mechanics, plumbers and laborers.  These are the people whose hard work made America great and they truly humble me.

5.  I was amazed and awed to learn that I had ancestors on several lines that fought in the Civil War.  Some survived, some did not.  My 3X great-grandfather, Daniel W. Sewell came from a family of five brothers.  He and one brother fought for the South; their other three brothers fought for the North.  I can't imagine a more difficult situation than fighting a war knowing that you might end up facing your own brother on the battlefield!  Unfortunately, Grandpa Daniel died in battle at the age of 23 before ever seeing his first child.

6.  The wife of Daniel W. Sewell, Amanda J. Martin married two more times, had six more children and outlived all three husbands.  Somehow she managed to persevere and keep on going.  By all accounts she was a real "pistol" who really enjoyed life.  This is humbling.  I don’t know if I would have that much gumption.

7.  I was equally amazed and surprised to learn that I had several ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War, one of those being my 5X great-grandfather Samuel Thompson Clemmons.  How wonderful to know that my family was part of the undertaking to secure our independence and create the wonderful country that I have been privileged to live in.

8.  I was shocked by the number of ancestors who were divorced.  Somehow I always assumed people "back then" didn't get divorced.  Well I'm here to tell you that yes they did!  Besides two sets of great-grandparents that I know of, it was always assumed that my great-great grandfather David J. Wilson's parents probably died sometime before 1850.  However, records now show they divorced and his mother remarried.  He went to live with his grandmother as a small boy and lived with her until adulthood.

9.  When I first began researching in the early 1990's I was very surprised to learn my great-grandfather Fred Ulysses Neibel first married Martha Ann Hunter in 1891 and they had one son Andrew Jackson in 1893.  Martha Ann died just one year later and Fred married Martha's sister, my great-grandmother in 1898.  They had twelve children, one of which was my grandmother, Alpha Laura Neibel Wilson.

10.  And finally, I am always surprised to find that I can still be surprised.  Just when you think you seen and heard it all, you haven’t!  There is always some new and exciting discovery that knocks your socks off!

Stay tuned for my list of ten deserving bloggers to pass the award on to. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Charlotta Ruth & Doris Charlotte Wade - Mt. Vernon, IL

My grandmother, Doris Charlotte Wade and her mother Charlotta (Lottie) Ruth (Banks) Wade
Mt. Vernon, Il Winter 1913-1914

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thankful Thursday – Found Relatives – Old and New!!

What an exciting week for me genealogy wise, all because of Facebook.  I have met or reconnected with a number of relatives through Facebook and as a result have found pictures of grandparents and other relatives that I have never seen before.  It always makes my day, but none so much as what I learned on Sunday.  I added a new Facebook friend, a Merritt relative I had never even heard of, that lives in my home town of Mt. Vernon, IL.  We have mutual ancestors, my great-great grandparents, Obidiah and Florence (Sewell) Merritt – his great-grandparents.

I always wondered why there were no pictures of Obidiah and Florence.  They were not well off, farmers who worked the land to support their six children.  I’m sure there was not much money for things like pictures, but even so I always wondered if there weren’t at least one or two pictures of them out there somewhere.  Well, my new Facebook friend (my Merritt relative) posted these formal portrait pictures of Obidiah and Florence on Facebook and I almost fell off my chair!  Halleluiah!  The pictures had been hanging for many years in his father, Dewey Merritt’s house until he died.
I will talk more about Obidiah and Florence in a later post, but for now I am thrilled and thankful for my new Facebook friends and relatives, that we can share stories, and to finally have these pictures.

Obidiah J. Merritt 1851 - 1914
Florence Jane Sewell Merritt 1861 - 1902

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday – Cooking, Fish Eyes and Spam – Lessons Learned!

The topic of food traditions has come up recently between me and my friend Kellie at She Finds Graves and on her facebook page.  Kellie always makes me laugh, but her thoughts on the matter made me think about my own experiences with food, especially as it pertains to my mother-in-law. 

I love my mother-in-law Margie dearly, but we’ve had an interesting relationship over the years, many times because she thought I was starving her child.  Margie came from Nassau, Bahamas and had a different background than any I had ever known.  Her family ate many exotic things, at least to a Midwestern girl like me; they grew their own vegetables, ate fresh fish from the sea, raised and ate fresh chickens, pigs and goat.  She came to Florida at age 16 as a nanny and soon met and married my father-in-law, Alvin Rogers who came from a wealthy, traditional Trenton, New Jersey family.  I can only imagine what that was like!  Believe me, I’ve heard stories.

When I met and married my husband at seventeen, yes seventeen, I couldn’t even boil water, let alone cook a meal.  My mother, a good cook, made good old-fashioned basic meals.  Since she worked for many of my growing up years, she was the queen of throwing together quick meals once she got home.  She was what was they called a town girl in our area.  She married my father, a farm boy who grew up eating all those things you would imagine from a farm;  fresh eggs, farm-raised beef, chicken, pork, home-grown vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  Evidently he had eaten his share and to this day he will not eat gravy.  My mother was an inventive cook – with five kids and a small budget she could stretch a meal, something she surely learned from her mother and her mother before her.  My father always ate whatever my mother put on the table and it was expected they we would also sit and eat without complaint.  I do remember whining on many an occasion and believe me “the look” from my father was something you did not want to get!

I was a picky child (hard to believe now from my very healthy size).  I couldn’t stand for any of my foods to touch each other.  I didn’t like seasonings, sauces, onions, green peppers; everything had to be very plain.  When my mother tried to make something new is was always, “Yuk, what is that?”  There were many nights as a child I was not allowed to leave the table until I ate all my dinner.  Being a stubborn child let’s just say I sat there a looong time.

Now back to where this intersects with my mother-in-law.  By the time I met and married my husband I think he was expecting me to pick up the cooking banner.  Ought-oh!  My repertoire consisted of some basics like meatloaf, Spam (yes I said Spam – we used to love sliced, fried Spam sandwiches as kids), and my idea of fish was Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks.   Now when I served him the Spam the poor boy looked green.  Of course, I had to remind him that his divorced father bought him and his brothers and sisters frozen pot pies for dinner; they were five for a dollar and he would buy something like 100 at a time.  But the fish sticks were what broke the camel’s back so to speak.  I mean, for a boy who had been raised on fresh fish, shrimp, conch, and lobster he was aghast!  I had committed seafood blasphemy.

After a couple of years passed, I asked his mother for a little help. One lesson in particular sticks out in my mind.  She decided to teach me how to cook fresh fish.  Now I was thinking we would go to the grocery store and pick up a nice cellophane wrapped fish fillet.  No, she took me to a fish market and proceeded to teach me the finer points of choosing a WHOLE fish.  She asked the fish monger (if that the correct word) to lay out a particular fish for her review– I believe it was a red snapper and this thing was HUGE.  I mean it was bigger than my dog!  She said to me, “Now, what you do is you press down on the fish’s eye and if it pops back up it is fresh.   If it stays in it's old and you don’t want to buy that one.”  About this time I am looking at her in horror.  I realized I wasn’t going to be cooking a whole fresh fish.  Umm…..I don’t think so.  No ma’am, this girl won’t be touching any fish eyes! 

Having failed on this endeavor she decided to teach me how to bake bread.  Now here was something I could really sink my teeth into (pardon the pun)!  She proceeds to wipe off her kitchen table and dumps on a pile of flour.  I’m like, “Whoa!  First, shouldn’t we be doing this on the counter and how much flour do you use?”  Now, you have to understand, even from a very young age I have always been a very anal, detailed type of person.  I need lists, menus, instructions, visuals, everything written down.  She replied “Oh, you just add a little of this and little of that, add the yeast, let it rise, blah, blah, blah, throw in the oven and you’ve got bread.  Understand?”  Well, needless to say my first attempt at baking bread myself ended up with what looked like pizza crust.  So no more bread baking for me – I’ll just buy it at the bakery.

After that, I think she just gave up on me, just wrote me off as useless.  Now she really started worrying about her baby.  He was surely starving to death.  Actually the man was turning out to be a much better cook than me and I certainly wasn’t complaining.  However, every time she would come to visit she would leave all kinds of containers of food in our refrigerator and freezer.  Most of these were island dishes he had grown up eating.  Some he would eat, some not.   The most famous were the pigs feet and grits.  She would leave containers of these in our freezer and say, “These are Jimmy’s favorite.”  Well, umm, no they weren’t, but he was too afraid to tell her he didn’t like pigs feet until the time she decided to actually heat them up for him.  He had to man up and tell the truth.  At least that stopped the endless supply of pigs feet.  Seriously, can you imagine opening your freezer for ice cubes and looking at that?

The one thing Margie makes that we all agree on is her conch fritters and conch salad.  She makes the best conch fritters and salad in the world.  They are so much better than the ones you buy elsewhere – hers are loaded with conch.  For me, the Midwestern girl who grew up eating fish sticks to actually eat and love conch fritters and conch salad, well let’s just say “you’ve come a long way baby!”  My husband had been begging her for the recipe for years, which she greedily kept to herself, but she finally caved a couple of years ago and shared it.  Of course, he’s the one that makes them, not me.  He’s the seafood chef and steak griller, I just stick to the basics – you know, meatloaf, chicken, casseroles and oh – absolutely no Spam.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tombstone Tuesday - Robert Calvin & Verna Smith

My Great-Grandparents Robert Calvin and Verna Anna Merritt Smith
Cemetery - Williams
Mt. Vernon, Jefferson County, IL

Monday, January 17, 2011

Car Craziness - 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History - Week 3

When I first saw the topic for this week‘s “52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History" I didn’t think I would have much to write about.  I mean, I’m female; a car’s a car, right?  But when I really started thinking about it I realized how much this subject really calls to me.  I’ve written before about my family’s automotive history in Jefferson County, IL.  
My great-grandfather, Robert C. Smith was one of the first auto mechanics in Mt. Vernon, IL and several of his sons followed him in the business.  Although he never became rich, the business kept his family of eight children fed and clothed.  Great-grandma Verna was often seen driving about town in one of the many cars her husband provided for her.  I’ve heard many times that Grandma Verna loved to drive so much she would go to the grocery store three times a day!  I hate to grocery shop so much my husband begs me to go at least once every three weeks!
When my husband and I first became engaged in 1972, I was still a senior in high school.  We decided to pool our money – I was working at a grocery store.…hmmm…there’s that grocery store again.  Anyway, I had my eye on an AMC Gremlin which I thought was just the cutest little car.  My husband-to-be sold his 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air to cover his share.  Can you image?  That was a HOT car. 

 When we got to the car dealer all of a sudden my eye landed on a silver blue 1973 Javelin and that was all she wrote!  The only thing out of my mouth was, “I.  WANT.  THAT.”  That car was to be the forerunner of cars to come.  I looked all over for a picture of that car and cannot believe this is the only picture we ever took! 

It was such a beautiful car.  I found this picture of a similar Javelin on Wikipedia

Unfortunately, the Javelin had some weird problem that caused it to stall all the time and no one could seem to fix.  We married in February 1973 and after we had our first child in May 1974 decided to trade it in on something more economical.  The next couple of cars after that were unexciting and not worth mentioning.  In 1986, with two kids, we were again in the market for a family car and decided on a nice, four-door Honda Accord.  Off to the dealer we went and lightening struck twice!  My eyes landed on a black Honda Prelude.  Again my mouth opened and I said, "I.  WANT.  THAT.”   

This two-door sports car was not exactly what you would call a family car.  However, buy it I did, and I drove it for eight wonderful years.  I squeezed two growing boys and all their sports equipment, etc. in that car and hauled them all over the place.  I LOVED that car!  However, all good things must come to an end and I traded it in on a Ford Explorer, the first of three Explorers I would drive.  Why, I don’t know, because I am not particularly crazy about them.

 However, in between Explorer number two and number three, my eye saw this and yep, I had to have it.  It was a dark green 1998 Mitsubishi 3000GT.  It was so much fun to drive and no one could believe that I picked out a car like that.  Loved, loved, loved that car and why I got rid of it for another Explorer I will never know.  
When I decided to get rid of Explorer number three in 2005 I wanted another sporty car, but with a then one year old grandson I decided it was time for something a little more practical.  What to do, what to do.  And my eye landed on this 2006 Chrysler 300.  I have had this car for six years now, it only has 36,000 miles, its paid for and I love it.  I may drive it forever.  

Of course, I did just see a beautiful little red ………….No.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday's Obituary - Otis Greene Wilson

My Great-Grandfather Otis Greene Wilson
Born:  23 Apr 1872 Mt. Vernon, Il
Died:   16 May 1958 Napa, CA
Father:  David Johnson Wilson
Mother:  Anzonetta Carolina Daniels

Otis Greene Wilson 1872 - 1958

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