Friday, January 27, 2017

Wheelers and Damesworths and Curtises...... oh my!!

When I first got into researching my family, some of my information came from other family members that had already started tracing that particular line. One of them being Dave Wheeler, on my mom's dad's side of the family: Wheeler. My grandpa Les Wheeler passed away when I was only a year old and I had never had any contact with the Wheeler family to my knowledge. He was born in Humphreys County, Tennessee in 1918. Sadly, his mom, Nancy Elizabeth "Lizzie" Damesworth, passed away in 1919. Since my great grandpa, James Wheeler had so many kids and no wife to help him, Lizzie Damesworth's parents (James and Willie Damesworth) took my grandpa in. He was raised by them until he was a teenager. Then the story is, he "rode the rails like a hobo" up to St. Louis to be with his dad and family. So when I inherited grandma's photos, which included lots of Wheelers, I needed to get in contact with someone from the Wheeler side to hopefully answer some questions. Mom gave me Dave Wheeler's contact info and he sent me the information he had. Since a lot of it was traced straight back pretty far, I only entered the data and left it alone.

Here we are five years later and I am just now going over the information more in depth, adding sources, siblings, etc. Boy, did I have a surprise I wasn't expecting. Turns out a lot of the family from that particular area are all related. *gasp* I know what you are thinking. Does that mean..... cousins marrying cousins? Well, not exactly. It more means 2nd cousins marrying 3rd cousins once or twice removed and such. You see, they were all farmers in this area and all of them had at least 7 kids or more. Then they all married and had at least 7 kids or more. And so on and so on. So then those kids would marry one of the other kids from another family.


So tracing the family in Humphreys County, Tennessee has been a challenge. Making sure I'm tracing the right family with the right parents and spouses and kids and oh boy.... Well I didn't realize how much of a tangled web was woven until I found a new picture on Ancestry. It was in the hints for my 2x great grandma, Nancy Elizabeth "Lizzie" Damesworth. I had one photo of her from before, so I knew this new photo was of her and her family. The photo was not labeled, but it did have names listed off to the side. So I painstakingly labeled the photo so we knew the name of everyone.


I shared this photo in the Tennessee Genealogy Network Facebook group just for fun and another member of the group contacted me. Peg told me that there was a Genealogy for Humphreys County and Dickson County Facebook group and I should share my photo there. So I did! Little did I know how many people I would end up being related to! Because of all the intermarrying all the cousins, second cousins, and cousins removed, I have a ton of connections! So, I've been spending lots of time trying to connect all the kids, spouses and siblings to see who all I am really related to. I have to say, I'm hoping for a family reunion in Humphreys County. I love what Peg said. "It seems like in Humphreys Co -if you are relater to one person, you are related to everyone." And I'm finding this to be true!

So here is my list of Surnames that I know I am for sure related to in Humphreys County, Tennessee:

Humphreys County Surnames
Wheeler Damesworth Kindle Hatcher
Curtis Wanamaker Healy Hooper
Bayes Thompson Scholes Collier
Triplett Bateman Smith

So as time goes on, who knows how many more surnames I will add and how many more relatives I will find. I'm working now to save photos and information to flash drives. Trying to organize them is a challenge. Thanks to all the wonderful members in the Genealogy for Humphreys County and Dickson County Facebook group, I am learning so much! Check them out today if you by chance have relatives from those counties.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Family History Binder - Do As I'm Doing Blog

I came across this blog today that had a very helpful post about organizing your research into a binder. I really enjoyed her suggestions. If you are looking for a great way to organize your research, check this out! I have sent a few questions to her. I will post the answers on here when I get them. In the mean time, check out her blog!


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Timelines - What about you?

We spend so much time researching our ancestors and putting their timelines together, finding sources, tracing lines, interviewing relatives we often forget about the most important person in our lives..... Us! We may not feel our lives are that important right now, but many years down the line when our descendants are researching back, they are going to want to know exactly what you are wanting to know about your ancestors. What you did, where you lived, things you liked, etc. So why not make it easy for them?

Where to start?

I've been reading through my new Christmas present from my hubby, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy, (a wonderful book you should really have in your collection). It starts out with this fact. Start with you. The most important first step. Although, you may be asking, "Well how do I know what is important?" or "What information do I include?". Since I have been researching for a few years now, I have an idea on what is important. My advice I give now is, think about what questions you have for your ancestors. Think about the things you don't know that you wish you knew. And if something in your life is important to you, then make it known.

Case Study 1: One person that has caused me many headaches is my 2x Great Grandma Maggie Helfrich nee Molten. She is my brick wall. I do not know her parents, where she lived in Tennessee for sure, why she married her first husband, why they divorced and why she came to St. Louis. Especially why she came to St. Louis. There was apparently nothing out here that would draw her here such as family or a job. She could not read or write, and he was a woman which limited her abilities. So she ran a boarding house and was a seamstress. But why St. Louis?

Case Study 2: Another family that has caused much confusion was my Great grandparents Joseph and Margaret ILG. According to records, they were married in 1919 and had their daughter (my grandma) in 1920 in Detroit, MI. Why? All family was here and all records from then have been in St. Louis. When did they go to Detroit? Work? How long did they live there? Well, census records had them in St. Louis in 1920 and both listed as single. So that got me asking more questions. Then, I found their marriage record in Detroit, MI. They were married in 1920 just a few months before my grandma was born. Ok, I get it now. Pregnant out of wedlock. Went to Detroit to get married, have the baby and then move back to St. Louis. To hide this fact, they actually recorded their marriage record as being in 1919 and celebrated their anniversaries according to this fact. So I've had to straighten all this out.

I've taken that information and applied it to my own life. Since I've been married, we have moved from St. Louis, MO to Winchester, TN to McMinnville, TN to Delta, CO then back to St. Louis, MO. But if you were just to trace us by Census records: In 2000, we were both single and living in St. Louis; In 2010 we were listed as married, had one child and were living in Delta, CO. Now we were married in Winchester, TN and our daughter was born in Winchester, TN. But without knowing we moved there, they might questions if this was really us. They would also ask if maybe we had to move because of pregnancy. So in order to make it easier, I've recorded these facts and the reasons.

Let your collectables speak for you

I'm grateful my parents are hoarders. They have saved everything since I was a baby, so that will help in tracing my life. I have lots of photos, papers, yearbooks, school projects from kindergarten through senior year of high school. I've even got all my diplomas, certificates, report cards (scary), letters, etc from school. My husband has quite a bit too, but not as much as I have. So we are working on his timeline from school. I participated in Color Guard in High School for all four years and have saved my uniforms, pictures, medals, and little things I collected while in guard. I have no clue how to preserve these items yet, especially the uniforms, but they are important to me. I know I will eventually have to go through some things and get rid of what's not important. For now, I'm glad to have it.

I've also created scrapbooks from when my husband and I first met and the first 10 years of our marriage. I kept so many collectables, cards, notes, items from dates, etc. Now I'm also working on details from my daughters birth on up as well. I've got to many cards, pictures and other items from her growing up. I keep things with the idea of what's important to her or me. I have her little hat she wore in the hospital. She also wore the same outfit I wore when I came home from the hospital. Maybe one day her daughter can wear that outfit.

Start going through and cataloging items as if they were your ancestor's items. I keep so much with the idea of passing it along later on. My dad has so many antiques in his basement. I love talking with him about these items. Some have sentimental value, some don't.  Think of things in that sense. Do you have a item that has sentimental value? Write about it. I know we can't keep everything, but keep the most important.

Let's get serious here for a minute

With this though, comes a very difficult task. Being completely honest. There may be some things in your past that are very difficult. Things you chose not to remember. I've come across some of that in my family. I also have things in my life that I would just soon rather forget. Whether I like it or not though, it is part of my life. My history. It has made me who I am. Yours has made you who you are. If you chose not to share it right now, at least journal something about it for later. You don't have to provide tons of details. That's not the point. But the point is, providing the truth about your life. It may be useful later in your descendants lives. How you ask? Let me give you examples:

Case Study 3: This is hard for me to talk about.  My dad and I had a rough relationship. He was an alcoholic and a very factual man. Mom and dad argued a lot about things. Mom is a very strong willed person, but she had it rough growing up. To respect their privacy, I will not go into details. Well, growing up with this dynamic has led me to make certain choices in my life. The men I dated were not exactly the best. I could never please them or earn their approval. I constantly felt like I wasn't good enough. That's they way I felt with my dad sometimes. (Now, he has since quit drinking and it like a completely different man) So that's they type of relationships I fell into without realizing it. Well, I finally found the man of my dreams (although I have learned he is more like my dad than I realized), and after 2 months of dating, we married, then a few months later, we moved out of state. I wanted away from everyone. I couldn't take things anymore. Now are back and things have gotten better with all of us. Ok so what does this have to do with things? Well, as I traced back my mom's side of the family, I saw a trend. The men I have traced back were not very nice men. My grandma's first marriage was to a man who was abusive, controlling, hot tempered. She married at the age of 16, just to get out of her house. Her mom married at the age of 17 to a not so nice man (but I won't go into details). Her mom wasn't even around to take care of her or her sister. She married a few times and lived how she wanted to live. Then her mom (my 2x great grandma) also married 2 men who were mean, cheaters and eventually abandoned her. There was a pattern here. Without meaning for it to be, I fell into it as well. Getting married young (I was 20-Not as young but still) and running away to get away from things. So I've been very honest with my daughter about this in hopes that she doesn't fall into the same pattern. Maybe I can break this cycle of heart ache and pain. No promises, but hopes.

Case Study 4: I have struggled with depression my whole life. Growing up with it has not been easy. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression when I was 16. With my research, I've learned that my mom has struggled with, it as well as my grandma. So this is a genetic thing. With this knowledge I can help my daughter through it. I've also learned Bi-polar runs on my husband's side, which my daughter has shown signs of. It was only recently documented on my husband's side. Tracing back his family has opened up some possibilities of what else runs in the family. It has made it easier to help my daughter cope with these difficult situations. With the advancement of DNA testing and learning what runs in our genetics, this can be helpful as well. Maybe one day we can test and find out what lies in our DNA. Everything people have tried hard to ignore or hide.

I know I'm rambling. So let's wrap this up with one last thing. Please remember your life is just as important as those ancestors you are researching. If you are proud of something in your life, share it. Start preserving importing things about you. Awards, newspaper clippings, photos, etc. Today, most people are not interested in preserving history. Be the oddball out and start saving things that your descendants will appreciate years down the line.

Also, if you are afraid of sharing something because of how it will make another relative look, my advice to you is, be as truthful as you can. If something bad has happened in your life, don't be afraid to share it. You are who you are and those experiences have made you who you are, for better or worse. Even if you have to keep it locked away until after your death, do so. I plan on doing that with somethings I have learned about my family. Out of respect for those that are still living, that information will not be shared until after I'm gone.  I'm a big advocate for telling the truth. I tell the truth and I expect the truth to be told to me. So that's what has made me the keeper of the family. I record the truth as I see it. Whether good or bad. I won't be like some of my family and alter records to make the family look better. That's our job as genealogists. To seek out and record the truth about our families. It may not be pretty and at times very painful, but it is the truth and it has happened. Again, you don't have to include details, just the facts. Do not disrespect your ancestors by altering the truth just to make your family look better. Honestly, I wish something had come to light years ago, so healing could have happened to one family member instead of them carrying it around all their life, letting the other relative be looked at better than he deserves.

You are who you are, and the world deserves to know.
Good luck!!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Happy New Year!!! (Family Interviews)

Another year has come and gone. There have been a lot of ups and downs, seemingly more downs. I've looked back on posts on my facebook for the last few years and the wish is always the same. For the next year to be better. It's easy to only focus on the downs of life. We sometimes forget the good, letting the bad overshadow it. There is always going to be pain and bad moments, but it's how we come out of those moments that matter. Sometimes moments change our lives forever. There have been a lot of deaths this past year. Not in the family, but in general. Celebrities, police, civilians. So sad... I'm blessed I have my family; blood and adopted. Knowing people can just slip away without any warning, I think I am going to try to dedicate some time this year to interviewing family. The thought scares me somewhat because I know there are things that people don't want to talk about and I don't want to upset them. Some times the past holds much pain. I've learned that from my mom this past year learning about some things she went through. I've always known my dad and his siblings had it rough growing up, but I'm starting to realize just how much. It's a delicate situation that needs a delicate touch and I pray I have that.

Mom and Dad gave me a digital recorder for my birthday last year. I have only used it once for an interview. Sometimes people get a little uncomfortable and don't talk as freely when there is a tape recorder running. Sometimes dad just starts talking when I don't have my recorder available.

While doing a google search for information about this subject, I came across this page that discusses How To The Tell Difficult Life Stories. I encourage you to check the page out and read all the information. Here is just a helpful snippet:
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HOW TO TELL THE STORIES THAT ARE HARD TO TELL
Sounds easy enough and yet going back into the pain of your past is a very difficult thing to do, especially to feelings that remain unresolved.
How to talk with someone about a difficult time in their lives:
  1. Make reasons for asking clear in your mind
  2. Why do you want to know? Are you hoping for further understanding about this person? About how this event impacted you?

  3. Make reasons for asking clear to your interviewee
  4. Tell your interviewee why you want to know about the subject. Make it clear you are not here to judge or pass a verdict.

  5. Create a calming, neutral environment
  6. Share a meal or a cup of tea first. Be conversational. It will calm them and you. Move somewhere comfortable for the talk.

  7. Read body language
  8. Assess by their posture, facial expressions, eye contact, or lack thereof, whether to push for more details or to let it be for now.

  9. Create space
  10. Ask your question, then be patient. Silence is not a bad thing. Allow the interviewee to gather their thoughts, process their emotions, and prepare their words. Even if there are 2, 3, 5 minutes of silence, wait.

  11. Keep a neutral expression
  12. You may think making a sympathetic face or cutting in with, "Oh, how dreadful," is being kind and supportive, but it is really just being distracting. It may also come off as pity, which no one wants. Not to say you need to be stone-faced, either. In listening, maintain eye contact, keep your expression gentle and attention, but otherwise non-invasive. A gentle nod once in a while is great. You just want to allow them time and space to talk.

  13. Do the interview in small chunks
  14. For difficult topics, allot manageable chunks of time. This may look different for different people. Some may prefer 30 minutes, some an hour and thirty. Check in with them verbally and also judge by their body language cues what feels like a good time to stop.

  15. End the interview mindfully
  16. After the interview, assess their mood and body language. Do they need time alone? Do you want to have tea together, take a walk perhaps? Talk about something neutral to reset the mood? You will have to use your intuition, or just come out and ask them what they want. It is a good idea to check in somehow and not just walk away once you have what you need.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Families Aren't Perfect - Random Ramblings

I think this is the biggest understatement ever. There is not one family that is perfect. Everyone has secrets and problems. If you go through your tree and only expect to find happy stories, then you are in for a surprise. I've always known about certain things in my family. My dad is a recovering alcoholic, his dad was an alcoholic as well (But by the time I came around he was recovering), depression runs on my mom's side of the family, etc. I've known for a long time we are not perfect. Sadly though, back in September, I learned some more information about my family that really knocked the wind out of me. Things I can not share because the parties it involves are still living. I made this post about it when I found out:

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about some things and just wanted to share something I've learned. It's so easy to romanticize people's lives and stories and how you think their lives may have been like. It's part of the desire to research sometimes I guess. But you gotta be careful. Too much assuming and playing things up in your head can lead to a huge crash of reality that is hard to recover from. I went into this journey knowing fully I may come across things in ...my family that are hard to accept. (Slavery, murder, illegitimate children, etc) And I've been OK with the things I've learned. Up until now. Over the past month, I've learned some things about my family that has shaken me up a bit. I guess it's more because I've been led to believe one thing about my family and am finding out there have been many lies and secrets about how our family really is. And it has effected all the way down to someone very close. *sigh* I guess I'm trying to say I understand when people say it's hard for them to accept some things in their family's past. I used to say, well it happened, it's in the past, accept and move on. I'm finding it's not that easy. I know I will eventually be able to accept these things and move on. Just not today. So please be prepared when doing your research. It's not always going to be flowers and rainbows. I've always been a romantic at heart and it hurts to see the cold hard truth.

So I have been unintentionally becoming the keeper of family secrets. While my grandma was alive, I found out that her parents got pregnant out of wedlock and had to move out of state to get married and have my grandma to hide what happened. I learned this from the records I came across. They kept this fact a secret to the point of writing family records with their marriage record being a year before it actually was. And celebrated their anniversaries accordingly. I do not know if my grandma ever knew and I never wanted to tell her just in case. She passed away in 2015, so now I can publicly post about it. But that's not all.

With everything I keep coming across, I am going to have to start writing a journal of just secrets, only to be viewed after my death. Just to ensure all living relatives will be long gone by then. This new information I have learned has led me to want to ask more questions to find out how deep this goes, but I can't ask anything without possibly revealing some truths and dredging up old pain. So these questions may never be answered.

The biggest and hardest truth I had to face was about my grandma. She was not the kind lady I once knew her to be. That is a hard statement to make. I know there are people who believe you shouldn't speak ill of the dead, but truth is truth, and you can't ignore it. I love my grandma with all my heart and always will. But learning more about her has really been hard. Granted we have wonderful moments of great memories, but just like finding out someone you love had a secret life, it's hard finding out some truths about my grandma's actions in the past. Like I stated, no one is perfect. But when you think someone is one way and realized you were lied to about how they were and who they were.....

I know I'm cycling. What it comes down to, no one is perfect. And you can't expect that from people. Hiding things from those closest to you doesn't protect people. It only hurts them when they find out they have been lied to. And we are going through some of this right now with other family. Keeping secrets, not facing truths, hiding things, pretending to be perfect. It hasn't helped anyone. All it has done is caused pain. Facing truths and working through them are the only way to heal and make things better. I feel that deep in my heart. I've watched for years people not talk things out or face things, and it has almost torn them apart and hurt those around them. Is it easy? By all means, NO! But it is worth the risk if makes a better relationship.

Just random thoughts going on in my head right now as the holidays are approaching. It used to be a time where I looked forward to getting together with all my family. Now it is a time I dread. It breaks my heart. Maybe one day, even though none of us are perfect and will continue to make mistakes, we can work through things and enjoy time with each other again.