Monday, December 29, 2008

Nordic Blue Has Bad Break


Just before Christmas, while at work--in the middle of moving to a new house and the worst winter weather the Pacific NW has seen in a long time--I managed to slip and break my wrist. I didn't plan it that way, since this Mountain Girl knows how to walk on snow and ice, but there was an unseen patch of ice underneath soft snow that I could hardly have avoided. I am in a cast and typing one-handed, so this is going to slow me down for a few weeks. I hope you each had a safe and warm holiday with your loved ones, whatever the weather in your neck of the woods.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dear Genea-Santa

This post is written for the 62nd (whew!) edition of the Carnival of Genealogy. The topic is Three Wishes.

This is your chance to write a letter to Genea-Santa*. Make a list of 3 gifts you would like to receive this holiday season from 3 of your ancestors. These have to be material things, not clues to your family history (we're talking gifts here, not miracles!). Do you wish your great grandmother had gifted you a cameo broach? Or maybe you'd like to have the family bible from great great grandpa Joe? How about a baby doll that once belonged to your dear Aunt Sarah?
This is a fantasy so you can dream up gift items. They don't have to be actual items that you know your ancestors owned. However, they do have to be historically accurate to the time period in which your ancestor lived. Do your research. No asking for a new computer from your great grand aunt! Genea-Santa wouldn't like that ;-) The deadline for submissions is December 15th.

*Genea-Santa is a non-denominational guy. He's happy to accept lists from members of all faiths and from atheists as well.

Dear Genea-Santa,

If I could have three things from my ancestors this Christmas, I have just the list.

First of all, I would love to have a Victorian remembrance card woven with some of my great great grandmother's auburn hair. She (Bertina Johnson Winje) gave a card just like that just to her son, Ole. My mother said that when she was a small girl on her grandparents' farm, that keepsake card was safely tucked inside the Johnson family bible. I have never seen the card myself, because it was lost some years later, before I was born. I have always been told that Bertina had lovely red hair, but since I do not have a color photograph of her. I would like to see it for myself.

Then, perhaps you would consider tracking down my great grandmother's wedding dress from 1886? Malla Johnson was a very frugal woman, so she may have cut off the train, let out the seams, and found a way to use it many times over in later years. But, I would want it just the way it appeared in her wedding photograph. It had a tiny, long-sleeved fitted jacket with cuff and collars, and a full skirt with resplendent layers of ruffles, all in black silk. It fit her perfectly, and, 17-year-old bride that she was, she looked so lovely with her big, wide eyes and freshly pin-curled bangs. I think it must have been one of the prettiest dresses any of my ancestors, modest farming folk all of them, ever wore, and I'm sure her mother helped hand sew it.

Last, but not least, is a funny sort of a request. My Great Aunt Mabel Johnson was the closest thing to a grandmother I knew. She had no children of her own, but somewhat of a kid at heart, she never turned down a card game of "Old Maid," a challenge in a coloring book, or the opportunity to go to the park. She distracted naughty children by using a clicker, rather than getting upset or scolding, and she loved to sing silly songs and tell jokes. If it wouldn't be too much to ask, I'd like to have that colorful decorative plate that always hung on the wall above her kitchen stove, serving no real purpose other than to catch cooking grease and dust. The plate was typical 1950s kitchen kitsch: it had two raised angel fish motifs and swirls of purple, black, turquoise, and yellow that didn't really go with anything else. Perhaps it is fixed in my memory more than many other things because it was so mismatched. But, thinking of it reminds me of Mabel's little house with the detached garage, the old ringer washer on the laundry porch, the sea green Depression glass cups and saucer that always came out with coffee and cookies, and her dogs, Tula, and then Buffy, curling up on a towel that protected the seat of the biggest overstuffed chair I had ever seen.

Anyway, Dear Genea-Santa, I have tried my best to be a good girl this year, but if you can't manage all three wishes, I understand. Sometimes the wanting of things is better than the having, and you of all people can appreciate the power of imagination.

Happy Holidays, and please watch your cholesterol levels on Christmas Eve; we want you to be around for a long time to come...


Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Unravelling History's Mysteries Through Genealogical Research

Mysteries throughout history can be brought to light through family history research. An example is this inspiring story involving a World War II tragedy, published by USA Today on March 12, 2008.

"Three sons of Lt. Commander Jim Abele, located their father's missing submarine, 'The Grunion." Three women - now affectionately dubbed the sub ladies - have taken it upon themselves to make sure the 70 men who went down with The Grunion are not forgotten..."

"'Sub lades' Uncover Tale of Lost Crew"

"The story is part mystery (Why did the sub go down?), part genealogical search(Who were these rakish-looking men?), but mostly it's a love story. A labor-of-love story."

Story Behind Famous Dustbowl Photo

Look what's on CNN today: the story behind the black and white classic "Migrant Mother" Dustbowl-era photograph taken by Dorothea Lange. How many times have we gazed at this photograph and similar ones, wondering what happened to those who were eternally captured in poverty and despair? Where they forever locked into misery and misfortune, or did they find a way out? In the study of genealogy and family history, all family histories are important:

Girl From Iconic Great Depression Photo: "We Were Ashamed"