Read my book review of America’s First Daughter on the Book Review Page. Great Historical Fiction about Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter.
Read my book review of America’s First Daughter on the Book Review Page. Great Historical Fiction about Thomas Jefferson’s oldest daughter.
This a a repeat of a post titled the Godmother from March of 2015. For today’s post I gave it a new title The Singer. I wrote about my cousin and Godmother, Pat. It still holds true today. I was going to try and insert a clip of her singing, but for that I would have to upgrade my plan here on WordPress. Sorry, that’s not going to happen today. But while updating this post, I am listening to her sing. When I hear her voice, I get tears in my eyes, because I miss her so. Here is my original post.
March is Women’s History Month and a time for honoring our female ancestors. Today I am not honoring an ancestor but someone who played an important role in my life, my Godmother, Pat. Pat was my mother’s 1st cousin, and my 1st cousin once removed. When I was born Pat was 14 years old and lived in Chicago with her divorced mother (my grandmother’s sister) Frances, better known to me as Aunt Fran. We lived in a suburb of Chicago, Villa Park. Almost every weekend Pat and Aunt Fran would come out to my grandmother’s house and spend the weekend. I looked forward to their visits. They always brought me some little trinket. Pat had long hair and she would let me brush it and play beauty shop. Pat was my idol. She would tell me stories, sing to me, take walks with me, play games with me, and just talk with me. In other words she paid a lot of attention to me. She took me places too. She would take me shopping in downtown Chicago, we would eat in nice restaurants, and she would take me to the movies. I would spend a week during my summer vacation staying in Chicago with Pat and Aunt Fran. One time Pat took me to Riverview (an amusement park in Chicago) with her boyfriend. She didn’t like roller coasters, but her boyfriend did, and he took me on all the roller coasters several times. Pat and Aunt Fran were good at organizing and holding birthday and Halloween parties. They would buy all the decorations come out to my house, decorate, and organize the party. The other kids loved my parties because Pat and Aunt Fran made them so much fun.
Pat had a beautiful voice and sang opera. She would practice every morning when I was staying with her. We would not go anywhere until she did her practicing. She earned a B.A from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago. Her non-professional experience included the Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church and M. B. Sachs Amateur Hour in which she won first prize. Her professional experience included the American Opera Company in Chicago, Board of Education Radio Station, New York City Opera, American Red Cross (Great Lakes Naval Hospital), Muni Opera in St. Louis, Pan American Council in Chicago, Decca Records – Forgive and Forget record. She won an award at the Chicagoland Music Festival Contest 1952 sponsored by the Chicago Tribune. I know that Pat had won a bicycle and it was given to me. May be it was the Chicago Tribune contest because that would have been about the time that I got the bicycle. Pat was also fluent in several languages. She married a man from Columbia South America and they had a daughter. I remember one Christmas Eve she sang I’ll be home for Christmas and my father played the Organ. No rehearsal for either of them and it was beautiful. It brought tears to everyone’s eyes. I wish that we had a recording of that. Years later I asked her to sing for my husband as he had never heard her sing. She said, “Oh, I can’t anymore, it takes practice and I haven’t kept it up.” After my mother passed away in 1987, Pat became my go to person when I needed to talk to someone. Pat was my Godmother, and I was her daughter’s Godmother, and her daughter is my oldest sons Godmother. Pat passed in April 2014 at age 81. For Pat’s memorial service her daughter made a CD of her mother’s singing. She recently made a copy for us. It’s scratchy because the recordings are old, but it is nice to be able to still hear her voice again. She was a big part of my life, I loved her very much and she lives on in my heart.
When studying my ancestors, I think about their lives. I think about the hardships they endured. What I find was so common in past generations is early deaths, deaths of children or young adults. When trying to piece together the family of a great-grandmother or a great-grandfather, I’ll find children who died. I find that so sad and think about how the mother must have grieved for her child. I’ll find young mothers who died in childbirth, young adults who died of influenza, pneumonia, or appendicitis. Today these kinds of things are very curable. In so many other ways we have it better than the generations before us. We have the advantage of modern medicine. We have the conveniences of dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, dryers, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, indoor plumbing. We also have things that entertain us such as TV’s, radios, smart phones, computers, and the Internet. Information is at our finger tips. Want a book to read tonight? Download an e-book to your eReader. Need to go to the store? Hop in your car and your there in a few minutes, no matter time of day or night. You don’t have to go back very far to remember when there was no Internet, cell phones, electronic games, microwaves, etc.
Socially we have become accustomed to women working outside the home, people living together and having children, abortions, mixed race couples and children, gay marriage, and now we are dealing with transgender bathrooms. Generations ago no one ever thought about these things. So it makes one wonder if we are better off today than generations ago.
Back when people didn’t have the conveniences and access to information at their fingertips, their lives seemed simpler in a lot of ways. Men went to work, and women stayed home to take care of children and house. Each had their role, and I think for the most part were satisfied. At least it seemed that way in my family. I think my mom and grandmother were content to stay home. They did things to keep busy and save money that is lost today because working women just don’t have time to do it. They sewed, baked, cooked from scratch, washed clothes in a wringer washing machine, hung them out to dry, and then had to iron them. They cleaned the house made sure the children were fed, washed, loved, did their homework, and went to bed at a decent time. They made sure we ate dinner together every night. When they went grocery shopping they didn’t always have a car so they walked and pulled a wagon for their groceries. Milk and bread were delivered. If you lived on a farm there was even more to be done. Come fall they would start canning all the vegetables they grew during the summer months or the fruit from the fruit trees. My grandmother would make crabapple and grape jelly from the grapes and crabapples in her own yard. They gave us chores to do to. It might be the kids that washed the dishes, cut the grass, took out the garbage, shoveled the snow, and whatever else they could find for us to do. Sunday we went to church in the morning and later that day the whole family got together for a meal, and we just enjoyed each other’s company and talk about the week. Saturday night might be a night that friends got together and played cards and talked while the kids played.
I think some of the things we have today are nice and I wouldn’t want to do without them. I do however worry about family traditions. Even in our small family as much as I try to keep some of them, it’s a losing battle, the younger generation seems like they just don’t value the same things. We still have holiday dinners and even some Sunday dinners. But everyone is in a hurry to finish and go back to watching football, baseball, or whatever the sport may be at the moment, or they are looking at their phones and messaging their friends, or on the computer, or playing a video game. No one wants to sit and have a conversation or play a board game where we can all be together. I think there will come a time when they will regret it. These distractions were not around when my parents were here so I actually spent time with them. I miss them, and I would give anything to have one more conversation with them.
I picture in years to come that there will be no one around to be the one to carry on family traditions and dinners. Everyone will eat whenever and whatever they want. They will spend all their time online, texting who knows who, and not know their own family members. Hope I am wrong! Only time will tell.
Copyright © 2016 Gail Grunst
April’s book review is I’m still with you: true stories of healing grief though spirit communication by Carole J. Obley. You may wonder what this has to do with genealogy. Read the book review on the book review page, and also I mention the book on my post Our Ancestor’s Spirits posted on April 23.
I never believed ghosts, telling fortunes, or communicating with the dead, but now I feel that I am starting to open up to the possibility. It all started a few weeks ago when I had a dream about my brother who passed away in January 2015. In my dream he was alive and well. I said to him, “I thought you were dead.” He replied, “No, the doctor is giving me shots in the chest.” I felt so relieved to know that he was still alive and then I woke up. It felt so real that I wanted to go back to sleep and continue the dream. I wanted to talk to him. I wanted to tell him about all the things that have happened over the past 15 months. Of course, I was unable to go back to sleep and continue that dream. Over the years, I have dreamed about my parents and grandparents who have passed too, and a few times those dreams have made an impression like this one. The next day on Facebook in my news feed I see a post that asks,”Have you had a visit from a deceased loved one in a dream?” It said to find out if it was just a dream or visitation to click here. I clicked, but it would not go to the website. All I got was a white screen. I then decided the heck with this and went on to something else. Later on I started to think about it again, and went back on-line. I Googled “dream visits from loved ones”. Well, I got a lot of information. I read for a while and then went on to other things. The next day I checked the library catalog to see if we had books on the subject and sure enough there were several books on the subject so I checked out two. According to what I have read, they try to contact you in dreams, though animals, flowers, electrical things, etc. Now I’m looking for signs that my loved ones are trying to contact me. It would be just like my brother to contact me through Facebook. May be seeing a post about dream visitations on Facebook was a sign from him, letting me know that he did visit me in that dream. I’ve read that there are many signs all the time, but if we aren’t looking for it we won’t see them. Well, I’ve been looking and a little disappointed that nothing has happened since the dream.
Carole J. Obley, a medium, writes in her book I’m still with you, “If a client or someone in his family is doing family genealogy, this will also be mentioned as proof that they are aware of the fact. Sometimes spirits will assist in tracing the family tree by offering suggestions on where to find critical information. One of my male clients had numerous relatives come through with very specific messages; in fact, his session probably holds the record for the number of names received in one sitting — not to mention the amount of evidential material these talkative spirits delivered. Halfway through the session, I commented on how many people showed up to speak with him. He laughed, adding that he’d written 40 books about his family tree!”
Thinking about Ancestors wanting us to find them, reminded me of an experience I had a few years ago. I went to a cemetery where my great-grandfather is buried. I never knew him, my father never knew him. In fact, my father only knew his name, that’s all. I had very little information to go on when trying to find this man, and I was having a hard time finding him. When I went to the cemetery, I wasn’t sure if this person was my great-grandfather or some one with the same name. I went to the cemetery office to find out where his grave was located. The man helping me pulled a book off the shelf and opened it right to the page that had my great grandfather’s name. We both were surprised and kind of laughed at the coincident. He told me where his grave was located, but said it did not have a tombstone. I asked if there was information in the book as to next of kin or anything, and he said no. I then thought if I could find out who paid for the lot it could give me a lead. I asked who owned the lot. The man said that information was in another book, and he proceeds to get another book off the shelf. He opens that book up right to page my great grandfather’s name is on. At that point the man’s eyes got big and he said, “Oh my, grandpa really wants you to find him.” It turned out that the grave was a pauper’s grave paid for by the State of Illinois. After all that, I still didn’t know if it was my great-grandfather. I have since found out that it is him. So was that great-grandpa trying to tell me it was him? I don’t know, but I am starting to wonder more about these kind of things. Since I have always been a skeptic, I’m wondering if this is old age setting in, or am I losing my mind?
I have always felt disappointed that my current family doesn’t care to hear about the ancestors and my latest find. I am all alone with my genealogy. I can’t find anybody even a distant relative that is interested. I had my DNA done through Ancestry.com in hopes of finding a 4th, or 5th cousin working on the same line. Again a big disappointment. Now I am hoping it’s true that maybe the ancestors who have passed on do care and are rooting for me to find them!
Copyright© 2016 Gail Grunst
 Obley, Carole J., I’m still with you (Winchester, UK: O Books, 2008) pg. 127
Fake genealogy runs the gambit from fake coat of arms, fake family trees, fake documents, fake bible records, and fake inheritances to name a few.
We had a rare last name so back in 1974 when a company advertised to get your family coat-of-arms for the Manfroid name, my mother could not resist. Of course it is a fake (see picture). She realized it was fake soon after she got it, when she found that the company would make a coat of arms for any name. She was kind of interested in genealogy, but never got into it, and this was before I was interested. When I first started I made many mistakes, one was not citing my sources. When I learned the right way to do it, I had to go back and document everything. So one of the first things you should learn is cite your sources, cite your sources, cite your sources. I can’t say it enough after my experience of having to retrace my steps. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s way before the Internet, and before genealogy became a popular hobby. A girl in my class brought her family tree to school for show-and-tell. She was related to someone famous in American History. I remember being so impressed, I wanted to get our family tree done too. I went home and asked my mother if we could get ours done, and she said, “It’s too expensive.” Then later after I was married, a relative of my husbands showed me a family tree she had done on her father’s side (not related to my husband) and it went back to the Mayflower. I was again so impressed. Now it seems a lot of people are into searching for the ancestors and with the Internet it does make it easier, but you need to be careful. If you find your family tree on-line, check out their sources and make sure that they are correct and do belong to your ancestor, not someone else. Do not believe everything that is in print. There is a famous author of fake genealogies, Gustav Anjou. Many of his genealogies are online and in reputable libraries. Some fraudulent genealogists will connect you to royalty, someone famous, or the long-lost inheritance for the right price.
Some teachers in our area give an assignment to do a family tree to their students. I’ve had mothers come into the library to fill in a five generation pedigree chart for their kids, and expecting to find it all on-line. They may have one or two generations filled in and when they can’t find it online, they get all frustrated and say they are just going to make it up. I guess the more generations they fill in the better their grade. This assignment makes me so irate! The teacher has no idea how difficult it is to fill in complete five generation chart. Year after year they give this assignment, and I wish they would stop.
Doing genealogy right requires patience and time. Most of the time you search for hours, days, weeks, months, and years before you find your answer and that usually leads to another question and on and on it goes.That’s what makes it fun! No quick answers like on TV, sorry!
Copyright © 2012 Gail Grunst
Are you afraid of skeletons in your closet? Then stay away from genealogy!!! Because you are going to find them. My reason for doing genealogy is to feel a connection to the past. Thousands of people had to come together to make me who I am today. Where were they from, and what were their names? What were their lives like and what happened to them? How did they die? Did they live through wars, famines, floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, epidemics, abortions, miscarriages, etc? I don’t care if they were good or bad, I just want to know their story.
I found many skeleton’s in closets that at the time my ancestors hid. In today’s world some of them don’t seem so bad. There have been divorces, illegitimate children, affairs, desertion, suicides, and killings. If you are afraid of finding these things, stay away from genealogy! On the other hand, many people are looking for royalty, or want to be related to someone famous. Sometimes they are looking for a long lost inheritance. Many people come to genealogy because the family story has them related to someone famous. The most common one I have found is Daniel Boone. I swear everyone who has the surname Boone, thinks they are related to Daniel Boone. That’s almost as popular as the myth of being related to Pocahontas. Most people do not find famous people in their bloodlines. If you want to do genealogy because you think you are related to someone famous, you may be disappointed. But I can tell you the lives of ordinary people who did ordinary things can be interesting too. You never know what you will find.
Where do fit on the spectrum? Are you afraid of what you will find or are you looking for famous people or royalty in your bloodline? Maybe you are like me and just want to know where you come from. Where ever the facts lead you, you need to be willing to accept it. In genealogy we do not alter the facts to fit our narrative. The documented facts make our ancestor’s story.