Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lights, Camera, Action

If a famous director wanted to make a movie about one of your female ancestors who would it be? What actress would you cast in the role and why?

This is required some serious thought seeing as I am a completely movie hound and I think most of my family would be fabulous on the big screen. I even have some relatives now that if I thought they would do it then I would sign them up for a reality show because just listening to them speak daily is hilarious. However, I think that if I had to pick someone it would have to be my maternal great grandmother, Henrietta Ellis.

Let me tell you this would be a story to watch. From farmers daughter to an independent multiple married woman that could put fear into you with just a look. She was a very strong woman that did things her own way and didn't make any apologies for it. Plus if we did a movie about her then I would be able to really see her as a young woman which sadly I missed not being born and all. Cause I always imagine that she was something to behold in her day!

With that in mind I think the only person that I could see doing her justice would be Whoopi Goldberg. Just the way that she was toward the end of "Color Purple" and "The Long Walk Home" would be awesome to see. I simply think she has the strength of character and personality to carry her story. I even have the opening lines spoken in a voice over.

"I never was what you would call beautiful. Not that anyone had to tell me but I always knew. Mine was a more acquired look. Not like my sisters that always jumped whenever daddy picked up that picture making machine. They were the pretty ones. The first asked to the dance, the ones the boys always chased, the girls that they wanted to kiss. Me, I was the one in the fields. The one that worked hard. See had something they didn't. I had strength and it was that strength that let me live life on my terms."
This has given me ideas and as a writer that could be a dangerous thing! ;)

Who Do You Think You Are? - So Far

With Season 2 of Who Do You Think You Are on it's way back this Friday I thought I would take
a look back at all the good, the bad and the discoveries that were made in the first five episodes of this season.

The season started off with a real bang with Vanessa Williams. While Vanessa started off at her family plot in New York she ended up in the hallowed alls of Tennessee. She learned that politics had been a huge part of her family as well as education. She found amazing photographs of so many of her family members as well as the Civil War enrollment of a distant relative. This was an amazing episode and gave us the hope of some really great stories to come.

The second episode of the season was Tim McGraw. As the son of baseball legend "Tug" McGraw he wanted to learn about his fathers side of the family considering that he didn't meet him until he was eighteen. While Tim had some great moments and wonderful finds the researchers seemed to focus on who they found in relation not just to him but to famous people in American history. Yes it is exciting to know that George Washington stayed with your family at one point in time but personally I would have rather they spend more time finding additional relatives.

Rosie O'Donnell is famous for being loud, brash, and sometimes completely out of control. Yet in this episode she displayed a great calmness as she researched one of the hardest times in Irish history. Having always known that she was Irish for her it was just a matter of figuring out exactly where in Ireland they were from and when her family came to America. As always it was fun to see when celebrities find new relatives and Rosie did not disappoint. She not just found one relative but a whole side of the family she didn't know. For me it was great to see an emotional side of her as she toured a workhouse that would be something like the one her family had stayed in. It also showed a resiliency of spirit that her family could go through all that they did and succeed in a new country. One of the only things that really disappointed me was that we didn't get to see her brothers reaction to all that she learned. That is one of my favorite parts of each episode.

The Kim Cattrall episode had apparently aired before as part of the British version of the show. I have it on good authority that it was better the first time but I haven't been able to find it online to see so I have to go from what I know. That being said I think this might have been my least favorite episode of the season. Yes, it was interesting to watch her do most of the research in England but where most of the celebs that come on look into a family line she was only looking for one person. He was a case all into himself but still I would have liked to see her do more research into other members of her family.

Lionel Richie was the last episode that aired before the break and it was a good one to end on. He had lots of information that he was able to find using of all things mostly newspapers. This is something that I think a lot of researchers don't utilize to the best of their ability; including myself. Therefore, it was great to watch as he went back into the mid-1800. Another great part of this episode was the use of fraternal organizations as a means to find family. Again this is another resource hardly used by the layman genealogist. This actually might have been my second favorite episode of the season.

This Friday their back with Steve Buscemi and after that either Ashley Judd or Gwyneth Paltrow. I am looking forward to seeing what the next three episodes have to offer.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Courage of Faith

Moment of Strength: share a story where a female ancestor showed courage or strength in a difficult situation.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my mother died when I was younger. She had been sick most, really all, of her life. I remember her telling me once that when she was born the doctors told her mother that she wouldn't make it to 5. I don't have children but I can't imagine what that would be like to hold her new daughter and have some give you time limit on how long you had to keep her.

Still my mother made it 5 and then 6 and her teens and though college. She got married and when she was pregnant they told her that she would never live to see me but she just shrugged and carried on. She lived to see me; lived to raise me and when I asked her about it once she just said it was all about faith.

She had faith that God was going to heal her or at least let her see me grow up. She held on to that faith through every doctor's visit and hospital stay. When her marriage ended and her heal got worse. She tried her best to make sure that her heal didn't hold me back from doing anything that I wanted and she was there for every school play, choir performance, band recital, talent show and pageant that I was in.

She got up every morning and went to work for as long as she could and when she couldn't anymore she got up and went to church. She helped her friend start and build his church, she contributed to the prison ministry, she taught others how to play piano so that they could also give back. She encouraged others through visits and prayerful phone calls. Each day she tried to do something that honored her faith.

When she died I was angry for the longest time. Her faith had been so strong that she had made all of us believe. She had been sick since forever and yet everyone took her death as a surprise. We all stood in that faith with her. It took a long time for me to see that her faith had been rewarded.

She had made it further than any doctor had ever thought she would and she had seen me grow up. Maybe not as grown up as she or I would have wanted but still far more than what was predicted. She had had a chance to teach me and share with me and help me to become the woman that I am still working toward becoming.

There are still days that I wish more than anything that she was still here to guide me or give me her opinion but when I'm not sure what to do I don't have to wonder what my mother would say or would have done. I just have to pray and have faith and I know that whatever courage I need will be there. Thanks mom.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Working 9 to 5

Working girl: Did your mother or grandmother work outside the home? What did she do? Describe her occupation.

Most of my working life I have spend in fashion retail. I have worked with clothing, sports and even greeting cards. I use to think that I just happened upon something that I liked and was good at but a photograph that I had forgotten changed my mind.
Every year my maternal grandmother would go out with her coworkers and march in the May Day Parade. They would wear this same pattern and they would strut their stuff and they had every right too. They where all seamstresses and darn good too. Matter fact I don't think that I wore anything that my grandmother didn't make until I was like in six grade. Believe me when I say that woman could sew. But she wasn't the only influence to my retail history.

My paternal grandmother also was involved in fashion. She worked for a women's clothing store located downtown and in my mind had to be one of the oldest in St. Louis. She had even worked there back in the sixties when it might have been difficult for a black woman to work in a predominately white frequented store. Still she was such a valued employee that when I was born they gave my parents a crib their shower.

Both my grandmothers worked hard and diligently. I can remember going with my father's mother to her store and all the ladies fussing over me and going on and on about how wonderful my grandmother was. And although I couldn't find the picture, I also remember my older cousin and I marching with my mother's mom in at least one of those parades and it was the same experience. Almost like having a room full of grandma's at any given time.

Sure my mother worked, my aunts and almost everyone woman I can think of in my family but those two I would say really influenced me. I'm not in fashion retail anymore but every time I go shopping I think of them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Honor and Praise

What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?

There are seven days in a week. Five that we spend working or going to school, one that we spend doing whatever we can think of and another that if religion is a part of your life you spend in church. However, in my family that wasn't always the case.

The question was did religion play a part in your family. The answer was, is and will always be a resounding yes.

Religion was a huge part of my childhood and my mother and grandmothers before me. We all grew up in the baptist faith. Most of my family at one point has been in the choir, my paternal grandmother served the usher board most if not all of her live, and I am not sure there was a piano in the Missouri area that my mother didn't play on or a choir she didn't play for. Yet when my cousins and I came along both my mother and my aunt decided that we also needed another foundations for our faith and they enrolled us in a private Christian elementary school.

We started each day in chapel and each class in prayer. Then after school, depending on the day was bible study or choir rehearsal or Wednesday service. There was really only one day were we weren't in a church. Most would find that suffocating but we got exactly what our parents wanted for us. A foundation of faith, belief, and love.

Another great thing my mother gave me without actual thought was diversity. Because even though I grew up baptist and went to a baptist church most of my life that wasn't the only religion I was able to experience. Through her piano playing we went to almost every type of religious service at one time or another. Some she was just visiting because she knew someone there. I have a deep understanding and respect for all religions but I also have a deeper understanding about the fact that it isn't just about a religion.

My family gave me faith and the ability to learn that at the heart of all religions we are the same. To me that has and will always be the greatest gift they could have shared.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Things Lost; Things Found

Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)

When I was 16 my mother passed away. Less than a month later my maternal grandmother also passed away. To say that this was hard would be an understatement considering that my paternal grandmother had already passed away earlier in the year. I went from having three exceptionally strong women watching my back to feeling all alone in the space of a six months. I was angry and hurt must of all I just wanted something of them I could hold on too.

My mother had a houseful of thing that were packed up and moved into my grandmothers basement with the idea that once I was of an age to live on my own and had some place to put them then I could come and get them. Even after my grandmother passed on my great grandmother and great aunt remained in the house.

I went off to college then moved to Colorado always remembering my mothers things but not really having the financial resources to move a house of stuff 800 plus miles. It also helped that I didn't have a house to put it in; a one bedroom apartment sure but not a house. So it stayed in that basement.

Then my great grandmother passed away as well. It had been years since the losses of my mother and grandmothers and although hard it wasn't as bad as before. We all came back for the funeral and then went back home to our respective houses. Not once did I think to take anything from that house.

I don't remember when but some time later I learned that my uncle had sold the house and when I did my heart burst in my chest. All those things of my mother were now gone. I had missed my opportunity to have something of her to cherish and hopefully one day pass on to my children. It was all gone.

I mourned for her and the loss again but eventually moved on. It was just things and they could no more bring my mother back then I could. Besides I still had the memories. Then one day, after I had moved countless more times through two more states, I was getting ready for a fancy dinner party and looking through my jewelry case when I picked up a pair of diamond earrings. As soon as I saw them I immediately remembered watch my mother put them in every Sunday before church.

Somehow and at some point I had taken those earrings and they had survived all the moves, the loses and my own repressed memory. They were there in my hand. Something I could remember her by and something that I could pass on. Yes I still had her piano but those eventually die. Diamonds as they say last forever and as I put them into my ears, dried my tears and looked into the mirror I realized that so did the memory of my mom.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Mooning Over Bachelors....Day 4 Challenge

Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.

This is a picture of my parents wedding. If you notice all the guys look like they are laughing. The way the story goes is that none of the guys would smile as the photographer was trying to take the picture. They were doing everything they could but no smiles. Like all guys they wanted to look hard.

Anyway, one of the bridesmaids started making jokes and nothing. Finally she turned around to give up and her dress flipped up to show her underwear. Everyone started laughing as the photographer started snapping away.

I don't know if this is the true story but I have always liked the idea especially being a photographer myself. I have done some crazy things in the studio as well as chapels trying to get people to smile. Things like barking, standing on chairs and telling the start of one joke that seems to always get men to laugh but I have never been reduced to showing my butt. Still it's nice to know that if I need to I can pull that out. The story not my butt :)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gentle Memories...Day 2 Challenge

Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?

I have just taken todays prompt and done it all backwards but I have enjoyed all the moments of it except dealing with my new video program.

First I combined this challenge prompt with a prompt from another genealogy blog prompt and now instead of just putting up one picture and explaining who it is I am putting up a bunch. This are the women that made me who I am. All the women that I have found pictures of in my family. They all deserved to be mentioned. I hope you enjoy.

Sounds My Mother Taught Me

In keeping with the fearless female theme of the month I am departing from those blog prompts to do a different prompt for today. I will be doing my other addition for the 31 day challenge but I saw this on another genealogy blog and I just had participate. 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History do an amazing job of coming up with great things for you to add to your blog and this one really struck a chord.

Week 9: Sounds. Describe any sounds that take you back to your childhood. These could be familiar songs, jingles, children playing, or something entirely different.

When I think of my childhood and a sound that resonates through out the whole of it is music. Singing, records, choir practices, dancing around the room, but most importantly piano music. I don't think there was a day that went by that no one in my house played the piano and if there was then it was because we were at a piano lesson or my cousins and she was playing.

The legend goes that my grandmother always wanted to learn how to play but never found either the time or the money to take lessons. Like a lot of parents she then passed that desire on to her her children insisting that they all take piano lessons and like most children forced to do something they had no desire to do they balked. They cried, they refused to practice, they did everything short of throwing the piano down the stairs; all but my mother.

My mother found a joy in playing that I don't believe her siblings ever shared and as they quite one by one (there were only three of them so it was more like one after they other) she continued to play. She walked to lessons and studied multiple hours until she had honed her craft. I would love to tell you that she became a world renowned pianist but she kept it a little closer to home and to her heart and soul.

While she never made it to Carnage Hall she did make it to the piano stand at the church that she had grown up in and then to some of the other churches in the greater St. Louis area and finally to the Gospel Core Union of St. Louis which traveled around to multiple churches not just in Missouri but other states as well. I don't think I remember her traveling with them as a child but I do remember the name being used quite frequently throughout my childhood.

As I grew up my grandmothers dream was passed on to my generation through myself and my cousins. We all took lessons at the same piano school that my mother, aunt and uncle first attended and I believe we had the same teacher (at least he was old enough to have been the same). Both my aunt's and our house had pianos in it, ours being the same one my mother had used growing up, and there was music played regularly.

To this day I still have a piano and so does my cousin.
Mine isn't the one that my mother learned on but it is the one that she eventually had to buy when hers gave out and I still play whenever I want to fell close to her. I have never been as good as she was which I'm sure still bugs her after the seven years she spent pulling her hair and mine out to make me go to my lessons and learn at least one to songs. My aunt loves to make fun of me and my cousins saying that it's so sad the amount of time that they spent taking us to lessons and we can all only play one song which isn't completely true. It's more that we all have one signature song that we don't have to look up the music to play.

Music has always been part of my life and it always will be thanks to my mother. I might not have learned to play the piano to her level but I can still play. I can also play the clarinet, the drums and one song on the sax. I have taken ballet lessons, tap lessons, and jazz dance lessons. I have been in countless musicals and theatrical productions as well as stage managed a couple. I have joined numbers of choirs in almost every city I have lived in and even when I drive around town I am normally singing at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing.

The best part of this upbringing is that while most of my friends are set in one genre of music that they constantly listen to I have a broader range. I am not just a fan of the music of my generation but of the generations before me and singers and composers that most my age might not even know.

I was blessed to have such a powerful sound present in my life by such an amazingly talented woman. And although she never reached world wide fame that she possibly could have there aren't many places or churches I can go into in St. Louis where someone doesn't stop me and ask, "Are you Vee's daughter?" and I am proud to say, "Yes, I am."

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Do You Pick Just One - Day 1 of Challenge

Prompt #1: Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.

Parents for some reason are always asking other parents whose their favorite child. Now most of them know the answer but still ask the question. I have always found these a very silly thing until I read the prompt for today and then I understood the not just the question but the answer.

We ask the question because it gets you to thinking. Billy is great but he never seems to come when called and Sally is so funny but she never keeps her room clean. It's not that one of those things makes either of them less your favorite but they distinguish between them and that is why the answer is always the same; "how can I choose between my children".

Well my ancestors aren't my children but when asked to choose one I feel as if they are; there is just absolutely no way to choose between them. If it wasn't for all of them then I wouldn't be here. Good, bad, those you can't find and those you might wish you didn't. They all make up some part of who I am and especially the women. I am reminded in a million little things I do everyday that I am standing on the shoulders of giants. That is why I have tweaked this prompt a little for my purposes. Instead of picking just one female that I want to dedicate my research or even this blog post to I decided to dedicate it to all of them.

I think it is a disservice that with one tree of my family I have found each successive grandfather back to 1870 and can list each wife that they all had but I have no last names for any of them. I have no information on any of them past they married into this line and had children. These women had lives and family before they joined into mine and I want to meet them even if only in census records and lost news clippings. These are my people, my family, more giants that have lead to the opportunities and live that I have the honor of leading today. I want to remember them just the same as the others that I have found. I mean that is why we do what we do isn't it?

We want to pay some kind of tribute to those that came before us. Those that gave us the life that we enjoy today and to not find half of those relatives just because of one name seems so unfair.

That has become my new goal. To find the last names of those women and even if I never conclusively find their families I will still have given them a voice all there own. Not just one linked to their husbands or children but one that stands by itself welcoming me in.

Fearless Females.....31 Day Challenge

I don't know how many of you follow Genea-Bloggers either on their blog or through Facebook but I happen to follow both and in honor of Women's History Month they posted a new challenge. The goal or challenge, as the case my be, is to post everyday of March about a different prompt all devoted to our female ancestors. Normally, I might not follow such prompting as I like to blog about where ever I am in my own research or just information that I feel works for this blog but this one really touched me.

See I have been very, very fortunate to have been in the company of some extremely strong, caring, opinionated, and devoted women. Women that gave to others selflessly without loosing themselves in the process or forgetting their worth to mankind. Women that taught you how to be compassionate toward others while still expressing your thoughts and keeping your own council. Women that knew how and when to smile and share a laugh but also get the job done when needed and put the fear of God into you when crossed. In short I personally believe that my family line has some of the best women ever put on this earth and ever taken too soon.

That is also the reason that I decided to join into this challenge; the one trait that I wish these wonderfully fearless and determined women did not share. They all died way to soon. From my grandmothers to my own mom they all left this earth before their time, with so much wisdom left to share. Not just with me or my personal family but with the world.

To be in their company was like being in the company of queens. They shared, they laughed, they cooked up a storm, but mostly they taught. If I were to ask any of my cousins male and female alike they could more than likely take you back to a moment when they learned a lesson from the women in our family not by being told what was the right thing to do but by being shown what was the only thing to do.

I wish that every had a chance to spend one day with these women and enjoy the love and advice that they all gave so readily and through doing this prompt I hope that I can pass just a little of them on to everyone that reads this. With that in mind, their legacy will continue to live on and their wisdom will flourish once more.