Saturday, October 22, 2011


I sat in the surgical lab waiting to give a blood sample. When the nurse handed me a vial upon which she affixed a label, she said, "Can you read that?" I thought she meant was it legible, and I answered,after reading the vital info, "Well, I sure can, but I wish you'd leave the age out. I feel 50 but the truth lies on that label." She began to quote a verse from Psalms (only in the South does this happen) about taking what you have and doing something with it. I told her my goal was to reach 140. She laughed, then said "That's possible. My grandmother died when she was 105, my father when he was 95, you just might get close." She rambled on. "I don't understand why retired people just sit around moaning they have nothing to do. They even die early out of boredom." I assured her I didn't let boredom enter my door.

The idea of dying creeps into my life occasionally, just a flit of a reminder of the number of folks who pass away in the seventies of their lives. I don't feel nor think I look "old".  Anyway, I've reminded my God that He can't take me until I've cleaned up the house and given away all the accumulation that  crowds my space.

Last year I embarked on the journey to contact all those friends I made from elementary to high school to thank them for being in my life. Unfortunately, so many had passed away or moved away and out of the phone books. I did find two teens of that time who shared the love of Civil Air Patrol. an Air Force auxiliary for teens. We spent two weeks at an encampment learning the fundamentals of army life. We girls wanted to be a part of the armed forces, but in our time that was not the pick of young women. We were born too early. Fortunately, the young woman in Ohio and I are still emailing. They young man I found in South Carolina, a happy changed person from the one I once knew. He reminded me of my mother's generosity in helping him once with lunch money while he was attending college. I had been corresponding with him during our college days. That phone call and subsequent emails brightened my time spent in locating them.

Next, I found in a high school scrapbook the newspaper article of an outstanding high school basketball player. I knew him to have joined the Navy and left Mississippi, only to return later in life. His picture was snapped at a community center for seniors. I called a number I hoped was his and found him at home. He was delighted to know I had the article highlighting his basketball days. Dropping that into the mail was the third move.

The last person I found lived on the Gulf Coast. I had a snapshot of him standing in front of a ten on maneuvers while in the Army. I mentioned in the phone call who I was (I remembered him quite clearly, but he wasn't sure of me) and said I had the snapshot. He was delighted, as several hurricanes had wiped out all his precious mementos. Sending that to him completed my fourth contact.

In each case I remembered something nice about the person and thanked them for coming into my life. Of course, I knew that many of them are still wondering who that woman was who called, but within myself I had started the ball rolling. Sadly, I've not found enough people to whom to show appreciation. I'm still working on that project.

I missed my teachers who have all passed away. I should switch my legs for waiting so long to tell them how much I appreciated the little things they did for students in their time. Perhaps one day they'll find out.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Searching Through the Past

I've sailed through past families in my journey through ancestry-land, but I've never been so stumped as I am with aspects of the Mitchell families of Louisiana and Mississippi. I've even encountered other "cousins" who send me information that still mystifies me. Why did these old folks make discovering their lives so difficult? Unlike the East and Southern states like Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, there was a time that family name meant something and their lineage was written down.

You can gag at the idea of families wanting to record their lineage for posterity, but it's greater than you think.  I am part of their posterity. But as many families journeyed southward to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee the importance of who they came from weakened. I recall my still-active aunt telling me that when she was attempting to write down her family's history the standard reply was, "We weren't important." Ah, but keeping the chain going is what 's important. They were thinking of the then--a time they weren't interested in knowing, not the now when one and two generations want to connect.

One of my Mitchell "cousins" is as mystified as I about the connections of this Mitchell with that Mitchell. Together we are trying to piece together other people's lines where dates and connections to people have taken a side road from ours. This is where we realize that we should have started this trip some 20 years ago, not wait until we retired and needed something to keep us busy as we age. No, we knew we could only scratch the surface, but a few generations back was better than none.

My plan was to find a few generations of relatives. I was pretty ignorant of family ties. I had in mind four families -- two from each of my and my husband's lineage. But those lines developed into additional lines--this person marrying into that family and having 15 kids (no fooling!) who bear the same surname as I and before I knew it the families were multiplying as fast as rabbits. There's no such thing as pulling out six people and their families. The number is more like  1,006 or 10,006.

One point about searching for your long, lost relative -- it is as exciting as a fox hunt. Only you as the hound is seeking anything hidden anywhere that verifies relationships.  the thousands of pieces of paper microfilmed of marriage and birth certificates, federal censuses, biographical listings, preserved family histories begun in the 1800's or earlier, DAR applications, countless lists of army enlistees of the various wars, to name a few. You have to know where to look.  What helps is finding photos, traipsing through old cemeteries to snap that particular headstone or the old home place and collecting from relatives their photos and sources like birth certificates to lend you for scanning. Then there are the endess number of people you meet who have seen your line and want to know if you have information about a similar relative 200 years back.

All of this makes for an exciting day when the temperature is too hot or too cold or too miserable. Searching can occur when you are bored with television, tired of cleaning house, or have finished the dinner dishes. I've been known to follow a line as late as 3 p.m. when I couldn't let go of the keys because I'd discovered a relative.

There's no way life gets weary for a family researcher. Trust me. I know from experience.