21 October 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Favorite Barnes Family Photo

Dedicated to my new-found second cousin Russell Barnes



W. F. Bates, North Scituate, Mass., photographer, “Three Generations of Barnes' 1890,” photograph, inscribed in pen on the back: “Left to right standing- grandma Bethia (Clapp) Barnes b. 1861; grandpa Israel M. Barnes b. 1861; Tom Humphrey (Priscilla's son); Andrew, coachman; Margaret, maid; Annie Humphrey (Tom's daughter), Aunt Abbie Humphrey (Frank's wife) Abbie Hobart; Frank Humphrey - fire chief in Newton. sitting left to right -- Nurse holding Joseph Barnes b. 1890; Olive Barnes b. 1888; William Barnes b. 1886; Israel M. Barnes 3rd b. 1885; Priscilla (Barnes) Humphrey b. 1811 sister to gr. grandsire b. 1821 Israel M. Barnes who is sitting next to her. This picture was taken in summer of 1890. Tom & Frank - gr aunt Priscilla's sons-- V.G.B. [Vernetta Gertrude Barnes] = 1931”; Barnes Family Papers.

The inscription on the back of the photo was probably written by my grandmother, Vernetta Gertrude (Jones) Barnes, who eventually married William Barnes, the child with his head tilted and longish hair.


15 October 2009

Growing Up in a Massachusetts Mill Town



My grandmother Vernetta "Vernie" Gertrude (Jones) Barnes was born in Lawrence, Essex County, Massachusetts in 1892. Her parents were newly-arrived immigrants, having come down from New Brunswick, like countless other immigrants, in search of jobs, better living conditions, and prospects for their children’s futures. When they arrived, Lawrence was a booming textile center, a leading producer of woolens. Her father, Jared, was a 30-year old farmer, strong and accustomed to hard work, which he readily found upon his arrival. Lawrence mills were reaching their pinnacle of production, and treatment of the mostly foreign-born workers became ever-more unacceptable, as companies continually pushed their employees for higher output.

The woolen and cotton mills employed over 40,000 persons, about half of Lawrence's population over age fourteen...Office workers averaged about $8.76 for a full week's work. In addition, the cost of living was higher in Lawrence than elsewhere in New England. Rents, paid on a weekly basis, ranged from $1.00 to $6.00 a week for small tenement apartments in frame buildings which the Neil Report found "extra hazardous" in construction and potential firetraps. Congestion was worse in Lawrence than in any other city in New England; mill families in 58 percent of the homes visited by federal investigators found it necessary to take in boarders to raise enough money for rent...Of the 22,000 textile workers investigated by Labor Commissioner Neil, well over half were women and children who found it financially imperative to work in the mills. Half of all the workers in the four Lawrence mills of the American Woolen Company were girls between ages fourteen and eighteen. Dr. Elizabeth Shapleigh, a Lawrence physician, wrote: "A considerable number of the boys and girls die within the first two or three years after beginning work . . . thirty-six out of every 100 of all the men and women who work in the mill die before or by the time they are twenty-five years of age. Because of malnutrition, work strain, and occupational diseases, the average mill worker's life in Lawrence was over twenty-two years shorter than that of the manufacturer, stated Dr. Shapleigh...  Early in January 1912 I.W.W. activities focused on a dramatic ten-week strike of 25,000 textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts. It became the most widely publicized I.W.W. conflict, acquainting the nation with the plight of the unskilled, foreign-born worker as well as with the organization's philosophy of radical unionism. 
(Joyce Kornbluh, Lucy Parsons Project Bread and Roses: The 1912 Lawrence textile Strike, webpage (www.lucyparsonsproject.org/iww/kornbluh_bread_ roses.html : accessed June 2008); citing: Kornbluh, Joyce, Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing, 1988).)



Family stories say that Vernetta was not able to continue her education after graduation from the Emily G. Wetherby School in 1906 at age 14, and was obliged to go directly to work in the woolen mills. If she did, it was only for a short while. And she was very lucky to have survived, given the above-cited statistics!



The 1910 census tells us that by the age of 18, she had moved up to a position of bookkeeper in a grocery store, so we know that she was out of the horrible working conditions of the mills, and would have only witnessed, not participated in, the momentous Bread and Roses strike of 1912. The advantages of speaking English and looking like a Yankee, plus her own intelligence and drive, must have helped her tremendously. When her wedding was announced in 1913, she was described as “a popular operator at the local telephone exchange,” a job that she enjoyed. A story has been passed down in the family about her eavesdropping on a steamy conversation, and giving herself away by letting out a heartfelt sigh. This was risky behavior for a telephone operator!

I always attribute any brains in our family to my grandmother Vernetta. She surrounded herself with books, was very involved in the community and didn't give a hoot about housekeeping (she left that to my poor mother, eldest child!) Best of all, Grandma was a genealogist and passed the passion down to my mother, my aunt and me.

Imagine all of the lives wasted in those mills! I consider myself lucky to be alive when I read about the evil conditions there and I thank my grandmother for understanding that it was her continuing self-education that kept her out of them.

14 October 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Little Boy Fancy, IMB II



Israel Merritt Barnes II
11 September 1861- 16 July 1920

Is this really before and after his first haircut, or are those lovely curls a studio prop??

12 October 2009

Capt. Levi's Unfortunate Love Life



Capt. Levi spent most of his time living in towns that no longer exist. They have been decommissioned, the land taken in order to create Quabbin Reservoir in Central Massachusetts. It is the largest man-made body of water used exclusively for drinking water in the world, apparently. It was created in the 1930s in a massive, Big-Dig type engineering feat which razed four towns, dammed a few rivers and voila! drinking water for Metropolitan Boston forever. They took down every single building and tree in the area. They disinterred and then reinterred every body in every cemetery. It was quite a wild few years and there have been couple of interesting books written on the subject. There is even an ever-dwindling group of folks who lived in those towns that get together for coffee every month to reminisce.

Capt. Levi was born in Eastham, on Cape Cod in 1785. He moved to this area with his wife, Betsey, somewhere between 1811 and 1815. Betsey was his first wife, but not apparently his first love. A marriage intention was published for him and another woman in 1807. She married someone else a few months later, so I can only assume that Levi was ditched! Maybe he was at sea too much and she got bored.

Levi and Betsey married in Eastham in 1809. Soon thereafter, land records show a spurt of activity when Levi purchased land in Dana (Worcester County) and Enfield (Franklin County). By 1815 the good Captain and his not-so-good wife had moved to Dana. It seems an odd place for a sea captain to set up housekeeping. Very odd, and it set off warning bells when I first learned of his residence so far inland, especially since I knew he was still actively sailing. Was he perhaps worried about the War of 1812, trying to keep his family far from any potential danger? Or was he trying to get away from everyone he knew because he discovered his wife was a wild woman? 

I had been searching for birth records for Levi and Betsey's children and found nothing, so I ended up writing a genealogy proof argument for the birth their son Franklin in Phase One of my report to the client. Levi was married again in 1822 to a lady named Palace, so I assumed that Betsey had passed away. I didn't find her death, but I didn't find much at all in Dana/Enfield at that time so I didn't think much of it.

Divorce was very rare in the early 18th century, so I was thrilled to find out that Betsey hadn't died, they had been divorced! Anyone who reads my Facebook page will remember the scandalous behavior of Levi's wife that I posted about a month ago. In 1815-1816, poor Levi was at sea for eleven months on a "voige." Six months after he returned from the coast of Africa, Betsey was "taken to bed with a son." Levi gets various people to testify as to her dastardly behavior (and with young children in the house). Betsey failed to show up for court appearances and in 1820 they were divorced.

Here is a little transcription of some of what Betsey was up to. The most alarming page is in terrible condition and I can't read it, especially at the critical point, but I'll show you what I could pick out.



said Libellant avers

that he has faithfully performed towards the said Betsey, all the

duties on his part, by the marriage covenant enjoined. And said

Libellant further avers that the said Betsey, regardless of the

duties on her part by the marriage covenant enjoined, did,

on the first day of February one thousand eight hundred and

sixteen, at a place called Dana, in said County of Worcester

and at divers other times as well before as since, at said Dana

with one Chandler Wood and divers other persons to said Li=

=bellant unknown, commit the crime of Adultery. Where=

=fore said Libellant prays this Court that said bonds of matri=

=mony may be disolved.” ...




I Samuel Pike of Petersham County of

Worcester and commonwealth of Massachusetts

being of lawful age do testify and declare that

according to the best of my recolection Capt.

Levi W. XXX of Dana and county afore

said did come home from the cost of africa

about the eleventh of April in eighteen hundred

and sixteen and was gone on his voige about

eleven month and in about six month

and twenty-three days from the time that Capt.

XXX came from the cost of africa the said

XXXs wife was brought to bed with A

son. And sum time in the month of April

before mentioned when Capt. XXX was absent

Chandler Wood of Petersham came into my

[name?] and told me that if I would go with

him to his house that he would sho me

A curiosity and I went with him and on

the way to the barn Wood told me to go in

to the barn which was in plain sight of

Capt. XXX’s house and [^it] was about at noon

day and Wood told me that in A few minuits

I should see A white cloth come out of

Capt. XXX’s house and be hung up or swoung

about in sight of the barn that I was in and

Wood went to the out side of the barn in

sight of XXXs house and in about fifteen

minuits, I saw A white cloth come out

of XXXs house and was flourished about back and

forth in front of the barn that I was in for

A number of minutes...


I Joseph Giddings of Dana in the County of Worcester

of Lawful age [illegible, possibly “do testify” or “do declare?”]

and say that according to the

best of my recollection Capt. Levi W. XXX of Dana

left home in Dana where his wife was there Living and

went as I supposed a voyage to sea in the year 1815

about the first of May and returned to sd Dana the 11th

of the [April?] 1816 Mrs. XXX sometime following to that

informed me of her situation that is that she was

then in a state of pregnancy by one Chandler Wood of

which was a common opinion she wished

me not to divulge the same which I [supposed? promised?] by a

[????] in her [conduct?] she [libi] was[wished [??]

to procure a abortion of her state of corruption [s]

following I was requested to attend her in [??] [??] which

he was delivered of son which I should say was full

grown
                           Joseph Giddings





Wow! OK, I know Levi was away a lot, but you know that's going to happen when you grow up in Eastham amongst sea captains and fishermen. Betsey was baaaaaaaaaaad! I'd like to search the court records for who got the children, etc., but alas, time...


A couple of years later, in June of 1822, Levi recovered his pride and married Palace, in Phillipston, Worcester County. By December Palace had died! I need to check back in my notes, and need way more time from client to follow all of these lines, but I believe that Palace had a son James XXX, so perhaps she died in childbirth and Levi had been dallying with her before the wedding day. Jeez! So much for Puritanical New Englanders.


In 1824 Levi married another Eastham woman, Lydia. They went on to have at least five children, the youngest of whom was born in 1837 when Levi's children by Betsey were already having children of their own, and Levi was 52. Levi and Lydia lived together in Enfield until Lydia died in 1857. Levi stayed on in his home, sharing it at the end of his life with a man named Collis, who apparently looked after him in his old age. Levi died in 1864.


When the area needed for Quabbin was razed, some houses were just destroyed, but others were dismantled and rebuilt. Capt. Levi's house actually dates from 1767, pre-Revolution, and it was moved to Amherst, where my son is now attending college! I haven't had a chance to photograph it myself yet, but here are two photos from the web, one while it was still in Enfield (they went around and photographed the towns extensively before razing) and one as it stands now.


I hope to be able to tour it someday!











10 October 2009

Capt. Levi's Voyages


The Friendship
Ship built in Salem 1792, with a sparred length of 171 feet, carrying 342 tons. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum
(see "Salem, Massachusetts City Guide, Maritime History 1776-1812" at www.salemweb.com/history/maritime)

Client research has led me into the world of early nineteenth century Maritime Massachusetts and it has been a lot of fun getting familiar with it. I won't mention Capt. Levi's last name because it is being done for a client and until I present him with the info, I don't think I should publish my findings as such. But it doesn't matter anyway.

The client originally contacted me saying he had a painting in his possession that shows a ship at sea. On the back it was labelled "Brig William Gray, [the captain's name], Palermo, Sicily 1824. He wanted to know how this happened to descend to him. He knew only of a great grandmother Jennie, with the same maiden surname, but had no information on her at all. My task was to see if she was related to the captain. That was phase one. I discovered that she was the granddaughter of the captain. Her father's birth was not registered where it should have been, so I prepared a very detailed genealogical proof argument using a ton of indirect evidence. I spent most of the report talking about Jennie's father because he migrated somewhat frenetically and changed his occupation, too, making it difficult to track him. The client enjoyed my narrative report (I used it in my certification portfolio) and requested phase two, more detail on the captain.






This a poster available for sale at 1st-artgallery.com.


Capt. Levi was born in Eastham, on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, in 1785. His roots extend back to Mayflower and early Plymouth Colony folks. He is easily eligible to join both Mayflower Society and SAR if he chooses. The information about his earliest immigrant ancestor places him in Scituate for a while, so I'm probably his distant cousin. I find this amusing.


Levi was a master mariner and it looks to me like his father was as well. One or both are listed many times in newspaper notices of voyages to Europe, South America, the Carribbean and the Eastern seaboard from about 1793 1o 1828. His father passed away in 1811 when Levi would have been 26 years old, perfect age to take on the job of master mariner. I imagine he had been sailing with his father all during his teenage years, but cannot find any proof of that.


This is not a period of abundant records, especially for those sailing out of the port of Boston.  The country was young and agencies to regulate commerce were just getting established. The Custom House, which created and housed what records did exist, burned in the 1890s and they were lost. I looked for something similar to Lloyd's Register, but there is nothing that early for US maritime activity. There are records out there, but to find them would greatly exceed the amount of hours we contracted for. Maybe it'll be a phase three... In addition to the paucity of records, life on the high seas was wild and woolly with multiple dangers from impressment to piracy and war. With embargos and capitalism gone wild, people made up their own rules. And rule-breakers don't like to keep records.


In an undated article in American Heritage Magazine, "Portrait of a Yankee Skipper," which I found at http://www.americanheritage.com, Archibald MacLeish tells about the life of his great grandfather, Capt. Moses Hilliard. He is lucky enough to have inherited a boatload haha of documentation from him. Capt. Hilliard was a "buyer and seller of goods of all kinds, from castor oil and cowitch through rum, coffee, and cotton to garden seeds of curious kinds and the best stockings and shawls to be purchased on the Paris market; he was a dealer in foreign exchange in a number of currencies, including, together with the Russian and the usual European varieties, the complicated coinages of the Spanish Main ...He was a sea lawyer skilled in the filling out of bills of lading in quadruplicate, one to he sworn to before consul or judge affirming United States ownership and three to be sent home, each one in a different vessel; he was a student of long-range and short-range markets in a number of Atlantic ports, a close observer of world affairs (particularly wars), a diplomat of sorts (especially at his own table), a master-rigger, a bit of a doctor, his own laborious secretary, a pleasant companion to his passengers, and a good bit of a man of the world wherever the world might be—in Demerara or New York or Paris.


According to the newspaper notices, father and/or son travelled up to 1812 or so to the following ports: Havre de Grace, France; Jamaica; Les Caves, Haiti; St. Thomas; Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Montevideo, [Uruguay]; and Laguira [Venezuela]. Later voyages seemed to stick to the Eastern seaboard and included such ports as Savannah, Baltimore, New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, Richmond and Mobile. They sailed in romantic sounding ships called schooners and brigs. The newspapers kept careful track of how many days it took them to make a trip and there was a lot of competition to make a trip as quickly as possible. This, of course, only added to the other dangers.


Here's a notice from 29 March 1804 from the Boston Gazette (thanks genealogybank.com, I love you): “Wines, Lemons, & Salt, &c. Now landing from sch. Jane, Capt. XXX, from Cadiz, and for sale by E. W. Reynolds. No. 19, Long-Wharf –– 100 qr. casks excellent old Sherry Wine ; 50 boxes Lemons, 180 hhds [hogsheads] Salt ; 40 doz. red Morocco Skins ; a few jars excellent Olives. In Store –– 100 bbls. Bread ; a few cases half pint Tumblers, and boxes Hamburgh Window Glass ; a few boxes Dutch Toys. Also, For New York and Norfolk, the sch. Jane ; will sail in 10 days. For Freight or Passage apply as above. march 19.”


There's so much to learn about Levi that I could just study him and his trips for years! I have gotten really, really bogged down with this research because I'm a bad business person and have don't want to stop investigating. It's just too much fun. I did stop, however, a few months ago (!) and am now compiling. I'll write more about Levi in future posts.

07 October 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - 1858 Letter from California!



As far as I can tell, my Barnes ancestors didn't much like travel. Apart from the immigrant ancestor, Thomas Barns, who came from Hingham, Norfolk, England in about 1636 to Hingham, Massachusetts, they stayed put. Oh, our branch (Joseph Barnes) left Hingham and went to Scituate about 1800: a distance of no more than five miles.

Joseph's youngest son was my great-great grandfather, Israel Merritt Barnes [I] (1820-1892). He always had his eye out for money: investing in stocks, racehorses and who knows what else. He was the first commuter in our family, riding the Old Colony Railroad back and forth from Boston to his mother's farm in Scituate. He served as Weigher and Inspector of Bundled Hay in Boston for many years running. He and Olive Litchfield (the dour one) were married in 1840, and by the time the Gold Rush came around, he and Olive had already had two little girls and lost them both to an intestinal ailment. They had another son, Webster, who they lost at only 8 days, in 1855. In 1858 he received the letter below which I have transcribed. I just wonder if by the time he received it he wasn't tempted to chuck in the towel and flee. Did he discuss it with Olive? Did he remain unimpressed? Did he perhaps go out to visit his enthusiastic friend? I wonder how hard he thought about it. When we look back on past events we don't often think about the thousands of decisions everyone made which constantly directed the course of their lives. I get the feeling that Israel adored Olive and perhaps he did not want to subject her to too much stress, while they were still hoping for children. In any case, they did not leave Massachusetts. Their only surviving child, my great grandfather, Israel Merritt Barnes [II] was born in Scituate in 1861.


Transcription 

San Francisco, June 19, 1858

I believe I promised to write you. when I got to the
land of gold. I should written you the last mail but I felt
So bad on account of the Death of our little Lillie that I
could not Write. I Suppose you had the news by my letter
of last mail to the National House. I find the Boys doing
well and living in good Stile. They drive a good Horse and
carriage. which cost one thousand dollars. they keep House 
Separately they pay $50 dollars each for House Rent pr
Month and pay $30 dollars pr month for hired Girls they 
have two girls each. their family expenses is about
three hundred dollars each per month making Six
hundred pr month for their families expence besi[des?--- ripped]
Clothing and other expences which we Should think
rather high at home...
... I went down by Stage
to San Jose last Friday June 11th a place about fifty miles
from San Francisco. to See the country and Such crops I
never See before, we passed fields of grain Wheet Barley
and oats. Such fields as I never Saw before but have
herd of them the whole distance was covered with crops as
far as the eye could See we drove through fields for Mils
whare there was no fence only the road run through thousan[cut off]
of acres of grains and Such grain you neve See it was as
high as my Sholders and as thick as it could Stand
the whole valley is a complete granary without a tree in
Sight the Soil three feet deep and the climate here 
is just rite for grain and patatoes fruits and all kinds
of vegetables we get the Sea [pecan??] here in the Summer
which makes it much cooler than it is farther back
into the country. I also Saw Many young orchards 
and Grape fields. Some as large as one hundred ackers
it is the greatest place for grapes you ever herd of
there is manny men that make thousands of Gallons of
grape Wine I saw one farm whare the man Sold eight thousend
dollars worth of Wine last year and Six thousand dollars worth
of Peaches. he also had one hundred ac[k overwritten to r]es of young orchard he
thought he should have four hundred Bhl of Apples this
year and the largest tree is not bigger then your rist. Apples
ware worth last year 25 ct pr bb. every thing is Sold here by the
Pound. the Man had Six hunderd ackes in his farm he Kept
four hundred head of cattle they live the whole year without
feeding which does not cost any thing to raise them and
Cows are worth from Sixty to one hundred dollars a piece
Some extra[s] fetch as high as one hundred and fifty Hiram
has got one that he paid $125 dollars for. and other cattle
in proportion. there is a place across the bay here about
Seven miles whare a ferry boat runs which I think
of locating it is a beautiful place they came a plenty
of Strawburys than I have Seen many fields from ten
to thirty ackes [corrected to acres] many men do no other business than to
attend to raising Strawburys for the market many 
men clear ten thousand dollars a year off of twenty
acres of Strawburys the Boys Say that if I will go over
ther and build a good House and have raise a plenty of
Poltry and garden Stuff that they will come and board
with me they Say that they will pay me one hundred and
fifty dollars a month for each family which will make
three hundred a month for both families. and then I Shall
go into the Stock ranch business Some
I think can make money much faster then I can
at home for it does not cost anything to raise Stock
here only you have to hire a man to watch them and take
care of them. the Boys Say if I will try it one year and
if I do not like it they will take my property and
pay me the money and let me go home if I wish. they
think me a little home Sick., perhaps I am Some what
different from Some folks about leaving home and Friends.
When I think of my old home the land of my hearth the
many Friends I have left behind, and think the many
miles that Sepperate [interlined us] the mighty ocean between us. I Say
Some times when meditating all alone uppon the many happy
ours I have Spent with Friends at home. my Heart leaps
to be free again uppon my native [interlined soil and] country at home with
my old friends again. well I have made up my mind to
Stay one year and try the winter Season. as well as Summer
perhaps I Shall like better then at home. I think at any
rate I Shall come home on a visit in a few years unless
you all come out here. I think you had better come out
here and go into the Stock ranch business with me
we can make fifty thousand [interlined dollars] a piece in five years
and then go back to Boston and [??] if we do not like this
place. you prommised to write me up I would you now I
want you to write me all about things and all about
the National House how my friend Stackpole gets along
if he is a prospering well and making money. if
he does not prosper I may have to come home and take
the House again. but I think he will make money
there if any one can. now be Sure and write me and I
will write you again and let you know how I am
prospering. I am getting 2 pr cet for what money I have [S--?]
about Six thousand dollars (I mean 2 pr cent) a month
Mical Tubbs






06 October 2009

Wordless Wednesday - The Oaks, a DAR Chapter House



The Oaks
Chapter House of the Colonel Timothy Bigelow Chapter
National Society Daughters of the American Revolution
Worcester, Massachusetts
House Tour Hosted by Preservation Worcester
8 June 2008


View from left side of house as it faces the street now. This used to be the main entrance.



The Library




The Old Dining Room, leading into the Breakfast Room

This house was built by Judge Timothy Paine, originally a Loyalist, but who eventually came around to the side of the Americans. Work was started in 1774, paused during the Revolution and was completed afterward. Judge Paine eventually petitioned the government to become a US citizen.

Visit our amazingly beautiful website at www.bigelowdar.org,
designed and maintained by member Nan Ryan,

Tombstone Tuesday - A Rabbit-Proof Fence at Shocklach


My father-in-law, Brian R. R. Kimmitt ("Grandad") lives in Malpas, Cheshire, England. It's a beautiful place – low, rolling hills dotted with great trees who, never having been obliged to share the sunlight with their brethren, spread majestically across the misty backdrop, daring you to don your Wellies and wander among them.


My mother-in-law, Rosemary Kimmitt ("Granny"), née Ida Rosemary Churton, passed away in 2001. She is buried in an isolated church yard called St. Edith's in Shocklach, Cheshire. Some say the church belonged to a village which was burned after one of the many bouts of plague which swept England, but others say this is a myth and there is no evidence of other buildings on the site. In any case, there is no longer a Shocklach village – only the tiny Norman church remains.


St. Edith's lies hidden behind hedgerows off the main road, about half a mile from the River Dee. It was built in about 1150 by the Lord of the Manor, Thomas de Shocklach. It is constructed of irregularly shaped red sandstone blocks held together with mortar. The nave is almost entirely 12th century and the chancel is 14th century. Against the west wall are two large buttresses. The south door archway dates from about 1150 and is a good example of Norman work. The baptismal font is unusual in that it is seven-sided. The church registers date from 1538 and the churchwardens' accounts from 1725. ["Photographs of Shocklach, Cheshire," webpage; (http://www.thornber.net/cheshire/htmlfiles/shocklach.html : accessed 6 Oct. 2009); citing Raymond Richard, Old Cheshire Churches, with a supplementary survey of the lesser old chapels of Cheshire, completely revised and enlarged,  (Didsbury: E. J. Morten, 1973, first published in 1947.]



I was utterly charmed by this place when I was first taken there in 1986. Approached via tiny lanes through pasture land tastefully decorated with grazing animals, the spot remains hidden until the road turns abruptly just before you arrive, revealing this unexpected relic. You feel as if you are intruding and the gravel crunches loudly underfoot as you walk from the carpark to the church yard gate. Conkers (horse chestnuts) litter the ground and become playthings for any Brit under 75. They can't help themselves. The ancient gravestones tilt at awkward angles and evoke black and white visions of Scrooge on his knees begging for a last chance at redemption. Birds twitter, cows low, wind lifts the grasses, gravestones lean darkly. It's just beautiful.


My father-in-law has served as a lay minister at St. Edith's for many years, so when it was time to christen our first son, we chose to take him to England and have the ceremony performed at St. Edith's. We took advantage of the unusual seven-sided font, and Grandad assisted. And when my mother-in-law passed away, she was of course buried at St. Edith's.


Herein lies my trauma. Along with the grief of losing Rosemary, I felt sad at the realization that her final resting place was not going to be romantically set amongst the leaning stones, but rather at the other end of the yard. Today's gravestones are straight and polished, with (gasp) san serif type! Still, I thought at the time that she was lucky to have such a glorious spot in which to rest her bones for all of eternity.


However, that wasn't the end of it. Granny was a fantastic gardener. She loved flowers, was a master flower arranger and spent much of her free time in the garden. Yet the charm of the pastoral setting interferes with the rite of leaving flowers at the grave. The bunnies eat them! Grandad vowed he would prevent the bunnies from running amok, so he built a chicken wire fence around Granny's stone. I don't like the fence. It feels contradictory that in such a peaceful and natural setting, she should be caged. It is as if she's in a detention camp or something. I think he saw it as his final way to protect her. His grief softened visibly after that ugly fence went up, so I decided I could cope. Nevertheless, just for the record, I don't want a rabbit-proof fence around my gravestone! RIP rabbit-free, Rosemary.

05 October 2009

Monday Madness - The Mad Juggler


The need to juggle comes about when you have more than one item for which you are responsible and not enough time to deal with it. Each item requires your full attention during the time in which you are responsible for it. When you have multiple responsibilities, you realize that though you are in charge of an item, you don't have time to focus exclusively upon it. So you give it your all for a finite amount of time and then, knowing you have to let go of it, set it on a predictable trajectory from which you can later recover control of it. Only to let go of that control once more: ad infinitum.

That's my life. That's everybody's life. So what I am currently juggling is the care and feeding of a marital relationship (literally); the raising of healthy, intelligent, kind and thoughtful men; maintenance of two homes (ours and Grandad's) and three cars; chorus (learn the music before we go over it... sell lots of tickets... volunteer...); weight loss, despite very low metabolism and doctors telling me to give up (includes careful dietary planning plus continual exercise regimes, oh, and migraines which seem to make me ravenous!); rest and relaxation; and finally, my favorite – genealogy. But then genealogy subdivides into a plethora of sub-categories: volunteer organizations like DAR and APG; self-education; networking; client work; writing; and documenting my own family.

No wonder I'm always behind! I think from now on I can never ever take on anything new. I have enough projects right now to last me until I die, even if that comes at age 109. I want desperately to simplify, but that means never having the thrill of starting a new project. What fun is that? It reminds me of the stash of yarn in my cupboard. I have loads of yarn I purchased at phenomenal prices, with the idea  that someday I could make a high end scarf, baby outfit, sweater, vest or socks, because I got a great deal on foofy yarns. But once you look at that yarn on a regular basis for six months or so, the thrill is gone, Baby. Even knitting feels like a chore! That is just wrong! So last Saturday I bought two balls of expensive yarn because I wanted to make a scarf with flecks of color that match my eyes. Oh, brother!

So what does this have to do with genealogy? Nothing much except to say that I have been neglecting my client work while I get all of these other things into their trajectories. It's hard to explain to people what I do every day because I dance around between laundry and car inspections to Boy Scout merit badges to booking nationally known speakers for our chapter of APG. Aunty Tealy, of whom I have spoken in earlier blog posts, told me yesterday not to be such a perfectionist. But if you don't try, you don't even get close. So I have to keep on trucking and hope that soon I catch a break and everything will just run smoothly.

I want to find a way to simplify that won't take away that zing of excitement that comes when starting something new. I just have to reframe the discussion, that's all.

I forgot about blogging. You may have noticed that I haven't written in about eleven days. This is not a laudable trait in a blogger. When I was blogging last month, I was a bit rabid about it. Ideas came flying into my head. I thought people might be interested in my ideas. This month. Nuthin'.


I'm going to try and get back on track, but I feel a bit of paralysis because another Kimmitt male is about to enter the household for a month, and that jacks up the speed of juggling quite a bit. So bear with me while I plant my feet, gird my loins and breathe!

I miss blogging and hope I still have something interesting to say to anyone who cares to drop by. Thanks!