Added Family, The Gifts You Gain By Sharing Your Family History

Francis Victor Winchurch c.1939You may not know it, but my husband, John does a bit of writing too. He tends to focus most of his efforts on his genealogy pages having picked up the research bug that bit his father years ago. One could easily say that his dad’s initial interest actually started when faced with a question from John that he couldn’t answer about a relative listed in the family bible.

Today marks what would have been his father’s one hundredth birthday and John has written a lovely piece about his dad who was born in the same year the first world war began. If you are interested in seeing more images and learning a bit more about his life, you can find it by clicking on the name,

Vic Winchurch.

I love the way internet links are able to act as a kind of map helping those with common ancestors find each other and connect to family lines that might otherwise be lost to history.

John’s genealogy pages have brought him into contact with other relatives who having searched for family name found their way to his site. Especially poignant to me was an email not so long ago when a cousin in Canada contacted him after seeing her grandfather, George Arthur Gadesby Smith’s face in a photo for the first time after her search led her John’s website. Her grandfather was brother to John’s maternal grandmother and after George Smith died during WWI leaving a wife and two children,  his widow remarried and immigrated to Canada causing that link to be lost until a few years ago.

Having met John later in life, I never had an opportunity to meet his dad, but I’ve heard enough stories to be able to see where some of John’s gentle nature and compassion likely come from.

If you have an interest, the blue links will take you to John’s website and the sweet birthday piece he wrote to honor his dad.

John and Vic Winchurch

UK Census 2011, Clues For The Future

It’s census time here and all across the UK, people are either filling out forms on paper or adding their details online. John and I did both. He’s saving the paper copy with the family bible and some other documents providing an easy paper trail for future generations who might be interested in looking back at their family history.

Since I filled out my own details in the section for ‘ Person 2 ‘ in the house on March 27, 2011, it was interesting to see my American side showing itself as I started off by putting an x in boxes instead of tick mark as they call a check mark here. I’m afraid I did not read the directions as is my way and habit took over. (click on the highlighted area for a photo of us from my first visit)

It’s kind of funny to think about how different things such as blogging will make tracking an ancestor easier in the future. There is likely to be a record of my 400 posts as of today on this blog and the 82 other posts found on my first GOTJ blog.

If I want to know more about my family history, I have to search through old census records like this one from June 19, 1900. My mother complied two binders with loads of family details, but hit some sort of dead end when it came to my great-grandmother on her maternal side. I did a little snooping last night by going to Family Search, a free information site in the US to look for my great-grandmother and some of her immediate family. (Click twice to enlarge any photo)

Here you can see Bessie L. (Lee) Hood was 19 and still at home on June 19, 1900 when the census was taken and you can see her mother, Cornelia was slightly older than her father, John. I could also tell what they did for a living and that they lived in Sparta, a detail that could be helpful in tracking back in time for more clues.

The 2011 UK Census results will not be released until 100 years from now to protect the privacy of people while they are living. As that will be 150 years after my date of birth, I expect it will be my great-great grandchildren (if there are any ) who will look over the census records and say, ” Look there’s where great-great-grandma Elizabeth Harper followed her heart to the UK, marrying a Winchurch and becoming the first in the family to have a dual citizenship. ”  Then one will likely turn to the other with a slightly superior look and say, ” I knew that already, because I read her blog. “

I had to add that last sentence about reading the blog as it’s become a bit of a joke with me. When topics come up in passing about local happenings and someone says they hadn’t heard whatever we happen to be discussing, I say ,” You mean you didn’t know that? ” Which I follow up with,” You would … if you read my blog! “

 

Tom Selleck Or My Great-Great-Great Grandfather

HWC Folk and His Famiily, ca 1876

At a glance, most Americans or those familiar with American television and film stars might think the older man in this photo was actor Tom Selleck all dressed up for his next movie role. I saw the likeness the first time I came across this photograph of my great-great-great-grandfather, Henry William Capers Folk with his family.

The younger boys on the right and left sides of the photo became physicians like their father, HWC Folk, the Tom Selleck look-alike. The boy to the right of his mother, grew up to be my great-great grandfather, William Nicholas Hemeter Folk who is also the adult male you see in the image below. Standing at his knee is my great-grandfather, William Obed Folk.

Mahala Clementine & William Nicholas Hermeter Folk With Their Children, Mikellah & William Obed, ca 1899

Willam Obed, grew up to marry Annie Claire Mattox, my great-grandmother pictured below. I still have a few gifts she gave me when I was a little girl and some of my earliest memories are being small enough to walk under her heavy oak (I think) table in a darkish dining room.

I wish I had known her when she was a young woman or could find more stories about her now. She looks so sure of herself in the image below. I think she looks like she’s smiling with her eyes even though her mouth is set in a straight line. She’s got a sassy look about her that I like.

I do know that she had an interesting history prior to meeting and marrying my great-grandfather and it was very unusual for the time. She had a first marriage that was annulled according to my mother’s research although I had always heard she was divorced. For the daughter of a Primitive Baptist Minister and a woman born in 1879, I’m sure either would have caused a bit of a scandal.

Annie Claire Mattox

Annie Claire and William Obed had three children, one being my great-aunt, who was christened William Michael Folk, a name which evolved into Wylly Folk with the addition of St. John after her marriage. The baby below with ” Willy Mike ” as they called her, is my grandfather, Walton Obed Folk.

Walton, Wylly & Minnie (Her Doll)

Walton as a baby with older sister, Willy Mike.

Here you see my grandfather, Walton with my great-aunt Wylly and their baby brother, my great-uncle Johnny. ( Photo was hand colored by my sister Margaret )

My great-grandfather, William Folk with his boys, Johnny and Walton around 1928.

My grandfather Walton grew up to marry Elizabeth Procter shown in the photo from the 40s above.

Their only child was my mother, Elizabeth Judith who was born in 1940 and is shown here with her father, Walton.

She married my father, Gene Harper in December of 1959.

Gene & Judy Harper With Daughter, Elizabeth - 1960

Nine months later I was born. That’s me, Elizabeth Elwyn Harper when I was about 12 weeks old. You can find out interesting things when you spend time searching through your family history.

I had always thought I was the fourth Elizabeth in a row in my family, but it turns out my great-grandmother Bess Proctor was not an Elizabeth after all, but a Bessie making me only the third Elizabeth and not the fourth as I have always said when telling stories about my family history.

What about you, have you ever discovered some bit of family history that you’d thought was true that actually was different from what you’d always believed?

 

Nobly And Faithfully, She Did Her Duty

Bessie, wife of  J.H. Henderson, was a woman it seems with little history other than this beautiful tribute given in her memory at St Mary’s Church in Tenby, Wales. Like many places of worship in the UK, there has been a church at this location in some form as far back as Norman times although the oldest part of this structure is only as old as the 13th century.

You may laugh when I tell you that I spent at least six hours trying to discover more about the woman who inspired the memorial above. I wanted to know what type of duty she did, ‘ Nobly, and Faithfully.’

I was disappointed to find little information about her, right down to not being 100 percent sure I’d discovered her true given name. I found evidence of a son who died at 38 in wartime France in 1917, but as hard as I searched I could not find much more than that.

I’m usually very good at this type of detective work and while I located loads of family, Bessie, Betsey A, or Betsy, never seemed to be around at census time and with no marriage license it was hard for me to confirm some of what I found.

She showed up in documents twice during her childhood, but only once during her adult years and even then, she was with her in-laws on the day of the census. While her plaque identifies her as Bessie of Red House, in the two census reports that occurred during the time she and her husband were living at Red House, only John Henderson, her husband, made the census report.

All of the dead ends today made me think about what someone might be able to discover about me 92 years from now. I think I’ve made it pretty easy having written and published 470 posts (a combination of this blog site and my first GOTJ) so even if I don’t get to say everything I’d like to before I die, I will have left enough for someone to have a pretty good idea who I actually was in this life.

While standing close to the memorial, I snapped a few photos quietly, respectfully, and without flash, just like I always do when I’m visiting a church and then I snuck the two pictures you see here. I never moved from my location and was a fair distance away so I don’t think woman I was trying to photograph noticed me at all.

I didn’t linger after taking the photo as I didn’t want to disturb her, but I wondered then as I still do now, who she might be remembering with her candle.

Nobly And Faithfully, She did Her Duty

How about you … do you have any idea of how you might want to be remembered ?

Are You Judy’s Daughter

A few months ago while out on a morning run, I paused to let a man in a small truck pass me near the village green. As he slowed he leaned out of the open window slightly and asked, “Are you Judy’s daughter?”  I smiled as I said no, not knowing who he meant or where Judy’s daughter might live. After hearing my American accent, he knew before I had finished saying,”No … sorry, I’m not Judy’s daughter,” that he had mistaken me for someone else.

I went on with my run pausing to snap a few photographs of the misty January light that covered the low-lying land making it difficult to see clearly beyond what was close up. About a mile or so into my run, I stopped suddenly after I realized that I had answered his question without the slightest hesitation and had in fact given him misinformation because my mother’s name is Judy, making me Judy’s daughter. While he was clearly thinking of someone else, the irony of my response was not lost on me.

Most of the time I don’t think about my mother. She doesn’t exist for me except in memories, none of which are pleasant. Occasionally, she creeps into my subconscious like she did last night showing up in my dreams where she behaved as she has in real life. In my dream, she sat across a table from me refusing to speak or even acknowledge my presence. The table was designed to roll a bowling ball back and forth between two people making interaction even more necessary than the game usually requires. Bowling was something she loved to do and I imagine she still does. I would not know now what she does or doesn’t do only that she has no involvement in the lives of her two eldest daughters or the three children they share between them.

The last I heard, she was living in Madison, Alabama where she moved after marrying Bill, her fourth husband. I took my daughter Miranda to see them marry in 1994. It was the last time I saw her. She cut me out of her life twice, once at 14 and later at 34, covering a span of 28 years so that now she has been absent from my life for more years than she has been in it. When she cut off all communication with me the first time, a therapist said that after a while it would be as if she had died.

It wasn’t. It was painful and sad, but I felt hopeful when she finally responded after an eleven year silence only to struggle through ten more years of distant and difficult communication where only one of us seemed interested in building a healthy relationship.

By the time she stopped speaking to me the second time I was older, a mother myself with a daughter I loved so completely that I was even more confused as to how a mother could abandon a child in the way that my mother had. I stopped caring so much after that and found a sense of peace about her lack of interest that was easy to maintain most of the time.

A few years ago, my mother completed a detailed book of our family genealogy. She was still in contact with Margaret then and sent a few copies of Just Folks to her. Surprisingly after years of silence, she also contacted my daughter’s father so that Miranda might have a copy. It was her first overture to Miranda, her first grandchild, in many years and while she sent the two book volume to Miranda, she never bothered to respond after Miranda sent a note back.

The saddest and most telling piece was that she left all three of her children, me, Margaret, and Pam completely out of the family history. Since she did not include her three children, she also omitted her five grandchildren. When Margaret questioned why she had not mentioned us, she said it was her history and it was about her, making it clear that her children were not part of her history. It is interesting to note that the children of distant cousins made it into the pages of family history as did her husband Bill’s childhood pictures complete with his parents, brother, and sister. Family pets from as far back as 1951 can also be found there in photographs, having secured a place in the genealogy book that her children and grandchildren did not.

So you can see how when I said without thinking that I was not Judy’s daughter, it was because for so much of my life I have not been regarded as such and I think I actually forgot that once upon a time, I was Judy’s daughter.

She will be 70 later this year and with her history recorded as it currently exists, it is a sad legacy that it will one day it appear that she died childless when all around her were her children trying so hard to be seen.