Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Gift of a Lifetime – Journaling and Life Stories

On the left is one of many of my great-grandmother Jessie (Tucker) Agard's journals kept from 1944 to almost her death in 1973 at the age of 97. In the midde is a composition notebook, a perfect size and price for journaling. On the right is what I use for my daily journal. In a presentation given several years ago historian David McCullough said, “If you want to be remembered, keep a journal.” As genealogists/family historians, that advice hit home. We also learned from genealogy that writing helps you make sense of things. Not everyone is a family historian, so, in preparing a presentation on journaling, I anticipated the question why. Why do this? My answer is: Because no one has experienced what you have, has felt what you have felt. No one has your perspective on life, on events. We are living through historic times. How did you manage? Are managing? What did you do differently? How did you react during the shut downs? Did you buy lots of toilet paper? Flour? Vinegar? How did you feel about the protests, the election? Even if no one else ever sees what you write in your journal, it will help you make sense of things. It can bring focus and clarity to your life. Be sure to include the good things, especially the good things that came as a result of the pandemic. The air is a bit cleaner, traffic better, more families making meals at home and eating dinner together (big positive). Creatively blossomed as we figured out ways to stay connected, to accomplish things in a different way. Journaling is a written record of your thoughts, feelings, observations. It can be a short sentence, long paragraphs, or bullet points. It’s whatever you want it to be. There are no rules. No right or wrong way. It’s a way of documenting your life and a way to self-discovery. Have you ever kept a nature journal? Tracking birds, flowers, what works in your vegetable garden year to year and what you’d like to do different next year? A travel journal of trips you’ve taken. My sister-in-law keeps a composition notebook with books she’s read and notes on each in a Reading Journal. I keep a Writers Journal for plot and character ideas, to track progress, and book publishing format specifications. Day to day, my husband and I keep what I call a Daily Journal. Except for my writer’s journal, my daily journal is all of the above. I write down what’d I accomplished the day before, what I want to accomplish that day, family news, sometimes national news, happy events as well as sad. Opinions, books I’m reading, even what we’re having for dinner! This year I wrote about what I planted in my Grow Box. A journal can be anything you want it to be. Your journal can be hand written or digital. If hand written, choose a notebook that feels good to you – they can range in price from $1.00 for a composition book to whatever you want to pay. I spend $12.00 - $14.00 on a journal. I want a certain type, one that feels good in my hands and an extra fine tip black pen. Find a time of day that’s best for you to write. Find a best place to write. Keep your journal in a safe place. Not on the kitchen table where it can be picked up by anyone. These are your personal thoughts. Memoir Writing I started writing memoirs in the early 2000s after attending a morning session at our local library. From that, a small group formed and we met every month for the next few years. I completed my life stories from birth to marriage and titled them, “Growing up in Willow Creek.” Thanks to the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown, CT, who paid for my memoir book to be bound. My process for that first book was to think of a topic like stories about my love of horses, and how that was satisfied; family Thanksgivings and Christmas; Swimming across Cayuga Lake at the age of twelve; what it was like being the child of snowbirds, attending a two-room schoolhouse. All these stories influenced who I am today. And, I hope, will provide insight for my children and grandchildren. In a presentation at a Naugatuck Genealogical Society meeting, I learned the Memory Drifting Technique. This is a great aid to help mine those elusive (long forgotten) memories. And I got surprising results. With our paper/pencil in hand, we were asked to pick a decade. I chose 1960-1970. Next, list a couple significant events that happened during that decade. I listed high school graduation, college graduation, marriage, Chicago, NY. We were asked to choose ONE of those and list issues. I chose Chicago, so my issues were adjustment to city living, job, California trip, starting over. Still using Chicago as my significant event, next list were Memories. I wrote down Big City, no friends, pollution. The last list was called Deeper memories. And this is when I remembered the good things about Chicago: Brookfield Zoo close by, Libby Foods where my husband worked, Berghoff German Restaurant, day trips to Holland, MI for the Tulip Festival, day trips to Wisconsin. I was surprised at the memories that popped up as I drilled down into our life in Chicago. Start your memoir with mini-stories. You won’t remember every detail at first. As you write then let it sit, more memories will come. And try the Memory Drifting Technique. A timeline can be helpful to bring forward memories. Write about your parents/grandparents Your children Religion Holidays Family traditions Pets Jobs Military service Courtship/marriage First home Volunteer positions you’ve held – the best and worst Were there turning points in your life? Things to help jar your memory: Photographs Yearbooks Scrapbooks Letters Talk with family and friends Journals/diaries Write down the important people in your life – how did they make a difference?

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Ken Cutter and George Gay - 1944

A great photo of hubby's Uncle Ken Cutter and Lt. Gay, former plane captain Torpedo Squadron Eight in Ready Room. This official U.S. Navy Photograph was taken in Miami, FL August 16, 1944.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Could these men be the crew of the USS Hornet?

We need help!! This souvenir photo was taken from Sherman's State and C Streets Dine and Dance, San Diego, CA by Claud's West Coast Photography, December 9, 1942. Uncle Ken Cutter is first row left. We'd love to be able to identify the other Navy crew. The man on top right is in another photo with Ken. That photo taken at Paris Inn, Dine and Dance, n.w. corner First Avenue and C Street, San Diego, CA. Photo #34855. We think they may all be aviation machinist mates.

Kenneth Cutter and George Gay reunite after Battle of the Midway

My husband recently acquired newspaper clippings and photos of his Uncle Kenneth Cutter’s World War II military service. The article shows Aviation Machinist Mate First Class Kenneth Cutter (at right) with Lt. George Gay. Although the news reported there were no survivors on the USS Hornet at the Battle of Midway, they were wrong. George Gay survived. From Ian W. Toll’s book Pacific Crucible; War at Seat in the Pacific, 1941-1942, he writes: “Ensign George Gay, lone survivor of Torpedo Eight, treaded water in the midst of the Japanese task force. He concealed his head under a float cushion whenever a ship came near, and rejoiced as he watched the enemy carriers burn.” The Squadron received the only Presidential Unit Citation ever given.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Mecklenburg County, Virginia Genealogy

One of my genealogy colleagues has a wonderful website with much of her research in Mecklenburg County. She is in the process of writing a monograph on the Newman family line. Check her website, Julie's Mecklenburg, Virginia Discoveries and search surnames, photos of people and places, African-American resources, Chancery records, churches, plats and land notes, oral histories and interviews, and more. Her Website is: https://mecklenburgvagenealogy.com

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"Women as bright as Stars" by Rosemary Rowland


Researching female ancestors is a difficult task. Women are left out of the history books. Their busy lives and contributions to family and community oftentimes ignored. 

Thanks to Rosemary Rowland, the women of the small rural village of Newfield, New York are recognized and now part of written history. 

Rosemary starts her books with a quote from author Donald Dean Parker, who wrote Local History, How to Gather it, Write It, and Publish It. Mr. Parker states: It is not, after all, the highly trained historian who will write the local history of each community in this vast country. If the local history of the United States is to be written at all, it will have to be done by an interested, if amateur citizen or citizens in each community."

I would not say Rosemary is an "amateur," because she has published a well researched and documented book. But she does fit into Mr. Parker's category as an interested citizen of the community in which she lives.

To give a glimpse of the scope of her research into the women who called Newfield home during the 1800s, there are nine pages, two columns of names in the index.

This book is not just for those who have female ancestors in the Tompkins County, New York area. Rosemary divided the chapters into categories, such as Land, Farming, Business, African Americans, The Arts, Education, etc. Consequently, any family historian can learn the issues of the day, can learn what daily life was like for women everywhere during the 19th century.

Her book, recently published, has garnered much interest. Bravo! Rosemary. A job very well done.

To order your copy email Rosemary at: fnrland@gmail.com

 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

St. Joseph's Home Peekskill, New York - Contact information

Several years ago I contacted the Franciscan Sisters in Peekskill, New York to inquire about my grandfather's records. My grandfather, Harry Nunn, and six of his eight siblings were admitted into St. Joseph's Home in June 1900. I had worked eight years to break through this family's brick wall. I had no idea where the records would be, but I was on a mission. 

To my surprise a lovely nun came to the phone and when asked where I could get my grandfather's records, she replied in a soft tone, "I have them." You could have knocked me over with a feather!! This lovely person worked with the home's archives and appreciated genealogy. She copied my grandfather's intake and outtake documents as well as those of each of his siblings. The day the postman delivered that manila envelope I was in "heaven." 

Over the years I've posted several blogs about St. Joseph's home, and it is the most visited blog of any I have written. I still receive requests from family historians on how to get their family records from St. Joseph's Home. Since it has been quite a few years since I received my grandfather's records, I decided to find out what the latest procedure was. The last I knew, since the nun who help me had passed away, no one else had stepped forward to respond to these requests.

I sent an email to the Field Library in Peekskill, and was delighted to learn that the reference librarian who I'd met all those years ago, is still there and has worked with the Franciscan Sisters to make records available. The Sisters have given permission to add their contact information on the library's website. It is listed under Local History. 

The contact is: Sister Laura and any information about St. Joseph’s Home can be obtained by emailing Sister Laura at slmfmsc@mail.com.  Please include St. Joseph Home Request in the Subject line.