Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Have You Written Your Obituary?

There are three things that you can do now to make things easier for your family when you die. You don’t need to be sick to do them – in fact, it’s better to do these while you’re healthy and have time to think and plan. You can do them in any order. But trust me on this: taking the time to do these three things is a gift to your loved ones.

In Memory OfFirst, write your obituary. You’ve read many of them and if you haven’t, just pull up any local paper and read a bunch. Some of them are boring and just have name, birth and death dates, spouse, children. My favorite obituaries, though, tell me who the person was, what their passions were, what made their lives better. My dad read to first graders for over 20 years and you can bet that will be in his obituary. I read a wonderful one years ago about a 102-year old woman known for her pie baking – I knew who she was after reading it. Include basic information but go beyond it to tell people who you are and why you mattered. Pick a good picture for the obituary, too, preferably one that looks like you as a mature person and not the army picture if you are in your 70’s.

Second, plan your funeral or memorial service and give a copy of what you decide to your church office as well as your own files. A funeral service is conducted when the body is present; when it’s not, as in the case with cremation, there is a memorial service. Different religious faiths and denominations have structure or liturgy for their services, but it’s up to the family – to you – to select scriptures or readings to be included, and to decide on music that’s significant.

This doesn’t have to be hard! There are websites with ideas, such as 30 Top Funeral Bible Verses. Hymnals and prayer books also have suggested music and scripture that’s appropriate. Do you want to have a choir sing, or maybe someone sing a solo? Write it down!  Nothing is written in stone and it can be changed as you change and want something else. Also remember that a memorial service is for the living, so if your family decides on something else, that’s okay, too. But at least they will know what you want, and that will help enormously.

TombstoneFinally, plan what happens to your body. Do you want to be cremated or buried? Do you know where the body/ashes will be interred?  Sit down with a funeral home (or several, to decide on one), and make plans. Even better, prepay it to lock in prices (they call this “pre-need arrangements”).  Your family won’t have to do anything when you die except call the funeral home and meet to review what has already been arranged.

I work in a church office and deal with memorial services and grieving families all the time. I’ve seen what a difference it is for them when these three things have been planned in advance. Make thoughtful decisions about what you want, write them down, and make sure your family and your religious home have copies. It might be the best gift you can leave them.


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Oh, THERE you are!

I found my great-great-great-grandparents today in the 1841 Scotland census. This is not the first, second, third, or fourth time I’ve looked for them. But it’s the first time I found them.

Databases are tricky. Census records are available on many sites but they don’t index, filter, or display their information the same way. Add to it that names are spelled as many different ways as humanly possible, requiring searching endless variations but missing the one that actually was used, or relying on “fuzzy matching” to get multiple spellings in one go. It takes patience, persistence, and creativity.

Today I found them.

Robert Brookmire and Isabella McAusland married in Campsie, Stirling, Scotland, on 3 July 1840. He was a calico printer and his father John lived in Belfast, Ireland. Isabella was a spinster and her father John lived in Dunbarton.

In the 1841 Scotland Census, Robert Brockmyce, age 20, Eliz[abe]th, age 25, and 4-month old John were living in the Village Of Thornliebank in Lanarkshire. Robert was born in Ireland and was a Calico Printer Apprentice; Elizabeth and John were born in Scotland. All the men on their street were also calico printers, many born in Ireland.

Finding one answer leads to more questions: Where is Thornliebank? what is a calico printer? What else can I find about young John?  When did Robert migrate to Scotland from Belfast? What can I find about his father, John?

The fun of research isn’t just finding the answer, it’s figuring out how it fits into context, adding to the puzzle until it makes a more complete picture.


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Liturgy Recharge

shieldSix days a week I report to the local church at 8am. Five of those days are for work; Sundays are for choir and worship, though often members of the congregation ask me work-related questions because, hey, I’m there and I have answers. But that doesn’t mean I like it.

I also really miss liturgical worship. For forty years I’ve been an active member of the Episcopal Church, from a college church to a cathedral to a very high church and a huge historic church in Boston. I’ve sung in choirs, run stewardship programs, studied the Bible and church history, served on vestries, visited the sick, polished brass on altar guilds, been part of small groups, organized libraries, cleaned up kitchens after parish suppers, and served on search committees.

But no matter where we were, our worship followed The Book of Common Prayer. My godmother wrote when I was confirmed many years ago that the BCP “is still a tremendous source of strength, its prayers for quiet confidence, for raising of children, for those we love, for those in mental darkness, have been invaluable to me and I have never been without comfort and support.” She was a woman of great faith with a solid core foundation that shone through her life and relationships. I learned from her that the prayers of the BCP, said automatically so many Sundays, provide the needed words when the heart is full or hurting, beyond words but wanting to cry out.

Most of my churches celebrated communion every Sunday, but the Order for Morning Prayer is also beautiful. I found comfort in the ritual of the liturgy, of an order of service with well-chosen words for celebrant and congregants, with responsive readings and a lectionary that led us through the Bible on a 3-year cycle. With structure and symbolism, kneeling and music. I’ve missed it.

So today I took a needed day off from my own church to recharge at a local Episcopal church. It was a more contemporary service than I was used to, but the words of the liturgy were the same and I found I had forgotten none of them. We celebrated Eucharist, with bread instead of wafers and wine instead of grape juice, gathering around the altar. And we were sent forth with these words, “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.”  I always liked being sent out to do the work of Christ.

Mostly, though, I could simply worship and not have to lead anything. I will not be leaving my current church but I will definitely be back. For I may not belong to an Episcopal church, but I am and will be an Episcopalian.


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Sources, Information, Evidence

I thought I knew all about sources for research until I took the Boston University Genealogical Research Course in 2014. Genealogists are very particular (and picky) about types of sources and information contained in those sources than what I’d previously experienced. The term “primary source” and “secondary source” were familiar to me in my work life, too, but in genealogy, we have “primary information” instead of “primary source.” The whole reason it matters is to get to the type of evidence the source and information provide.

evaluating_evidence_chartNot all documents are created equal.  When reviewing results of a search, it’s important to also be aware of the type of source you have, what information it contains, and what evidence it provides to answer your research question.  There are three different categories for each:

Sources:  containers of information, not the information itself. Tangible, stable

  • Original records  – written report of an action, event, or observation
  • Derivative records – transcribed, abstracted, translated from original record
  • Authored works – biographies, genealogies, books, journals, local histories

Information: source’s surface content. Tangible, stable.

  • Primary – reported by an eyewitness
  • Secondary – hearsay; reported by someone not an eyewitness
  • Undetermined – unknown origin

Evidence: building blocks. Intangible and changeable.

  • Direct Evidence – one information item that answers a question by itself
  • Indirect Evidence – set of 2 or more information items suggesting an answer only when combined
  • Negative Evidence – absence [not lack] of information that answers a question [e.g., someone not included in a will that should be accounted for]


Example:

My great-grandmother’s death certificate is an original record, created at the time of her death.  The information contained in it was supplied by 4 people: clerk, doctor, funeral director, and family member. The doctor and funeral director provided primary information about date, time, and cause of death, and of where the body would be buried.  The clerk provided primary information about the state numbering system. The family member provided both primary and secondary information:  primary about address, name, age, marital status, but secondary about birth and parents, since the informant was her daughter and therefore not present when Jane was born.  Taken together, the death certificate provides direct evidence for the question, “when did Jane die?” but only indirect evidence for “who were Jane’s parents?”


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Death, three years later

P1010382Three years ago yesterday, my mom died from complications of COPD. She had been fading away for the few years prior to that, and since my brother and I had researched the disease, her death was more of, “Oh, it’s now” rather than, “OMG, NOOOOO.” My father, on the other hand, was devastated. He still is.

The last time I saw her was at my niece’s wedding three weeks before Mom died. She had saved all her energy for the weekend and it took everything out of her. Her body was frail, almost bird-tiny, and she had almost no reserves of energy. My sis-in-law arranged for transport wheelchairs for both of our moms for the wedding activities, and that allowed Mom to be present for rehearsal dinner, family visiting, the wedding ceremony, and reception, with the whole family (except bridal couple) gathered at the same table. We were all happy, looked wonderful, shared the joy of the day and the enjoyment of each other’s company. And we all said goodbye when she and Dad left to go home. We had our goodbye, even though we didn’t know it was the final one.

I lived half way across the country and didn’t see her often. We talked every day at 6pm my time, 5pm her time, for seven years, since she was hospitalized for a serious infection following an emergency appendectomy when she was 76. Note that she diagnosed herself with appendicitis reading Google search results. I am her daughter in more ways than one.

Three years after her death, I’m living in her house, cooking in her kitchen, caring for her husband of 62 years. And I listen to Dad tell stories about her every day, which sometimes makes me crazy because I hear the same ones, word for word, many times. Yesterday we went to a memorial service for a friend and it allowed us to heal a little more.

 


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Little green leaves on researched lines

Ancestry.com has little “shaky green leaves” that pop up on our trees when the system finds what it thinks are possible matches. Many of them are wrong but for my direct lines, I’ve checked them all. But when a new green leaf shows up on a well-researched line, it usually means either a new family tree or a new database has been added.

shakyleavesSunday I found a new leaf for my maternal great-grandmother, Charlotte Ann McCormick. She was born in New York City in 1879 to Irish-immigrant parents. Her mother, Alice Heginbotham, was born in Dublin in 1842, the oldest of eught children to an Irish mother and English father. They came to New York in 1853 on board the Freia. Alice’s father made hats and all of the family ended up in the hat business at some point.

Alice’s family were staunch Protestants but she married Irish Catholic immigrant Peter McCormick, who was a stone mason and builder, between 1870-1879 (still working on finding that record).  The family story is that it was more important to marry Irish than to marry within the church, and that Alice and Peter made an agreement that any girls would be raised Protestant in her faith while any boys would be Catholic in their father’s faith. While that was never documented, they had one of each. My great-grandmother was the Protestant daughter and her brother Charles, the Catholic son.

In 1890 the McCormicks lived on 128th Street in Harlem. In April 1892, when Charlotte was 12 years old, a Charlotte McCormick was confirmed at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, located at 127th Street and Fifth Avenue, just 2 blocks from where my McCormicks lived. The right age, the right location – unfortunately for me, the record doesn’t show names of the parents for the confirmands, but still. This was the only Charlotte McCormick in that database (New York, Episcopal Diocese of New York Church Records, 1767 – 1970) and I’m confident that she’s mine.

charlotte_confirmation


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Making changes slowly but surely

So it’s been a week since going to the gym for the fitness assessment. And I’ve gone three times already with another visit planned for this afternoon, making 4 trips in 7 days. Yayyy me!  The fitness “workout” is really just a plan, not a lot of work, though walking around the track is very difficult for me – not because of the knees, a little because of lower back pain, but mostly because of difficulty catching my breath. This is actually very worrying so I’m trying not to think about it because I’m already doing what I should be doing to improve things.

I’m to walk for 10 minutes. It takes 16 laps to equal a mile, and the track goes in a big circle on the upstairs part of the building, looking down at the fitness area or looking out big windows to the outside. I just can’t walk very fast without getting badly out of breath so am concentrating on moving more slowly but at a pace I can sustain. Last time I was able to make 2 laps without stopping to catch my breath, then another two laps. My goal by September is to be easily doing 8 laps, which is 1/2 mile. More would be better. But I’m starting from zero.

My other two machines work specific body areas. The “coffee grinder” or arm bike is boring but I can feel the arm muscles working. I do three minutes forwards, then three minutes backwards. Not sure if I’m to build up more time or to increase levels next but will ask someone when this feels like not enough.  The other one is the NuStep recumbment cross-trainer, and I feel pretty snazzy that I’m using such an animal. You push down with your feet on big pedals and pull poles with your arms so it’s a complete workout. I can really feel a stretch across my super-tight lower back area, a problem since my fall last September, and my back and legs are pleasantly happy. I did 15 minutes on that one on Wednesday, more than I’m supposed to but already what I’m supposed to do doesn’t feel like much. On the other hand, I’m doing it.

I’m also working on developing another website (yeah, like I need another thing to keep up), this one for genealogy. Actually, I suppose I could include genealogy stuff on this blog along with other things. Hmmm. Maybe I should consider that. The idea of something specific for that is appealing but I know how hard it can be to keep up with one blog, much less two sites. What do you think?