Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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A Gem in My Mom’s Handwriting

I found a blue spiral-bound copy of The Bride’s Notebook yesterday while emptying and sorting drawers. It has pages and pages of notes and names in my mom’s handwriting, dating from the months before her wedding in December 1951. Using my clever math skills, I realized it was almost 70 years old. Yikes!

Some things never change. This little book includes sections for everything the 1950’s bride needed to keep track of – wedding details, etiquette, wedding invitations and announcements, gifts, clothes, and room-by-room things you want for your new home. Not sure if brides registered at department stores then, but this at least told me what Mom thought she needed. [UPDATE: Apparently bridal registry started in 1924 at Marshall Fields. The stores listed in Mom’s book (Bamberger, Kresge, Hahnes) are no longer around under those names if at all.]

Most interesting to me were the list of wedding guests, in alphabetical order and with my mom’s perfect handwriting. Entries included full names and addresses, as well as checks and X’s to indicate who had accepted. My grandfather had many business associates who were included on a similar list for wedding announcements. Reading the names was a walk down memory lane: I remembered many of the people, either from my childhood or because my mom or grandfather talked about them.

And of course there were family members that I never heard of for years but now recognize: my great-grandmother’s sister Belle and her children; Grandma’s brother Leighton; my grandfather’s many Heginbotham and McCormick cousins. On my dad’s side were the Dails and the Keels. Funny, it never occurred to me that my grandfather Myers’ sister would have been invited but yes, of course. She didn’t come, but she was invited.

Then there was the meticulous list of wedding gifts. Silver trays and candlesticks were big that year. So were tablespoons and place settings in their Old Master silver pattern, and money. Because I was curious, I looked up the values today – a $10 gift in 1951 would be $99 now. Some of the gifts recorded looked more like items a bride would get today at a shower: electric broiler, waste basket, vases, clock, lamp, ash tray. My mom’s sister gave her a set of 12 towels, hand towels, and washcloths, which made me wonder what Mom gave her for her wedding 3 months earlier in the same church, the same dress, with a lot of duplication on the guest list.

But really what got me were the names and Mom’s beautiful handwriting. I remembered so many of the people. Minnie Mae Gautier in Wisconsin sent a bone carving set that I passed on to my brother after my dad died. I always loved her name. She was a private secretary in 1930 when she was a boarder in my grandfather’s home during the Depression. Mom remembered her and obviously she remained on good terms with the family after she moved back home.

Also the Coughlins who lived in Flushing, NY, where Dan was a policeman. They rented the “little house” in Manasquan for years. I never asked or knew how they knew my grandparents, but they were always part of our summers at the shore. Mr. Margolis from Williamston, who ran a men’s clothing store and made Daddy a loan to buy the engagement ring. Roy Ackley and his wife in Orange, NJ, who worked with my father and grandfather and was actually the one to introduce me to genealogy in 1970. Aunt Belle Glidden in Ormond Beach, FL, which is a new piece of genealogy information for me. Grace Kellner, my grandfather’s secretary for years (and how on earth do I remember that??).

Remembering these people made me smile and remember my parents and grandparents, too. And as long as I remember them, they still live a little longer.


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Dividing up treasures

Half of the silver

My mother, sister-in-law, and I all chose the same Towle Old Master silver pattern. I never married but didn’t let that stop me getting pretty things. We grew up using the silver every night for dinner, not saving it up for only special occasions, and I wanted to be able to do that in my own home. My mom bought me some place settings from estate sales, I bought some, and my grandmother would sometimes give me a teaspoon or fork for my birthday.

I gave 4 of my place settings to my oldest nephew when he got married, but have rarely used any since moving to Texas. I added mine to my mom’s set carefully wrapped up in anti-tarnish cloth when I moved here, but it’s not doing anyone any good just sitting in a drawer. So as part of my house transition, I decided it was time to pass it on to the next generation. Not being a fool, I checked with my brother and sister-in-law to be sure what I wanted to do was equitable.

Today I spread all the pieces out on the dining table and started dividing them up. There were actually almost 16 of everything, which was more than I’d realized. Each of my nieces will get 8 place settings. But then there were the odd things that I never had in my set (spoons for iced tea and soup, little individual butter knives, pickle forks, etc.) and larger serving pieces that were a combo of Old Master pattern (large spoons and fork, pie server, gravy ladle) and miscellaneous pieces that I’d inherited from my grandmother and great-grandmother. I randomly divided these between the two piles.

Most of me is happy that the new generation will have and use these, and hopefully will think of us when they do. But part of me wants to cry to part with these pretty silver things that I never use but know where they came from and (mostly) what they’re for, including the tomato server and sugar sifter. I just love them. But it’s not fair to them to be wrapped in a drawer and ignored. So I will polish them up, wrap them carefully in anti-tarnish cloth, and pack up to give for holiday celebrating – and hope that the pretty things don’t get mangled in a disposal. But if they do, well, my mom did that as well. It’s just stuff, even if it’s shiny.

I’m keeping a few things, though. I just couldn’t part with the silver sifter or the little sterling swords for appetizers or the baby set to give when the next baby is born. But most of it is divided up, hopefully fairly. Next decisions will involve silver and silverplate bowls and platters. I do not need two intricate silver breadtrays, Revere bowls, or the well-and-tree platter. I think the nephews are getting silver for Christmas, too.


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It’s Been a Year

Bill Myers, Emerald Bay, 2012

Daddy died a year ago tomorrow. I’ve been marking the days this month of where we were a year ago – not crying, not anguished, just aware. I’m remembering how difficult his last month of life was, with diminished mobility and speech, increased confusion, and his confounded stubbornness that he was getting up even though his legs couldn’t hold him, that he was going home even though I couldn’t care for him here.

He ended his life in one of “those places” that he swore up and down he would never be in. When we explained to him that’s where he was, and that if he didn’t like it, he should have seen the places we didn’t take him, he wrinkled his face, saying, “Pffffffffft.” They took good care of him there, though the sight of the mattress around the bed in case he fell out in the night really threw me.

Daddy asked me in a window of lucidness where his grandparents were buried, and what did his will say, and was it finalized. He wanted to know things were in order, and he told me that it had been a good life and that dying wasn’t a bad thing. He went downhill from there.

Holding Daddy’s hand

I’m grateful to Hospice. Whenever I see Hospice nurses in blue scrubs out and about, I want to run up and hug them and say “Thank you.” Sometimes I do, which they may find odd, but especially now I have excess emotion and they made such a difference. They spoke gently but with blunt honesty about what happens to the body when it starts to shut down, about how our perception of it was just that; his body was doing the business of dying. That meant it was hot, that breathing changed, that he probably wouldn’t talk much. But that he wasn’t in pain and would at some level hear us even when he couldn’t respond. I sang “Amazing Grace” and “You Are My Sunshine” to him, and was with him when he died.

Today I spent time with someone in my community who is facing the same situation with a parent who probably doesn’t have a lot of time left. Because of my experience with Daddy, I was able to talk about convening a care coordination meeting with the facility staff, and bringing Hospice in early to help the transition, because Hospice staff bring additional skilled eyes to evaluate and support both patient and family. We also talked about cremation, and what services a funeral home provides, and how obituaries get to the paper. Things to get in order BEFORE there is a death, because so much happens then that it’s hard to keep track of details.

Daddy gave me that present of understanding this end of life stage, and the ability to talk about it calmly and with compassion. I miss him every day, though I don’t miss having the house climate be too hot for me or the TV volume up so loud I can hear it anywhere in the house. He was a kind man who loved his family with all his heart. People here speak so fondly of him that it sometimes brings tears to hear about random acts of kindness done that made a difference. That’s a pretty good legacy.

I’m holding on to the image that was on the prayer chain when he died, that “Bill is driving around the golden streets of heaven in a golfcart with his beloved Peg.” That’s Daddy. I love you, Daddy. And I miss you.

Bill, Anne, and Tom Myers
T-Bar-C Ranch, 2012


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2019 Research Project Progress Report

That certainly sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But the short answer is, there is no progress because I haven’t been working on it. At all.

My big plan for 2018, which I completed, was to produce a bound book of Ancestors of My Brother from my FamilyTreeMaker data and give it to him for Christmas. Done, in 6 copies – one for him one for each of his children, and one for me. It’s gorgeous.

The plan for 2019 was to make research binder pages with full-page images to be printed and added to binders by some undetermined division of surnames. Each person/section would be supplemented by original documents and photos in acid-free page protectors, all properly identified. Sounded good. Didn’t happen.

What I have is a FTM database of just under 2,000 names with data collected over almost 50 years of research, which was massively cleaned up last year in preparation for the 2018 project. Time well-spent. I also have acid-free boxes divided by great-grandparent surname with original documents or copies such as death certificates, cemetery deeds, wills, letters, and military records. And photos – tho the tiny photos are being handled in another way. Yeah, lots of options. There’s also lots of correspondence, some of it dating back to the early 1970’s, from long-deceased relatives with seeds of information, and from cemeteries and churches with information covering multiple family members.

Also in the boxes are lots of random things, mostly outdated or replaced in digital form such as handwritten transcriptions of census records or abstracted land-deeds, and ancient family group sheets full of mis- or incomplete information. Some serious weeding of all of this was needed.

This week I started going through some of those boxes, weeding and sorting as I went, putting things in lovely clear acid-free sheet protectors and then putting THEM in a binder. I got through material for the Heginbothams, McCormicks, Cookes, Morrisons, and Flanders, which are all maternal lines. Next up are the boxes for my paternal lines, which have way more stuff to look at. But this is important.

What’s also important is coming to the realization that I do NOT want to make research binders with text, group sheets, original documents, etc. It’s a lot of work and I just don’t want to do it. What I want to do instead is make more printed & bound books with full-size photos and documents now in FamilyTreeMaker (which includes census, vital records, newspaper articles, city directory images, etc.). I’m thinking one book of ancestors for each of my grandparents, and one book of descendants for each set of grandparents.

All of these original documents that I’m carefully putting in acid-free storage can still go into binders by surname. I might organize them differently – not by individual person but by category of document, since several people in the same family appear on one page. Everything must be labeled, identified, and dated – because I’m the only one right now who knows what all that stuff is.

The goal is to make sure that all of the research I’ve done and all the material I’ve collected gets organized in a format that will be useful to me and to other family members who might refer to it when I’m not around to explain it.

So that’s the plan.


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Newspaper Finds

Last night I did random searches at Newspapers.com, looking up people I’ve checked before. Repeating an identical search can bring different results, since new papers are added and as older issues are digitized and made available.

First, this cool article about my grandparents from the New York Daily News (Brooklyn Section), Sunday, 17 April 1927:

Daily_News_Sun__Apr_17__1927_
Daily News (New York, New York), Brooklyn Section, Sunday, 17 April 1927, p.265, col.1 ; digital access, Newspapers.com, accessed 29 June 2018.

Second find: this short classified ad from the Asbury Park Press in 1920, placed by my great-grandfather:

Bungalow

Asbury Park Evening Press (Asbury Park, New Jersey), Saturday, 24 Jan 1920, p.9, col. 3 ; digital image, Newspapers.com, accessed 29 June 2018.

I have a photo album of pictures taken in what we think is Ocean Grove, New Jersey, about 1922. But given this ad, and reviewing newer information found about the people in the photos, I believe they were taken in the summer of 1920 at the “bungalow” located from the ad. Here we have my great-grandmother Charlotte McCormick Flanders (right), next to her mother Alice Heginbotham McCormick. Next to Alice is her son, Charles McCormick and his wife Mildred Hartt McCormick. Taking the photo was probably my great-grandfather, who does appear in other pictures in the album.

McCormicks-at-Ocean-Grove

I’ve been off my game in the ancestor profile writing campaign after the death of my father, but I’m still commited to writing about those who came before me. Look for more stories soon – there’s a long list of people who need to be written about!