Saturday, May 31, 2008

DENIED (Again)

Yesterday afternoon, as I was searching through the garage looking for a hat that I'm supposed to wear in a parade this morning, I came across a surprising find:

In a box in the center of the garage, buried underneath a down comforter and a bunch of paint supplies, were several old photos, a bag of my baby clothes, and two special books.

I know I must have seen these items at some point because I removed them from my mother's hope chest and put them in this box. But for the life of me, I cannot remember ever having seen them before.

One of the books was my baby book. You know... the ones in which parents are supposed to record all the important events of their child's life: first tooth, first word, how they celebrated their first birthday, a lock of baby's hair, etc. There's even a page on which to record the family tree.

My father had sworn on several occasions that such a book existed, but I swore that it did not.

Dad, if you're reading this... you were right. I do indeed have a baby book.

The other book was my parents' wedding book, or "Bride's Book," as it was called back then. Again, such a books were/are used to record important events from the wedding, such as who attended, what gifts were received, where the couple went on their honeymoon, etc. And there was a page on which to record the family tree.

I should be jumping for joy, right? I mean, who wouldn't be thrilled at such a terrific find!

Well... I'm not jumping. The books are incomplete.

The Bride's Book has a bit of information - a guest list (actually signed by the guests), a list of gifts, locations of the ceremony and honeymoon. There's even a postcard with a picture of the wedding chapel. The family tree page, however, is blank.

And my baby book? Almost completely empty.

Yes, I understand how busy a new mother can be. It's difficult to find time to take a shower and brush your teeth, much less fill out pages in a book.

But... wow. To say that I'm disappointed doesn't quite cover it.

So, let this be a lesson to you, folks:

Fill out those baby books! Don't spare the details in your wedding albums! Label your photos! And when your kids or grandkids give you those corny books about your life to fill in? DO IT!

DO IT because they love you and want to remember who you are.

You just never know when your time is up. Don't put it off until tomorrow because... well... there might not be a tomorrow.

Oh, and in case you don't hear from me for a few days, I'll probably be catching up on some pages in my daughter's (sorely neglected) baby book.

(See the sidebar for suggested items to help you tell YOUR story for future generations.)

P.S. That parade I mentioned? Check out the Elk's Rodeo Days Parade today at 9:00 a.m. on KCOY, if you don't have anything better to do - I'll be riding with the DAR!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Friday, May 30, 2008

Celebrating Memorial Day

Since today, May 30th, is the true Memorial Day (or Decoration Day, as it was once known), I wanted to share a few photos of how my family and I spent our weekend.

Last Saturday, we ventured up to the Santa Maria Cemetery where we "planted" flags on the graves of veterans. There were so many volunteers present that it only took about an hour to cover the entire cemetery (and it's not a tiny cemetery, either).

We were with a group from our local Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.), but there were also representatives from the VFW, 4-H, Boy Scouts, DAR, and a few groups I couldn't identify.

My daughter loved carrying the flags around, and tried hard to plant a few herself. Unfortunately, the ground was as hard as concrete, so without a trusty screwdriver to make the hole first, it was almost impossible to get the flags in the ground... even for a grown-up.

It was a pretty amazing sight to see all those flags go up.

On Monday, we went back to the Santa Maria Cemetery for the official Memorial Day Ceremony, sponsored by the American Legion, Post 56, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 2521.

A few kids - including my daughter - presented a wreath from the C.A.R. Wreaths were also presented by the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), and several other groups.

It was a very moving experience.

At one point, the ceremony was paused while Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." played. Several veterans in the audience were in uniform and removed their hats to slowly wave them to the music. I swear, there wasn't a dry eye in the place, including mine.

By the end of the weekend, my daughter was saying, "Flag" all by herself.

I think I got the point across... even to an almost-2-year old. In our house, Memorial Day isn't just a BBQ or a sale at the department store.

News coverage of this event by KCOY and The Santa Maria Times.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Back to the Beach: 1940's Suimsuit Edition

Pictured here, modeling the most lovely of late-1940's era children's swimwear, are my mother, Judy Dagle, and her older sister, Sharon Dagle.

As is the custom with my family, NONE of the photos are labeled, so I have absolutely no idea where they were taken, when, or what the occasion was (grrr). I'm lucky if I can figure out who is in the pictures.

Sharon and Judy in matching swimsuits, ca. 1943. Picture probably taken in Iowa. I'm guessing from the shoes and socks that both are wearing that there must be no water to play in nearby.

I do love the border around the photo. It says "ELKO" in the corners; apparently the Elko Photo Company was based in Kansas City, Missouri, so it's possible that they also did business in other midwestern states. (Digital Image. Original privately held by Elizabeth O'Neal, California, USA, 2008)

Judy and Sharon, a few years later. This time, no matching suimsuits. Notice the daring, yet subdued, tummy-baring "bikini" my mother was wearing! To my knowledge, she was never caught wearing one of these ever again. Photo was taken ca. 1947. Based on the background, they appear to be in northern Washington, at a lake or river. (Digital Image. Original privately held by Elizabeth O'Neal, California, USA, 2008)

This photo appears to have been taken on the same day as the previous photo.
(Digital Image. Original privately held by Elizabeth O'Neal, California, USA, 2008)

Perhaps someone from the Washington State area might recognize this spot? I do know that the family lived in Tacoma in the late 1940's/early 1950's, which is probably when these photos were taken.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Visit to Operation Gratitude

On May 17th, I had the priviledge of visiting the headquarters of Operation Gratitude in Van Nuys, California.

The mission of Operation Gratitude is to lift troops' morale and bring a smile to their faces by sending care packages to service members overseas. These care packages contain food, toiletries, entertainment items, and personal letters of appreciation, all wrapped with good wishes of love and support.

Through the collection drives, letter-writing campaigns, and donations of requested items or funds for shipping expenses, Operation Gratitude provides civilians anywhere in America a way to express their respect and appreciation to the men and women of the U.S. Military in an active, hands-on manner.
Support of Operation Gratitude is this year's state project for the California Society Children of the American Revolution (C.A.R.), a group to which my daughter belongs.

Below are photos of some of the many volunteers working to pack the thousands of boxes which will be sent to our troops.

Here I am, modeling the latest in OpGrat t-shirts!

Operation Gratitude is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all-volunteer corporation, funded entirely by private donations. Want to contribute? Visit their web site or contact me for information.

Photos of Operation Gratitude (Van Nuys, Los Angeles Co., California) taken by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 17, 2008. Thanks to Sharman B. for the photo of me!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wordless Wednesday: In Honor of Memorial Day

"Remembering Those Who Have Fallen" (Santa Maria Cemetery, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara Co., California). Photographed by Ben O'Neal, May 24, 2008.

About Wordless Wednesday.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Friday, May 23, 2008

7th edition of the Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy is Posted

The 7th Edition Carnival of Central and Eastern European Genealogy has been posted at Jessica's Genejournal. Jessica has done a terrific job hosting this carnival!

The topic for this edition was in honor of Mother's Day: articles were to be about a female ancestor from the region of Central or Eastern Europe.

My post, Anna Susan Bires: From "Cinderella" to a Happy Ending, discussed the life of my husband's great-grandmother from Czechoslovakia.

Many thanks to my mother-in-law for sharing her fond memories of her grandmother in preparation for this article. My husband and I used a digital voice recorder to record our telephone conversation with her. We hope to copy, transcribe, and share these memories (and hopefully others) at a later date.

In honor of Father's Day, the topic for the 8th Edition will be about a male ancestor from Central or Eastern Europe. The deadline for submissions is June 12th.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Anna Susan Bires: From "Cinderella" to a Happy Ending

My husband’s great-grandmother, Anna Susan Bires, was born on July 14, 1892 in Czechoslovakia. She was the daughter of George Bires and Susan Dudas.

Anna had a very unhappy childhood. Her mother Susan died following the birth of twins when Anna was about two years old. Sadly, the twins both died, as well.

George remarried shortly afterwards, and he and second wife Mary had five children. Mary treated Anna almost like the evil stepmother treated “Cinderella”: her own children had beds to sleep in and plenty of food, while Anna slept under the kitchen table and had barely enough to eat. When she was old enough, she was made to work during the week and give her earnings to Mary. On weekends, she worked at home for no pay.

Mary wanted Anna to marry an older man who was quite wealthy, but Anna refused. She said she would “jump in the well” before she would marry that man.

Anna eventually met John Andrew Pado (b. March 25, 1887), whom she married in May 1910 in Czechoslovakia.

Their first child, Mary, was born November 26, 1911, in Czechoslovakia.

John immigrated to the United States in 1911, and by 1914 had saved enough money to bring Anna and Mary to New York.

Five more children were born to John and Anna:

  • Anna Marie, born April 10, 1916 in Endicott, New York; died February 2, 2007 in Melbourne, Florida.
  • John, born May 3, 1918 in New York; died May 1978 in Johnson City, New York.
  • Beverly, born November 26, 1928; died March 9, 2003 in New Jersey.
  • Two other daughters are still living.
John took good care of Anna, and she was very happy with him and her life in the United States.

Granchildren called Anna, “Baba.” and John, “Zedo,” meaning grandmother and grandfather in Czech.

My husband’s mother remembers Anna as being a kind and thoughtful grandmother. She has fond memories of Anna cooking and baking whatever the children wanted to eat, and says Anna never had an unpleasant word to say about anybody. She remembers her as always smiling and happy.

One year on Anna’s birthday, when my husband’s mother was a young girl and did not have money to buy her grandmother a present, she went upstairs to Anna’s room and got a piece of jewelry from Anna's jewelry box, wrapped it up, and gave it to Anna as her “birthday gift.” Anna opened the package and acted surprised and thrilled to receive such a lovely piece of jewelry for a gift, never letting on that she knew it was her own.

John died in February, 1967. Anna stayed in Endicott, New York, until she died on October 20, 1979. Both are buried in New York.

Following her death, Anna was mourned by many family members and friends, and Masses were held for several days in her honor.

She had found her prince and got her happy ending after all.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Monday, May 19, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Since we moved to lovely Lompoc almost 3 years ago, I've meant to get involved in the local genealogical society. Every month, I would see the meeting notice in the newspaper and make a mental note to attend the meeting. Sometimes I even put it on my calendar.

Life got in the way most months, but a couple of times - including last month - I actually got off my behind and went to where the meeting was supposedly being held. Oddly enough, there were never any cars in the parking lot, and the place was deserted.


So, when I saw the meeting notice again in Sunday's newspaper, I decided to do the smart thing and call for information.

The first number I called was disconnected. Not a good sign.

My call to the second number was answered by a very surprised lady.

Where did you get my number?

In the newspaper, I told her.

Really? And what was the name of the group listed in the newspaper?

The Lompoc Valley Genealogical Society.

Wow, that's odd. I haven't been to meetings for that group in a long time. And they don't meet at the LDS Church anymore.

I'd guessed that already.

They're called the Lompoc Genealogy Club now, and they only meet occasionally in members' homes.
She gave me a contact name and number for someone in this "new" group, and asked me to please ask him to call the newspaper and have the meeting notice with her phone number in it stopped.

I called, and the gentleman on the line was quite surprised that the ad for the "old" LVGS was still running in the newspaper.

There's only one newspaper in town - doesn't anyone read it?

Turns out that the "new" group is now defunct, too. Membership had dwindled to about five regular members, and as he put it, it's hard to find officers and run a society with only a handful of members.

So true... and sadly, so common these days. It's often hard to find officers and run a society with 100 members.

He did offer to help me with my research, but I declined. I really wasn't looking for help so much as "fellowship" with live genealogists. Thankfully, I get that with my fellow genea-bloggers, but sometimes that face-to-face interaction helps in the motivation department.

So, how's the health of your local genealogical society?

Mine passed away... leaving no obituary in the newspaper.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Mom Knows Best: The 48th Edition Carnival of Genealogy

For the one or two of you out there who haven't heard... The 48th Edition Carnival of Genealogy: Mom, How'd You Get So Smart? was published on May 17th.

My mom always told me that she had eyes in the back of her head. I know now that it's just some special "smartness" that comes with being a mom.

And the need to stay at least one step ahead at all times.

My COG entry is here.

You won't want to miss the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy: Swimsuit Edition - just in time for the beach!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Momsense: How'd You Get So Smart?

Several years before my mother died, I gave her a book. It was one of those "All About Mom" personal history books, which asked a bunch of questions about life, and had blanks on which to fill in the answers.

Mom died in 2001. I found the book among her belongings... still full of empty blanks.

So I'm at a loss for information about much of her life.

I do know a little bit about her school years, mostly from the few stories she told and from the photos and news clippings I found after her death.

From what I can determine, Mom attended grade school at Sacred Heart School in Tacoma, Washington.

2nd Grade Class, Sacred Heart School (Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington). Photo taken May 20, 1949. Original in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

On the back of her second and fourth grade photos, she meticulously wrote the names of all of her classmates.

3rd Grade Class, Sacred Heart School (Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington). Photo taken c. 1950. Original in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

On the back of her third grade photo, she wrote, "This is the third grade when I had Father Kelly and Sister Mary Paula for my teachers, and Father Kelly for my priest." Mom always did have beautiful penmanship.

4th Grade Class, Sacred Heart School (Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington). Photo taken c. 1951. Original in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

High School Diploma of Judith Ann Dagle (St. Bernadine's High School, San Bernardino, San Bernardino County, California). Dated June 3, 1959. Original in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

After the death of her father Marvin Dagle, Mom, her mother Mary, and her sister Sharon moved to San Bernardino, California, where she attended St. Bernadine's High School. St. Bernadine's was an all-girl, Catholic school.

High School Graduation Photo of Judith Ann Dagle (St. Bernadine's High School, San Bernardino, San Bernardino County, California). Photo taken 1959. Original in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

St. Bernadine's High School Graduation Announcement from Unknown Newspaper. Date Unknown, estimated June 2, 1959. Original in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

After high school, Mom was accepted as a flight attendant (or "stewardess," as they said back then) with an airline - I believe it was American Airlines, but I'm not certain. She did not finish her training, as she decided to marry my father instead of becoming a flight attendant.

Mom never attended college, but always had a great love of reading. She voraciously read dozens of books each year, and instilled this love of reading in me with numerous trips to the library when I was young.

She was also the best "speller" of anyone I knew. Unfortunately, whenever I asked her how to spell a word, her favorite answer was, "Look it up."

I'm sure I'll be passing this wise bit of "momsense" on to my daughter someday.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: The Princess' New Throne

"The Princess' New Throne" (Lompoc, Santa Barbara Co., California). Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 14, 2008.

About Wordless Wednesday.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Toddler Talk

Me: What's a doggie say?

Daughter: Arf, arf, arf!

Me: What's a kittycat say?

Daughter: Owww, owww.

Me: What's a birdie say?

Daughter: tee, tee, tee

Me: What's a Mommy say (expecting no answer)?

Daughter: Goo grrl

Me: Good girl? Really? (breathes sigh of relief)


On a side note for all you moms of tots (or anyone else who might be interested):

On Thursday, May 15th, McDonald's is giving away a FREE Southern Style Chicken Biscuit or Southern Style Chicken Sandwich, with the purchase of a medium or large drink. What you get depends on what time you get there.

Lunch anyone?

Photo of Reilly (my dog) taken September 11, 2007, by Elizabeth O'Neal.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mom: How Beautiful is Your Smile!

The 1st Edition of Smile For The Camera - A Carnival of Images: Mother Love - Love of Mother has been posted.

You won't want to miss the beautiful photos and tributes to some wonderful moms.

My entry, a photo of my mother and me, is here.

Off to get some tissues now...

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Happy Mother's Day, Mommy!

Look at me, Mommy - I styled my hair all by myself... with maple syrup!

I'm ready to go to brunch now!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Celebrating Moms

Before I was a Mom

Before I was a Mom I made and ate hot meals.
I had unstained clothing.
I had quiet conversations on the phone.

Before I was a Mom I slept as late as I wanted.
And never worried about how late I got into bed.
I brushed my hair and my teeth everyday.

Before I was Mom I cleaned my house each day.
I never tripped over toys or forgot words to lullabies.

Before I was a Mom I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom I had never been puked on, pooped on, spit on, peed on, or pinched by tiny fingers.

Before I was a Mom I had complete control of my mind, my thoughts, my body and all my feelings.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom I never held down a screaming child so that doctors could do tests or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put it down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn't know that bond between a Mother and her child.
I didn't know that something so small could make me feel so important.

Before I was a Mom I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every 10 minutes to make sure all was OK.
I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache or the satisfaction of being a Mom.
I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much...

...before I was a Mom.

~Author Unknown

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers and mothers-to-be out there from our family to yours.

Photo of my mother, Judy Ann Dagle, and her mother, Mary McGraw Dagle, taken on Mother's Day, May 8, 1949. Original in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

Friday, May 9, 2008

How Much Your Mother Loves You

Photo of my mother, Judy Dagle Swanay, and me; September 1963. I was about 1 month old. (Original photo in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal)

"You'll never really know how much your mother loved you until you become a mother yourself."

My mother used to say this all the time. I never understood what it meant until I had my daughter.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Happy Birthday, Mimi

Today, May 9th, would have been my grandmother’s 91st birthday.

Mary Margaret "Maura" McGraw was born in Stanton, Nebraska, and was the daughter of Thomas McGraw and Elizabeth Marie Delaney.

She was the eldest of five children. Her siblings were:

  • Thomas R. McGraw, born January 19, 1919, in Geneva, Nebraska; died February 26, 1984, in Tigard, Oregon.
  • Robert McGraw, born August 18, 1924, in Nebraska; died August 13, 2000, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
  • Myda G. McGraw, born December 23, 1927, in Keystone, Nebraska; died January 27, 2002, in Sioux City, Woodbury Co, Iowa.
  • One sister who is still living.
On June 10, 1936, Mary married George Marvin Dagle in Elk Point, Nebraska. Marvin, as he was called, died on August 12, 1951, at the age of 39, in Tacoma, Washington, leaving Mary alone to raise their two young daughters, Sharon and Judy.

Mary and the girls moved to California a few years after Marvin’s death. She eventually remarried, and had another daughter who is still living.

Mary worked at a variety of jobs to support her family; however, the one that I remember best is when she worked as a hostess and clubhouse supervisor at Leisure World in Laguna Hills (now Laguna Woods Village), California. She loved making the lives of the residents more pleasant, and they, in turn, loved her.

Mary died on February 24, 2004, in Hemet California. She is buried at Riverside National Cemetery in Riverside, California.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Wish is Granted for Geni Users

There has been some discussion recently among fellow genea-bloggers about using online genealogy databases. Randy at Genea-Musings and Denise at Family Matters both use WeRelate, which calls itself "the world's largest genealogy wiki."

I haven't tried WeRelate, but have instead been using Geni.

Why Geni? No reason, really, except that I saw it first.

I learned of Geni last June at the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree. A couple of guys from Geni had a table in the Exhibit Room, and their big-screen display happened to catch the eye of my computer engineer husband.

Plus, their nifty brochure featuring Brad Pitt's (presumed) family tree caught my eye, so I told my husband that I'd try it out.

The first thing I noticed was that Geni did not allow you to upload a GEDCOM. This was extremely frustrating, especially for those of us with thousands of names in our databases. The thought of entering information for each ancestor individually was mind-numbing.

Geni users kept asking (wishing?) for a GEDCOM upload. Geni kept saying, "Be patient - it's coming!"

Ok, fine. I don't really consider myself a patient person, but I liked many of Geni's features, so I was willing to hang in there. For a while.

After all, my family enjoyed seeing the gazillion photos of my daughter that I'd already posted. And a few of us were already collaborating and sharing what we knew about various ancestors.

My very favorite feature? The birthday/anniversary/special occasion reminders that nudge me via email. This could only be improved if a hand came out of my computer and tapped me on the shoulder. Repeatedly.

I've found Geni to be kind of like a cross between MySpace, Flickr, and a regular genealogy database (and yes, I use all three).

Well, patience has finally paid off... sort of. Geni announced today on its Blog and via Twitter that GEDCOMs with up to 5,000 names can now be imported.

This is good news for new users, or users who have only posted a small tree.

It's not such good news for users (like myself) who have already painstakingly entered many names and photos:

Please Note: Importing a GEDCOM will create a new Geni Tree. If you already have a Geni account you must use a different email address for this import. This will start a new Tree which will not be merged into your existing Tree. We plan to enable GEDCOM Import into existing Trees in the future.
Visions of GEDCOM-mergers-past gone bad keep dancing through my head...

So... it seems that I may be exercising my patience a bit longer. We'll see. If I get brave and give the merger thing a try, I'll let you know how it goes. And please do the same for me, if you're a Geni user. I'd love to hear your success story!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: In Celebration of Mothers

Photo of my grandmother Reba Dunn Swanay (center), daughter Edna, and mother Sarah Jane Swatzel Dunn (right), c. 1918. Copy of original photograph in possession of Elizabeth O'Neal.

About Wordless Wednesday.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Monday, May 5, 2008

Two Treats!


I was a little under the weather yesterday, so I didn't get to see the posting of the Carnival of Genealogy, 47th Edition, until this morning. The topic for this edition was "A Place Called Home." So many parts of the world are represented - you won't want to miss checking out these terrific articles for a little "armchair travel" around the world!

I'm running out of superlatives to describe what a wonderful job Jasia does with the Carnival of Genealogy. Thank you again, Jasia, for all you do. I hope you enjoy a much-deserved summer break!


I typically let my daughter watch her favorite cartoon - "The Little Einsteins" on the Disney Channel - in the mornings. I know, Bad Mommy using the TV as a babysitter... but it keeps her occupied for a while so I can get my morning chores done. I'll deal with the guilt later.

Anyway, while "The Little Einsteins" are saving the world yet again, I like to tune out (a little - moms NEVER completely tune out) by listening to my favorite podcasts on my iPod. These include a variety of genealogy podcasts such as Lisa L. Cooke's "Genealogy Gems," and "DearMYRTLE's Family History Hour."

I'm also something of a LOST junkie, and I enjoy "The Lost Podcast with Jay and Jack." It's good to know that I'm not the only one confused by this show.

So this morning I was listening to "The Genealogy Guys Podcast" with George C. Morgan and Drew Smith, episode #135, and who did I hear them mention? Why, none other than Miriam Midkiff from AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors!

Miriam had written to The Guys to in response to a previous show on which they discussed genetic genealogy, and she referred them to Blaine Bettinger's free publication, "I Have The Results of My Genetic Genealogy Test, Now What?" available on Blaine's blog, The Genetic Genealogist.

I was happy to hear both of these fine blogs mentioned by The Guys on their show. If you haven't read either of these blogs, or listened to the podcasts I mentioned, I hope that you'll take some time to do so. You won't be disappointed!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

It's Greener in Greeneville

Pleasant Hill Church: many of my ancestors are buried in its cemetery. (Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 1995)

My father’s parents came to California from Tennessee, specifically, Greeneville, in Greene County, Tennessee.

About Greene County

Located at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, Greene County is found in the Eastern part of Tennessee, and is named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Major General Nathanael Greene. It was organized from Washington County, Tennessee, in 1783, with Greeneville as the county seat.

Greene County is ranked the 6th largest county in the state, and covers 624 square miles with an average elevation of 1,320 feet above sea level. Of this, more than 230,000 acres are under cultivation by Greene County's nearly 3,400 farm families.

Like in the days of early Greene County, farming continues to be an important industry. (Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 1995 )

Some famous Greene Countians:

Davy Crockett (Col. David Stern Crockett) was born in Greene County on August 17, 1786. You probably know him as the “King of the Wild Frontier,” but he also had quite a political career, and represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives. Col. Crockett died at the historic Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.

President Andrew Johnson used to make his home in Greenville. “Old Hickory,” as he was known, became the 17th President of the United States after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. His former home and tailor shop are open to the public.

This replica of Andrew Jackson's South Carolina birth place stands in Greene County. (Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 1995 )

But I’m not related to either of these gentlemen.

My Visit to Greene County

My father, my aunt (Dad’s sister), and I took a trip to see the “ancestral home” of Greeneville over Memorial Day weekend in 1995. My aunt was the person who got me interested in genealogy back in 1987, and she had been researching our family for about a decade before that. So it was fitting that we should make this trip together.

My father and I met at the airport in Knoxville; he flew in from Massachusetts, and I from San Diego. The first thing I noticed was the HUMIDITY. It was like a wall of steam hitting me in the lungs! Being a California desert girl, this came as quite a shock.

Once my aunt arrived from Washington, we were able to really get the show on the road. The next day, we took the scenic route from Knoxville to Greeneville via the Great Smoky Mountains and a teensy corner of North Carolina. Having never been in this part of the country before, I enjoyed the drive very much.

The "Olde Greene County Gaol" (jail), built in 1882 by Turner and Lane.
(Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 1995 )

While in Greeneville, we experienced as much of the “local color” as possible. My favorite was the way the waitresses would always ask, “Would you like grits with that?” Grits aren’t a staple of the typical California diet, so this was an unusual question to me. I really didn't want grits with anything, and I still don't.

(Oddly enough, my husband loves grits. But then, he’s a “southerner,” having lived in both Carolinas, as well as Florida, growing up.)

I was also struck by how aptly named Greeneville was: everything was so green! After a few days, I started wondering why on earth my grandparents ever left Greeneville for California. I mean, I know why they really left (I think), and it had nothing to do with the landscape, but still… Los Angeles must have been quite a change for them.

Tusculum College, founded in 1794, is Tennessee's oldest college.
(Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 1995 )

We stopped for a short visit at Tusculum College, admiring the beautiful stone arch at the entry. In my grandfather's younger days, he wanted to become a teacher, and had dreams of attending Tusculum. Life got in the way, and this didn't happen; however, he did raise two children who became teachers, and two of his grandchildren also became teachers. It seems that teaching runs in the family.

The three of us trekked through as many cemeteries as possible, visiting the known graves of ancestors, and discovering a few new ones. We hit cemetery “pay dirt” at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery, finding lots of family graves to photograph and record. Unfortunately, we had a big missed opportunity, because at the time, we didn’t know that the burial location of our Revolutionary War ancestor Leroy Taylor was just down the road in Leesburg (the town named for him – DUH!).

Greeneville’s most historic cemetery, the Old Harmony Graveyard, was established in 1791. Many of Greeneville’s most famous residents are buried there. Although none are/were related to me, we did check it out, just the same.

Old Harmony Graveyard (Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 1995 )

We also visited the courthouse and found some genealogical gems, which I’ll be happy to talk about in future articles.

I really loved visiting Greeneville, Tennessee. The landscape was lush and green, and the people were warm and friendly.

I hope to make it back again soon, especially now that I’m armed with even more genealogical information!

We were surprised to learn that we're actually named after this sign! Or was the sign named after us? Either way, it was a fun find! (Photographed by Elizabeth O'Neal, May 1995 )

More About Greene County, Tennessee:

TN GenWeb
Pleasant Hill Cemetery on Find A Grave
Old Harmony Graveyard on Find A Grave

Copyright © Elizabeth O'Neal