Sunday, September 28, 2008

Final Hurricane Ike Update From FTDNA

I received the following announcement from Family Tree DNA this morning:

Dear Customers,

Here is the latest update regarding our Lab in Houston:

Again, we want to stress that there has been no interruption in the processes related to the standard Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, which are performed in Arizona. The batch was successfully closed this week and transmitted on Wednesday, the regular day, at the regular time.

The Genomics Research Center (Houston Lab) processes the full mitochondria, autosomal, and deep clade, as well as the advanced marker tests. In the past few days we have run several DNA sequences from samples stored in Houston and the results clearly demonstrated that there was no loss or damage to the samples stored in Houston. The Houston Lab has resumed processing orders for the full mitochondria, Y-DNA deep clade and advanced marker tests. While the Lab has not yet returned to full capacity, some of you may begin seeing results as soon as Tuesday.

Many thanks again for your patience and support. We would also like to take this opportunity to say a few words of praise and express appreciation to our entire team; notably the Lab, Customer Service and IT. All have been doing an outstanding job in enabling our work to continue with a minimum of disruption. In particular, the Lab team has gone above and beyond the call of duty to normalize operations. We are so fortunate to have such a motivated and professional team in place.

This is our last update related to Hurricane Ike. Our next announcement to you will be after we have established the new date for the conference.

E-mail us anytime!

Bennett Greenspan

Max Blankfeld
Vice-President, Operations and Marketing
Don't forget: FTDNA's "Sizzling Summer Sale" officially ends on September 30th. If you've been thinking about getting tested, you won't want to miss this great opportunity!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Friday, September 26, 2008

DAR Conference Time

Well, I'm off to another conference! This time, I'm headed to Irvine for the Southern Council meeting of the California State Society, Daughters of the American Revolution.

It's about a 3-5 hour drive from here to there, depending on traffic, so I expect that I'll be catching up on several of my favorite genealogy podcasts during the ride. And perhaps a little toddler-free shopping? Who knows? The possibilities are endless!

I'll be presenting two workshops tomorrow on computers and the DAR, so if any of you will also be attending, please stop by and say hello!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know "Little Bytes of Life"

Is this a Mommy Blog? Or a genealogy blog? Or... what???

That's a good question! And I'm going to have to say both.

Hi folks, and welcome to my blog. My name is Elizabeth O'Neal, and I'm the writer, publisher and chief-bottle-washer of Little Bytes of Life. I'm a "retired" elementary school teacher, who is now a stay-at-home-mom to my beautiful 2-year old daughter. I've worked in a variety of fields during my lifetime, but I have to say that Mommy is the best - and most tiring! - job I've ever had. I got a bit of a late start in the parenting field, so I try to enjoy every moment as much as possible.

I've loved to write since I was a kid, and I started this blog as a way to share stories, news and photos of my daughter with my far-flung family. But in the almost-12 months since I began, my posts have taken a decidedly "genealogical" turn.

In 1987, when my paternal grandmother died, it became agonizingly clear that members of my family were dropping like flies, and that someone should be the "keeper" of our family history. That job had fallen to my aunt for many years, but she was eventually going to need back-up... so I stepped up to the plate. A few family group sheets later, I was hooked.

In the years since, genealogy has become my passion. It doesn't matter if I'm researching my family, my husband's family, or the family of a complete stranger... I truly enjoy solving the mystery of family history.

My goal for the hopefully-not-too-distant future is to pursue certification as a professional genealogist. What I'll do with it, I haven't figured out yet. But I look forward to whatever the future brings!


Here is a sampling of what I consider to be a few of my brightest, breeziest, and most beautiful posts from the past year:

My Brightest:

Although not necessarily my best work writing-wise, the post which would most help readers to understand me and my blog would have to be DAR's 117th Continental Congress. My work with the DAR (and C.A.R.) keeps me very busy, and I do love the group and what they do. Unfortunately, I'm not the luckiest person when it comes to my own genealogical research. But at least I'm not bitter.

My Breeziest:

This would have to be a post I wrote earlier in the year called Beam Me Up, Scotty. Sorry to disappoint the Trekkies out there, but this post has nothing to do with Star Trek, and everything to do with my complete and utter frustration in researching my mother's family history. It's like they were beamed here by aliens.

And knowing my family like I do, that would explain a lot.

My Most Beautiful:

I'm going to have to break the rules here and call this one a tie:

One Perfect Day is about a special day I spent with my daughter. I still cry when I read it. Worth More than 1,000 Words is the most beautiful photo I have ever taken, and probably ever will.


The way I see it, genealogy is the study of our ancestors, and "mommy-blogging" is the study of our descendants. Generations connect and intertwine; there is no clearly-defined line between them. My hope is to put together as much information as possible to pass on to my daughter - and to her generations to come - so we can all stay connected on some level.

If you get a chance, I hope you will take a few moments to look through some of the 150+ posts on this site. Perhaps we'll find that we're cousins!

I love to hear what you have to say, so please feel free to leave a comment. I try to respond to comments as quickly as possible, but sometimes potty-training or feeding a picky toddler do have to come first. You can also contact me directly at littlebytesoflife at gmail (dot) com.

Thank you so much for stopping by!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal


This post was written in response to the Hill Country Getting to Know You Challenge 2008.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hubs!

Wishing my husband a very happy birthday today!

(Hubs is also middle-aged, so we're both really hoping our daughter goes to college and gets a high-paying job so she can support us when we're old. Which will be soon. No pressure.)

In honor of your birthday, here's hoping that the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in today's football game. And please... go buy a new cell phone for yourself as a birthday present, will ya?

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Family Tree DNA: More Post-Hurricane Ike News

There's been a lot of speculation on various genealogy/DNA email lists as to whether or not the Family Tree DNA Conference would be held in November, as planned. Questions are answered in this email from Bennett Greenspan, FTDNA President, which I received this evening:

Dear Customers,

Here is the latest update regarding the Conference and our lab in Houston:

a) The 5th Annual Conference on Genetic Genealogy will be postponed until February or March 2009, as the Sheraton Hotel has just informed us that they will not be in an appropriate condition to host our conference. The positive aspect of this postponement is that we will try our best to arrange the schedule in order for Spencer Wells to be one of our speakers. As soon as we have the new date we will advise you.

b) Labs: First of all there has been no interruption in the processes related to the standard Y-DNA and mtDNA tests, which are performed in Arizona. The batch was successfully closed this week and transmitted, a couple of days later than normal, due to networking issues that were resolved Friday.

The Genomics Research Center (Houston Lab) processes the full mitochondria, autosomal, and deep clade, as well as the advanced marker tests. These are the only ones subject to delays. We are pleased to announce that due to the outstanding efforts of our lab team and the restoration crew in place at our site, we were able to fully restore the freezing capabilities of our DNA storage robot. Yesterday, we were also able to power one of our sequencing machines. Our lab team is working this weekend and we will be able to advise you of the integrity of the DNA samples stored in Houston by mid-week. As soon as this is confirmed, our Houston lab will resume the work on our customer samples, while we restore the full capabilities of the lab.

As we have additional news, we will keep updating you.

We also want to take this opportunity to express our sincere appreciation for the hundreds of emails of support and encouragement that we have received during this difficult time. There is no adequate way to express how much this means to us and our entire team. Thank you so much!

As always, many thanks for your continued support! E-mail us anytime!

Bennett Greenspan

Max Blankfeld
Vice-President, Operations and Marketing

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Something's Missing

"Is Something Missing?" Digital image. Photographed by Elizabeth O’Neal, September 12, 2008. Privately held by Elizabeth O’Neal, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Santa Barbara Co., California. 2008.

About Wordless Wednesday.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Monday, September 15, 2008

On This Date: September 15th

In 1895: My great-grandmother, Elizabeth Marie (Delaney) McGraw, was born in Exeter, Nebraska.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Hat tip to Thomas at Destination: Austin Family for the inspiration!

Hair, Hair, Everywhere!

The 5th Edition, Smile for the Camera ~ A Carnival of Images: A Crowning Glory has been posted at Shades of the Departed.

This time, participants shared photos of hair, hats, and a variety of headgear. These glorious crowns are truly a sight to behold!

My submission is here: Crowning Glory: The Long and the Curled of It, featuring a photo of my great-grandmother, Bess Delaney McGraw, as a young girl with her long, beautiful tresses. Looking at this picture, I wonder if maybe there's some truth to that Indian Princess story? Nah.

Please drop by Shade's to check out these hair-raising photos! And while you're there, you'll want to read up on the requirements for submissions for the 6th Edition: "Funny Bone." Start looking for those photos that make you giggle, chuckle, chortle and LOL!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal


"Crowning Glory" graphic courtesy of footnoteMaven.

Tops in my Genealogy Library

Can a genealogist ever have too many books? Probably not. Here is a sampling of the top 10, most-used books in my genealogical library:

Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers, Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians by Elizabeth Shown Mills

Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon de Bartolo Carmack

Historic Greene County, Tennessee and Its People: 1783-1992, by the Greene County History Book Committee

Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History, Revised Edition by James G. Ryan

French Canadian Sources: A Guide for Genealogists by Patricia Keeney Geyh et. al.

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, Third Edition by Val D. Greenwood - I have the 2nd Edition, but the 3rd Edition is now available.

The DAR Patriot Index, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution - I'll confess that I don't use my outdated, hard copy any longer. As a DAR member, I have access to the online database which is continually updated as new patriots are proven. Nevertheless, the book is still a terrific resource, and should not be overlooked.

Catalog of the Seimes Microfilm Collection (2001) , National Society Daughters of the American Revolution - A listing of State and County records and Family history titles that are available on film and fiche in the DAR Microfilm center.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal


This post was written for the 56th Edition, Carnival of Genealogy: 10 Essential Books In My Genealogy Library.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hurricane Ike Update from Family Tree DNA

By now, we've all seen the images of destruction in Texas caused by Hurricane Ike this past weekend. Buildings damaged, thousands without power, debris and flooding everywhere... our hearts go out to all who have been impacted by this terrible storm.

Wondering how the offices of Family Tree DNA fared, I was happy to receive the following email this evening:

Dear Customers,

As a follow-up to our letter informing you of the level of preparedness Family Tree DNA established regarding the coming of Hurricane Ike to Houston, we are coming to you now to update you on our status post-Ike.

a) As you may know, all of our standard Y-DNA and mtDNA tests are processed at the lab in Arizona, and therefore, this processing has not been affected at all.

b) Also, as we advised previously, we have taken appropriate measures to safeguard and protect the data and our servers and therefore all computer systems are in place and functioning normally. You may have noticed that our web sites have been up, available, and are running normally as they were before and during the storm.

c) The building where Family Tree DNA's offices and Houston laboratory are located is without power, like most of Houston office buildings, and sustained damage, like so many other Houston office buildings. This means that the building will be closed for the next few days until it is ready for tenants to return. Despite this situation, several members of our staff have worked over the weekend to transfer equipment to other locations so that our normal office operations can resume on Monday, or at the latest on Tuesday, from an alternate location. All postal mail will be picked up normally at our local post office, so that kits can be checked-in and processed normally.

d) The coming days will allow us to have a better assessment of when our Houston lab will resume normal operations, at which point we will be back to you again with additional information about any delays in delivering results for the advanced tests that our lab processes in Houston. (Advanced panels, FGS and Deep Clade Y SNP's)

Please forgive us if in the next few days we don't meet our standard level of customer service as to e-mails and phone calls. We will be back to normal as soon as possible. We appreciate your continued support.

E-mail us anytime!

Bennett Greenspan

Max Blankfeld
Vice-President, Operations and Marketing
Glad to know that they made it through the storm reasonably intact. I'm sure it will be a rough road to recovery for everyone.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sharing the Heart... I Mean, Love

Last week, Jessica of Jessica's Genejournal was kind enough to select me for the "I Heart Your Blog" award. I have been terribly remiss in thanking her, so I'm going to do it now: THANK YOU, Jessica! (Better late than never, I hope!)

There are always rules attached to these awards - which, as a mom, I can appreciate - so here they are:

1. The winner can put the logo on his/her blog;
2. Link to the person who gave you the award (that would be moi);
3. Nominate at least 7 other blogs;
4. Put links to those blogs on yours;
5. Leave a message on the blogs that you’ve nominated.

Seven, huh? Hmmm... there are so many wonderful and amazing blogs out there that I read everyday. Perhaps I should just throw a dart at my Google Reader... nah, my monitor has sustained enough damage already.

Ok, in no particular order, here are a few of the many whom I heart:

California Genealogical Society & Library Blog (awesome lady who I haven't thanked enough yet)

Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi

West in New England

The Educated Genealogist

Amy's Genealogy, etc. Blog

In My Life


Destination: Austin Family

You guys are all awesome, and I heart you very much!


UPDATED 9/14/08:

I was naughty and didn't follow the rules, as stated. No, I don't usually have trouble following rules, but with a little one in the house... well, you know. After I published this post, I looked at the time and realized that my daughter and I were going to be late for our date at the Zoo, so we had to rush out. I finally got back to the computer today, 2 days later.

Thankfully, several of my nominees found out about the award on their own (I heart them because they're so SMART!), and I've now complied with the rules and notified the remaining nominees. Hopefully my award will not be revoked for failure to play nice. Judges?

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Is Ike Headed Straight for Your DNA?

Wondering how your DNA sample(s) will fare now that Hurricane Ike is headed straight for the Texas Gulf Coast? Me too.

Yesterday, I received the following announcement from Family Tree DNA:

Dear Family Tree DNA Group Administrator,

Many of you are probably aware that Hurricane Ike is currently in the Gulf of Mexico. Family Tree DNA’s offices are located about 50 miles inland from the Gulf and our websites are hosted on servers in high security datacenters nearby with backups and standbys both in our offices and in other locations in the region. All locations are directly attached to high speed / high capacity fiber optic networks. We have put effective backup and redundancy systems in place to prevent any loss of data. For example, we take a snapshot of the complete genetic and business databases every 15 minutes and maintain those 15 minute snapshots locally for more than a month. Shortly after each snapshot, the data is replicated to the other backup sites for redundancy. Should there be a catastrophic impact to the Houston area, you should be confident that Family Tree DNA’s customer and business data is safe.

If you would like to follow along the progress of the storm, we have found this site to be very informative:

For those of you concerned about our web site and systems we suggest that you continue to encourage new members to join your surname project. There should be no loss of power within the database center and your orders will give our staff something to do on Monday, since we'll probably send everyone home to hunker down early Friday afternoon.

By the way, most of our Group Administrators have done a wonderful job promoting the current Y-DNA and mtDNA sale we have for project members. The batch that closed on Wednesday was exceptional and you will see quite a boost to the database size within the next several weeks as the much larger number of Y-DNA kits work themselves through the system. Thanks for your support.

Best Regards,
Bennett Greenspan
President, Family Tree DNA
Sounds like they've got it covered!

Oh, and there's still time to get in on the sale that Mr. Greenspan referenced. Please check out my earlier post about FTDNA's Sizzling Summer Sale - note that the deadline has been extended to September 30th!

Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is in harm's way during this hurricane season. Stay safe out there, people.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Not Just Like Any Other Day

About a month and a half before the terrible events of September 11, 2001, my mother died unexpectedly. Still consumed with grief, I was having an extremely difficult time coping with life, work, and people who didn't understand my pain. I was certain that nobody else in the world felt the way I did.

And then the world changed.

Just like that, thousands of people joined me in grief. Suddenly, we were all comrades in shock: we were all missing someone, we were all in pain. It was overwhelming, but on some level it was also comforting.


It sounds twisted now, but seven years ago it all made sense.

At the time, I was divorced, living alone, and working as a 1st grade teacher at an elementary school in Lancaster. As I'd done on so many other mornings, I poured a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch to watch the morning's news.

It was about 6:00 a.m. on the west coast. Half-listening, I heard Charlie Gibson talk of an airplane hitting one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

It took a few moments for my brain to register what had happened. "What a terrible accident," I thought. I was under the impression that some small plane had veered horribly off course and met with a tragic end.

As I tried to process the bizarre images on TV, the unthinkable occurred: the camera panned away from the burning tower to show a large aircraft headed straight for the World Trade Center. Charlie Gibson was stunned... we were all stunned, and we watched in helpless horror as the plane continued on its course and slammed into the second tower.

Twice in one morning? This could not possibly have been an accident.

I remember holding my coffee cup as if to take a sip, but I couldn't move. I just stared in disbelief.

Checking the time, I hazily remembered that I had to get myself together for work, a task that I dreaded each day. Today, that task seemed insurmountable.

I turned the TV on in the bedroom to try to follow the events as I went about my morning routine. When I got out of the shower, another plane was off course and apparently heading straight for the Pentagon.

What the hell was happening? Had the world gone mad while I was asleep?

The Pentagon was hit. Panic started to set in. My father took periodic business trips to the Pentagon, and I hadn't heard from him in a while. Was it possible that he was there? No... he couldn't be. I would have heard something. But that nagging thought remained in my head.

I continued to watch the horrific events unfold as I went through the motions of getting ready for work. A fourth plane, thought to be headed for the U.S. Capitol Building, crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Both towers of the World Trade Center collapsed. Thousands were thought to be dead.

How did this happen? How do commercial jets get hijacked in 2001?

As I drove to work, I frantically called my father's cell phone. Was I going to lose both of my parents within 2 months of each other? No answer. No answer at work, either. I finally called his house and reached my stepmother. No, he wasn't on a business trip. He'd gone to work, just like any other day. His employer was sending everyone home, so he was on his way back to the house. They were all in shock.

Arriving at work, I was stunned to find everybody going about their business as usual. Didn't they know what had happened? Didn't they know we were under attack? Shouldn't we send the students home to their parents?

Apparently the school's philosophy was that unless we were directly under attack, classes would proceed as if all was right with the world.

In retrospect, it was probably for the best. Best for the students, I mean. They were allowed to be children - kept away from adult worries and fears - for one more day. The teachers smiled and pretended everything was fine. We laughed and played games, but our hearts were heavy.

The world as we knew it had changed. This was not just like any other day.


For the months that followed, I have almost no recollection of my days at work. What I do remember is coming home, turning on the TV, and feeling the strange, surreal camaraderie of a nation in mourning. Night after night, I wrapped myself in it like a warm, comfy blanket.

I was no longer grieving alone.

It wasn't healthy; I know that now. That warm, comfy blanket was suffocating me. But grief is so hard to let go. As long as we hold on to our grief, it's almost as if we can still hold on to our lost loved one.

Even today, watching the events of September 11th unfold once again on TV, I was transported back to 2001. The familiar pain washed over me like a tidal wave. I wanted to hold on just a little bit longer.


If only it had been just like any other day. I wonder what today would have been like.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crowning Glory: The Long and the Curled of It

There was a little girl
Who had a little curl
Right in the middle of her forehead;
And when she was good
She was very, very good,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

(My mother used to recite this poem to me when I was a little girl... probably because I actually had the hairdo that Longfellow described. Hopefully not because I was horrid.)

The photo, above, is of my great-grandmother - and namesake - Elizabeth Marie "Bess" (Delaney) McGraw. When she was a young girl, her hair truly was her crowning glory... and she had a lot of it.

I can only recall meeting her once in my life. I was still quite young myself, and she'd been ill for a long time.

But if I remember correctly, she still had her long hair... completely white and pinned up in a bun.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal


More about Elizabeth Delaney's family.

McGraw, Elizabeth Marie (Delaney). Photograph. ca. 1910. Digital image. Privately held by Elizabeth O’Neal, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Santa Barbara Co., California. 2008.

Article composed for the 5th Edition, Smile for the Camera: Crowning Glory.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Central Coast Lineage Groups Calendar: September 2008

Saturday, September 13
Captain Henry Sweetser Chapter DAR
Santa Maria
10:00 AM - Noon
Si Tenenberg - "Helping Our Troops in the Desert with Care Packages"

Thursday, September 18
El Paso de Robles Chapter DAR
Paso Robles

Saturday, September 20
Rancho Purisima Chapter DAR
10:00 AM

Saturday, September 20
Central Coast Chapter SAR
San Luis Obispo
12:00 Noon

Saturday, September 20
Santa Barbara Chapter SAR
Santa Barbara
12:00 Noon

Wednesday, September 24
La Cuesta Chapter DAR
San Luis Obispo

Thursday, September 25
Mitz-Kahn-a-Khan Chapter DAR
Dave Pressey - "The Constitution"

Thursday, September 25
Mission Canyon Chapter DAR
Santa Barbara
12:00 Noon
Cosette Laperruque - "Bicentennial of the Signing of the Paris Peace Treaty 1783-1983"

Friday, September 26
Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Laura Belle Stoddard Tent 22
Santa Barbara

DAR = Daughters of the American Revolution
SAR = Sons of the American Revolution

If you would like to have your group's information included in this listing, please contact me. Thanks!

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Thursday, September 4, 2008

55th Edition, Carnival of Genealogy is Posted

Jasia at Creative Gene has once again outdone herself with a spectacular round-up for the Carnival of Genealogy. This time, the topic was "Show and Tell," and 49 bloggers contributed 50 terrific articles. You won't want to miss this outstanding read!

My entry is My Mother's Mysterious Hope Chest, in which I show and tell - with a little help from my daughter - about the hope chest I inherited after my mother died.

The topic for the next edition of the Carnival of Genealogy will be "10 essential books in my genealogy library," hosted by Lori Thorton at Smoky Mountain Family Historian. The deadline for submissions is September 15th.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

California Central Coast Genealogy Calendar: September 2008

Thursday, September 4
Monterey County Genealogical Society
7:00 PM
Caroline Miller - "A Few Favorite Research Tools"

Saturday, September 6
San Luis Obisbo Genealogical Society
12:30 - 1:00 PM
Research Class: Joel Weintraub - “1940 Census”
1:45 PM
Joel Weintraub - “Searching the US Census by Geographical Means When Name Indexes Fail"

Tuesday, September 9
Conejo Valley Genealogical Society
7:00 - 9:00 PM
Computer Interest Group Meeting

Friday, September 12
San Luis Obisbo Genealogical Society
10:30 AM - Noon
"Finding Your Ancestors on the Internet"

Monday, September 15
Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
10:00 AM - Noon
Jan Cloud - "Researching Your English Family Roots"

Tuesday, September 16
Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
5:15 - 7:15 PM
Louise Matz - "Beginning/Intermediate Genealogical Research

Tuesday, September 16
Conejo Valley Genealogical Society
6:45 - 8:45 PM
Tom Underhill - "How to Write and Publish a Family History People Will Read"

Wednesday, September 17
Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
10:00 AM - Noon
Jan Cloud - "Intermediate/Advanced Genealogical Research

Friday, September 19
San Luis Obisbo Genealogical Society
1:00 - 2:30 PM
"Using Ancestry Press Online Publisher"

Saturday, September 20
Santa Barbara County Genealogical Society
10:30 AM
Program TBA

Saturday, September 20
Ventura County Genealogical Society
1:00 - 4:00 PM
Gena Philibert Ortega - "The Needle in the Haystack: Finding your Female Ancestors"

Please drop me an email if you would like to have your event included in this calendar.

Hat tip to Steve Danko for the inspiration for this calendar.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal

Monday, September 1, 2008

My Mother's Mysterious Hope Chest

When my mother passed away, I inherited all of her belongings. Most of them are still in boxes in the garage because I still can't bring myself to go through them. Mom's "hope chest," however, is special to me, and occupies a place of importance in my bedroom.

Growing up, I was always fascinated by this big, cedar box. I was sure that it contained treasures beyond my wildest imagination. I was never allowed to look inside, but every now and then I would catch a glimpse of my mother putting something in and closing the lid. The chest's contents were a mystery that she promised to share with me... someday. When I was older.

Well, someday never came. I was 37 when she died... certainly old enough to appreciate the special items she'd saved. But sadly, we just never got around to having that conversation.

My daughter, showing off a button she found inside. What did it go to? I have no idea.

Inside the chest is a treasure trove of family heirlooms, most of which I will never be able to identify because everyone who knew what they were is dead. Some items I can figure out, such as my mother's Bibles from her days at Catholic school, a few newspaper articles with familiar names, and other items that just happen to have names or dates on them.

There's an envelope full of tiny teeth which I assume were (are) mine, as well as the hospital bracelet from the day I was born, and several articles of my baby clothes. Another envelope holds a lock of my grandfather's hair (which I'm saving for the day that DNA testing is sophisticated enough to extract Y-DNA from hair). And my grandfather's wallet looks like it hasn't been touched since the day he died.

My great-grandmother's coin purse catches my daughter's eye.

There are even a few items I remember seeing as a child, such as some jewelry and coin purses left to my mother when my great-grandmother died.

But most items are still - and always will be - a mystery to me. For example, that set of steak knives, still in the box. Did they belong to someone special? Should I use them? I have absolutely no idea.

A few of my mother's report cards from elementary school.

Someday (there's that word again), I'll have to empty the chest and archive it's contents as best I can. Seven years after her death, it's still extremely difficult for me to go through my mother's belongings.

But I need to do this for my daughter.

I don't want her to inherit an even bigger mystery, especially if I could have shed a twinkling of light upon it.

Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth O'Neal