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These boxes, nestled one inside the other, contained the sum total of my mother’s paper doll collection. The blue box housed the large paper dolls that came in sets, the cigar box hid the “Progress” box, and inside that box were the paper dolls Mom cut out of magazines and catalogs.

I played with them all for the last time this past week.

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There are a total of 11 Starlets: Greer Garson (3 dolls), two dolls each of Bette Davis (pictured above), Gene Tierney, Lucille Ball, Lana Turner, Claudette Colbert, Rita Hayward, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, and Ann Sheridan, and one doll of Alice Faye.

Then there are the generic sets including two military weddings (one complete with a cutout Reverend), some Prom dates, and a set of nine Cabaret girls, all with multiple outfits.

I made the hard decision to attach the dolls to archival paper and cover them with acid-free protectors, one doll and corresponding sets of clothing on the page(s) following. For example, the Cabaret Girls all together in the box, and then all separated out with personal outfits in the new scrapbook.

The dolls are not in perfect condition: they’ve been mended, are missing feet or hands, and their clothes have also been mended many times over. They are 76 years old and have been handled by my mother, her friends, and by my siblings and I.

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The white album contains all of the sets of store-bought paper dolls (81 dolls, total) and their outfits (156 pages! Whew!). The blue album contains the dolls we were NEVER allowed to play with: The dolls cut out from magazines and catalogs.

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There are three type-written pages detailing the names of the dolls, their religion, and age. Marital lines are carefully catalogued. My mother was 14 years old when she typed out this Family Tree for her precious paper dolls. She then wrote on the back of almost all of them with a pencil, an act that was a Godsend in helping me identify who was who. Also, one name might have several dolls to correspond with it (the men were easy – there is usually only one cutout per man). I guess women change their outfits more often. And their hair color.

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I did find a date on the back of one paper doll: Redbook Magazine, December 1946. Mom was still adding to the family after she created the family tree!

There are 43 “living” family members listed (7 are listed as “deceased” and no doll corresponds with those names). After I attached them and put them in their sleeves, I counted them: 272 different dolls for those 43 “living” names.

They are in excellent shape, having never been played with by anyone other than my mother (I highly doubt she allowed her older sisters to play with them, or even a play mate – she certainly never allowed her own children to touch them!). I did get to play with them this one last time as I sorted them all out.

I asked myself several times why I was saving these paper dolls. The store bought sets are worthless on the retail market and are not even museum quality – they’re just the banged up remnants of a 14 year old girl’s childhood in the mid 1940’s. The magazine cut outs have a charming quality to them and are better preserved, but they really have no monetary value, either.

The next generation may not care about the time my mother spent cutting out, naming, and detailing the “lives” of her silent playmates. They may not care about the time I just invested in preserving those precious memories of my mother as a girl and of my childhood spent staring longingly at said dolls.

They probably won’t even care that I’m afraid if I damaged or destroyed the paper dolls, my mother would come to me in the night, full of temper.

I saved them because I can. I saved them because they’ve survived 76 years already. I saved them so I can show them to my own granddaughters (I hope).

But mostly I saved them because fear of being haunted by a mad Scotswoman is real.

 

Where was I? Oh, researching the Scots. Got a little side-tracked by the Germans, but discovered some exciting things about my family history through those little shaking leaves on Ancestry.com. Like how German I am.

I pulled up some military records for my 3rd Great Grandfather on my maternal side: Henry B. Rowe was a Private in the 18th Division, Wisconsin Infantry, during the Civil War (that’s on the North side for those of you not familiar with history).

Both 6th Great Grandfathers up the same maternal line were Privates in the American Revolution: Benjamin Reigel (or Riegel, there’s some discrepancy in spelling so it’s either pronounced with the long I (Reigel) or the long E (Riegel). Benjamin was a Private in the 1st Battalion, Northampton County Militia (Pennsylvannia). Peter Kern was Private 2C1 under Captain Arndt’s Company, 1st Battalion of Associators, Northampton (also PA).

Peter Kern is where I ran into trouble with those cute little fluttering leaves of hints. I could accept the data leaves with verifiable written history, but the “other ancestry trees” veered way off course. I had to back way the heck up.

Start with his wife, one Catharine (Catharina) Deshler, born 11 JAN 1746 and died 11 Hmmm… February of 1825 or November of 1815. Wait… She might have been born 11 JAN 1751. Oh, and her maiden name may have been Hoffert. What the…?

I’ll explain in a minute, after I tell you about Peter.

Peter Kern was born either 11 April 1741 or 23 July 1741. He may have been known as John Peter. He died either 31 May 1820 or 25 May 1820. And his surname may have been Daudistel.

I can’t accept those”hints” because I have no record tying them together. Someone did a lot of interesting research, but how did they tie those names (and dates) together? What records?

Or did someone do what I did ONCE (and one time, only) on Ancestry? Just blindly accepted a hint because the dates were similar and the names were “close enough” that maybe there was room for doubt?

STOP.RIGHT.HERE.

Do NOT accept those hints. Back off. Find another way to verify this person is your ancestor. I now need to find the birth records, marriage records, death records – the actual verifiable bits of history to tie up the loose ends of the Kern/Deshler connections. The children are right and the siblings match, but where the heck did those alternate surnames come in?

UGH. I have a headache just thinking about untangling that web of misinformation.

On the other hand, I as able to follow the hints into the Rheinland down that same maternal line by veering into a paternal line. 6th great Grandfather Benjamin Riegel’s father, Matthias, immigrated from Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany during the early 1700’s. His spouse, Maria Margaetha (Unknown) immigrated around the same time from Rheinland-Palatine.

BINGO: family came out of the German Palatine immigration.My husband’s ancestors also immigrated from the same area around the same time (darn! We might be related outside of marriage – haha). I know another family line came out of the same area (too tired to look it up, but it was up a patriarchal line on my father’s side).

What is interesting to me is how much more connected I am to the Scots/Irish connections than to the German, although the German probably played a greater role in my DNA. Considering how religious the Palatine Germans were, when did that heritage drop off and the Irish/Scots Protestant kick in? (Pretty certain my German ancestors were Protestant, although many were Catholic).

I’m excited about the possibilities even though I feel I’ve reached a dead end up this particular family line as Ancestry has proven ambiguous. But never trust in a single source. I’ll just have to go old school on this line, so I am tabling it for now.

I did save documents about occupations (a lot of carpenters in there), military records, and how people died. Certain records are historic proof.

Oh-Oh-Oh! Rose became Rau the closer I got to Germany. Heinrich Rau was my fourth great grandfather, but the spelling of his surname quickly changed to Rowe, and his son, Johannes, became John. I can trace that and the names are similar enough to make that transition.

Common names often went through a period of misspellings: Presley/Priestly/Pressler/Pressley or Willcocks/Wilcox/Willcox. Johannes is the same as John in German. Rau to Rowe is a simple hop. Americanization. Assimilation. I even noted one stenographer who interpreted the hand-written “ROWE” signature to be “RONE” (I looked at the record. It’s clearly ROWE to me).

But Daudistel to Kern??? Or Deshler to Hoffert??? That’s not a simple leap. And the disparate birth/death dates are a huge red flag.  I’m backing way the heck off on that one until my brain quits hurting.

My DNA doesn’t show that much Scots, but as they were recent immigrants to America, I have a very strong connection to my Scots heritage. Dad used to joke that we were more Irish than Scots, but Mom would point out that the correct hyphenation of our particular heritage was “Scots-Irish”. He would turn around and remind her that the Irish taught the Scots how to walk – by giving them wheel barrows.

I get to a point where I think I am close to finished, then I find more items that need to be scrapbooked or saved in acid-free archival sleeves. I ran all over town today trying to find the right sized scrapbook sleeves that are also archival and acid-free. (The ones I wanted were on sale at Michael’s, my last stop.)

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Above is the scrap book I am creating out of my mother’s scraps. I found more to go into it and I ran out of archival inserts – again. Ill have to run down to Michael’s tomorrow to get a second scrapbook and one more packet of the archival sleeves. Mom just became two scrapbooks (Well, three – I also possess the scrapbook she made for herself in the 1950’s). I tried to keep everything she saved although I did have to parse out a few newspaper clippings that made no sense at all in the timeline of Mom’s life.

When scrapbooking for the dead, honor their scraps. I don’t need her to come back and haunt me because I left something important out. She saved all that stuff for a reason. Right?

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Letters. Old letters, land deeds, Naturalization papers, wills… I need a second binder and more acid-free sleeves. These cover from the 1860’s when my Scottish ancestors immigrated and through 1992. I guess I have to include the letters I wrote Mom in 1991-1992 because she saved them.

There are letters from Newton Brown, Gertrude McDermid, George Andrews, and myself, not to mention Great Grandmother’s entire collection of Letters From Dale (I blogged about them – actually transcribed them – in 2015 if you care to search my archives). I can’t touch the letters from Dale without feeling Great Grandmother’s deep sorrow (it’s an Empath thing) as Dale died in the big Influenza pandemic of 1917. He had Scarlet Fever).

George Andrews and my mother had a correspondence going as George (a cousin) was doing extensive genealogical research in Scotland. Much of the information I have today is because of George Andrews.IMG_7127

The above scrap book is full of all the miscellania from Great Grandmother Melrose and Grandma Melrose. There’s nothing else to put into it, and while it is bulging, I feel to need to get a second albom – there are three empty pages in the back. It’s complete.

The box it is sitting on is full of the paper dolls (I blogged about them in 2013). They are the reason I bought an archival type scrap book in the first place: to preserve my mother’s childhood. I’ll need yet another scrap book and a ton of acid-free archival sleeves for those. With the nicer weather coming on, I can’t promise I’ll get that task done soon. It’s a rather huge task.

I’ll probably tidy up the family tree on the Scots side before I move on to the more complex side of the family tree: the Irish/English/Everything Else side. One thing I have learned from doing this bit of scrapbooking is this: I cannot do straight line genealogy. The family is too complex and cousins are too important to ignore. If I did straight-line genealogy, I would lose Great Uncle Dale (who died at the age of 22 and never had any children, but whose impact on the family overshadowed my grandfather (the younger son who survived and fathered three beautiful girls).

Great great Uncle Newt Brown alludes to a relationship with John Brown of Harper’s Ferry fame. Great great Aunt Gert was a half-sister to Newt and Great Grandmother Mary Brown Melrose, but her letters are influential.

It’s crazy (maybe) but I feel so rooted in who I am when I go through all of this miscellania. I only hope my children want to keep this history alive.

 

“I know what I’ll do! I’ll put together that scrapbook of Mom’s memorabilia. She’s only been dead since 1995…”

I’ve been stuck in the Vortex for the past four days. First, there was the sorting out all the scrapbook materials between my mother, myself, my father, and my mother’s family (Great Grandma Melrose saved everything and her sister, Great-Great Aunt Gert was a prolific writer of letters to both my mother & grandmother). Mom was pretty good at collecting things herself, as am I.

As was my father, his mother, and his father’s mother. But I wasn’t dealing with Dad’s stuff just yet. Or mine.

I have scanned over 42 documents of varying size, from old letters to land deeds – anythng too fragile to take to a printing place and try to copy.  I use Scanbot, an App on my Smartphone. It allows me to scan multiple pages as .pdf files and will automatically send those to my Google Drive, inserting them in the folder I want. It does take a lot of time, but I’m not standing in a printing place, trying to unfold delicate documents and keep them from falling apart. Using Scanbot, I could take several photos, combine them, and save them. While they loaded to my Drive, I carefully put the documents into acid-free clear sleeves so they can be stored safely.

I also put together 98 pages of scrapbook – my mother’s clippings, saved poems, and loose memorabilia. I didn’t bother with the fancy scrapbooking they do nowadays: I scrapbook the old style, like my ancestors did. No special notes, just things of importance to my mother – and no judgment of what she saved. I’m talking about things she saved from the mid-1940’s until her death.

The land deeds were items Mom collected on various genealogical trips back to Wisconsin to trace her father’s family (Melrose). She also has copious notes she shared with a cousin & fellow genealogist who traced the family back into id-1500’s Scotland. That was no mean feat as the family preferred certain names: Philip Melrose would beget John Melrose who would beget Philip Melrose who would beget John… And often, one baby would die so they would reuse the baby’s name on the next son so there were two Philips in one family but only one who grew up to beget the next John (or two).

It gets further confusing because my Great-great-great Grandfather Philip Melrose married Euphemia Brown in Scotland before immigrating to the States. My Great Grandfather Philip Melrose married a Mary Brown, no relation to the afore-mentioned.

They often had very large families and often more than one marriage (I had to explain this to my husband who found that odd: the first spouse often died, so there was a remarriage and a blended family of half-siblings. My Great-great Aunt Gert (the letter writer) was the half sister of my Great Grandmother.

Genealogy is not just collecting the names of one’s ancestors, it is also about finding the stories. I’m fortunate to have a Family Bible handed down through the Melrose clan and the scrapbooks created by women – and men – who felt their history should be preserved. The collection of deeds and war records tells other stories. The letters, homey and warm for the most part, detail day-to-day events as well as the hobbies and interests of the people who make up my DNA pool.

Great-Grandmother’s brother, Newton Brown, surveyed much of Wyoming in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Great-great Aunt Gert had a U-Pick in Vancouver, Washington (and I am forever addicted to Boysenberries as opposed to any other variety of blackberries because she allowed me to just pick and feed my at little face). Great Grandmother saved every one of Dale’s letters, detailing his life in Oregon and subsequent death at Fort Lewis in 1917 (scarlet fever).

 

And that’s just my mother’s side of the family. That file cabinet in the photo above is the information I have on my father’s side of the family, dating back to the earliest ships to sail for the Colonies from Great Britain.

Oh, yeah, Mom’s side can be traced to the Mayflower as well. The Melroses were recent immigrants, coming here in 1860, just in time for the civil unrest to drive them to the wilds of Wisconsin (besides, the weather in North Carolina wasn’t fit for the Scots — so says a note that I scanned today). The first American John Melrose had to sign a document stating her would not choose sides in the war between the states.

I do need to sit down and work on the actual name-collecting part, where I fill in the blanks on a family tree that includes the names of half-siblings, second spouses, and distant cousins. But my brain is dead currently, and all I can do right now is bind everything up into scrapbooks and acid-free sleeves in a binder. I think I need a fire safe for the Wisconsin land deeds.

Mostly, I just want to get as much of this digitized as soon as possible.

I am a collector of sticks. It’s a terrible habit, I see an odd-shaped, twisty branch on the ground and I am compelled to pick it up and bring it home. I pick up rocks, too. And interesting baubles. Often, my sticks get incorporated into something creative, but sometimes they just get hauled back out to the yard and tossed into a pile of other sticks I never quite found time for.

That doesn’t narrow down my inventory. It just clears out the ones that no longer spark a bit of “Hmmm…What can I do with that?” or “Wow, that looks magical!”

Take Mr. Leprechaun, for instance.

I painted him years ago, but never quite found the *right* place to display him. He doesn’t stand very well. Last week, I decided he’d look mighty fine hanging on my vintage mirror (which is actually a piece of something greater – I only found the mirror). A little wood glue and – TADA! (Yes, that is an old locker. I stole it from my son when he left home.)

The Dragon and her dragonets took a lot more work to put together than the Leprechaun – he’s just painted on a naturally curved piece of wood.

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Her legs and curves are a nice piece of wood, but her head is polymer clay. The nest is a half-shell of a large oyster, decorated with beads. The dragonets are polymer clay, but their shells are dyed silk moth cocoons. Beadwork added as decoration.

Again, she was created long ago and I never could quite figure out how to display her properly. Shutting her in a box never seemed right after all the work that went into painting, gluing, and imagining.

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Small cup hooks & a ribbon solved my problem.

All well and good, but the hardest one to deal with has been the shrunken head. I mean, how do you display a shrunken head?

How do you make a shrunken head in the first place? Carve a vague face into an apple and hang it up to shrivel and dry.

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The results can be quite amusing. I highlighted the head with flesh-colored paint, beads for eyes, and the seed pod of a tree peony painted to look a bit like a joker’s cap, glued to a stick wrapped with fake vines.

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I added the praying mantis and the pink blossoms this year. Don’t freak out: I had nothing to do with the death of the mantis: I found it in that state. I expect she laid her eggs and died of old age and exhaustion. I’ve had her preserved in a wee box for years until a week ago when I decided not only do I need to clean out things around here, but I needed to add her to the shrunken head. She’s heavily coated with clear nail polish as are the flowers (but I forget what plant they are from, only that they stayed pink when dried).

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I hung the shrunken head above my computer desk where she can smile at me while I work.

I used a tiny carabiner clip and a cup hook, then a pin to keep her hanging straight.

My husband is going to freak when we move out of this house and we have to fill all the holes in the wall. I’m like a sixty-year old teenager when it comes to hanging things on the wall…

It’s not that unusual to have flowers in the Portland metro area by Valentine’s Day, but it never ceases to amaze and bless me when the first flowers peek out of the mud and from under the cover of old flower heads and un-raked leaves.

Don’t get me wrong: we try to keep the lawn leaf free over winter, but there are some advantages to leaving the leaves in the flower beds until early Spring, and most of those advantages are beneficial to invertebrates and insects. I’m not so fond of the local invertebrates (slugs are a garden pestilence in the Pacific Northwest), but I am extremely fond of the insect life harbored under those nasty oak leaves. I haven’t raked them out of my flower beds just yet (next week probably – I do have to stay a step ahead of the native slug population and the best way is to not provide them with hiding places).

We had two fifty-degree sunny days this past week. I got out and dead-headed all the plants I didn’t get to last Autumn. Again, I deliberately didn’t deadhead some things as they were still providing seeds to the birds. We gained a new sparrow family over the winter: the golden-crowned sparrow. I’m certain that the stalks of seed heads played a huge role in keeping them here over the winter. I also kept the insect suet well supplied and the hummingbird feeders full, although there were days we were lax in refilling the black oil sunflower seed feeders. In a word: squirrels.

We welcome the squirrels and even have a peanut feeder for them (and the scrub jays), but they are greedy and voracious… and obese.

Today was a good day. I’ve been under the weather, down, and feeling disjointed. That’s good for me creatively, but not good for me spiritually. Weeks of rain take their toll and being a confidant for struggling friends also wears on the heart (but I wouldn’t change that). I’ve managed to take control of my art studio and have been creating like a whirling dervish, but I *NEED* the out-of-doors to give me a reboot.

I was up early. I wanted to go walking, but I’d forgotten to lay out clothes the night before and didn’t want to wake my husband up (note to self: always lay out clothes the night before because I get up early and he sleeps late). I did eventually go on that walk. Something about the act itself that clears the mind, fuels the imagination, restores the soul… and leaves all the muscles drained for days afterward. The price we pay.

I finished dead-heading the garden afterward, having already accomplished half of that the other day. I made mental note about which flower garden spot to start weeding in on our next pleasant day. I put out nesting material for the birds.

Then I picked flowers from my garden, the very first blooms! Granted , I only picked four half-open daffodils, two stems of Forsythia, and a very vibrant wallflower (Erysithium linifolium). – but the first vase!

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(That’s a stock photo from Pixabay of a wallflower like mine).

So – Happy Valentine’s Day.

Mr. Tack

I got to thinking about Mr. Tack today. I can’t say why, but maybe it came out of a conversation I had with my cousin’s wife about buying dogs from breeders. We both have done that and will continue to do so. We both believe in rescue dogs, too. What we don’t believe in is 1) puppy mill puppies and pet store puppies and 2) people who try to guilt you because you purchase a dog from a reputable breeder. There are reasons people shop for and purchase dogs from breeders.

There is no excuse for purchasing a dog from a puppy mill or through a pet store. Rescue a dog from a kill shelter. Rescue a dog from any shelter. Research and find a purebred or hypoallergenic breed and find a reputable breeder to buy from. Never let your dog go, even if you move away. This is a lifetime commitment (the dogs’ life. Or cat. Or horse. I’m guilty. Never again.

So, back to Mr. Tack.

Someone abandoned him in Paradise Valley, Nevada, in the mid-1960’s. We were between dogs. Our childhood pet had been hit by a car and killed: Butchy, the dog of seriously unknown parentage. Butch was a legend and not a dog to be replaced easily.

Mom was a dog lover and needed a dog.

Mr. Tack was a pestilence in the small berg of Paradise Valley. Dad was the Forest Ranger who occasionally went out there and connected to the residents and ranchers. He was apprised of the abandoned dog (this was during the 1960’s before most rescue animal groups existed). He coaxed the dog into his truck and brought him home to surprise our mother, who loved small dogs.

Fifty years later, I am surprised they knew Tack’s registered name, but they did. He was AKC registered Miniature Schnauzer, salt-and-pepper in coloring. There were no microchips and anyone could deny they still owned the dog, so he was basically quite abandoned. Mom welcomed him with open arms, but he was traumatized and did not adjust to our family life.

Dad returned him to the wild, abandoning him just like his previous owner. What else did you do in those days? Go shoot the dog? Well, yes. That’s what you did. It was the mid-1960’s.

Mom moped for about two weeks before she decided she wanted to give that dog another try. She couldn’t just leave him for the coyotes to finish off or some rancher to shoot him. He needed to come home to us. He needed to be Mom’s dog.

It was months before we saw any change in him. He moped. He didn’t bark. He just hung around.

Then, one incredible night, he howled.

I don’t remember if it was dark or day, only that he’d been out in the yard for a while and suddenly there was this long howling that started and drew off, then started again. Who called him in? I don’t know. One of us hurriedly begged him inside the house lest a neighbor complain. Oh, and they did – eventually.

It was that day or night that Mr. Tack declared us his family and my mother as his person. He barked. He howled. He talked to Mom.

“Arrr rarr roww rarr arr”

She talked back. They became best of friends.

Tack became one of us kids and I could go on about his exploits. He was funny, short-sighted, stubborn, and incredibly loyal. He got out “once in a blue moon” and ran the neighborhood (and my mother scolded anyone who called to complain our dog was in their yard because she was frantic to bring him home).

He left me high and dry after a summer of 4-H obedience training. County Fair 101: your mother’s dog will decide to fall asleep in the show ring. Thanks, Mr. Tack.

He tolerated every cat we introduced to the family but ate every lizard we tried to bring home and tame. He attacked the garbage man without fail. He bit anyone entering the house unannounced, including my father. He bit me when he was tired of me trying to get him to go hiking. He was a crotchety old man.

Mom paid to have him groomed but Dad occasionally disagreed and attempted to groom him: he ended up looking sort of like a lion. He regularly nipped at his regular groomer, Mrs. Butterfield. In retrospect, I would have bitten her, too.

When my mother was frustrated with one of us kids she’d call out, “Terry Jackie Denny Tacky”. Tacky was one of us.

He died after I left for college and I do not know where my parents buried him. I know my mother cried. He was smart, funny, obnoxious, vocal, purebred, abandoned, rescued, and a sibling.

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My best friend with Mr. Tack circa 1966.

He died in the mid-1970’s. I have a soft spot for Schnotzers (Schnauzers).