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Posts Tagged ‘history’

I have a group of friends who do genealogy for their families: we refer to the activity, and one particular genealogy site, as “The Vortex”. Once you start, you are inexorably sucked into the web of surnames, birthdates, marriages, deaths, wars, deeds done, and – especially for those of us in the New World – the mystery of our mixed DNA.

I mean, is there really a Cherokee Princess hidden in the 1800’s marriage records? Perhaps we’re Jewish? Was a slave hidden somewhere in our checkered past? Maybe, like the famed Alex Haley, we just want to know how we got here: what slavers, what tribes, what horrors?

I inherited a lot of previously researched material, hand-written or typed and carbon copied (yes, with real carbon paper). Old correspondence. Pages of family history that reads a lot like the book of Genesis: “so-and-so begat and he begat and he married her and they begat…” Cousins. Direct lines. Dates. Some word-of-mouth stories. Legends.

I tried to do a family tree when I was in the 6th or 7th grade, possibly the 8th grade. We came on the Mayflower, there was Native American blood (possibly a Canadian tribe), we fought in the American Revolution, John Brown of Harper’s Ferry was a distant cousin (but close enough to be uncomfortable), we possibly helped on the Underground Railroad, and the Scots side of the family was a latecomer (18060’s)to the USA.

Going through family names and working my way back through the reams of documents and the leaves of hints on Ancestry.com (being careful to weed out those that don’t match – you do have to watch those hints like a hawk!), I could find no Native American. I found English, Dutch, Irish, Scots. Ysseltyns, Van Ysseltyns, Van Esseltyns, and Van der somebody all down one line. Only Melrose (Scots) and Cusick (Irish) for the two heritages I was told my DNA consisted the most of (the most vociferous and latest additions to the family tree). I learned bits of Irish Gaelic from my father, bastardized by his distance from those who actually spoke the tongue. My mother recalled nothing of the Scots, but carried the surname for which we are proud: Melrose.

I can’t even find a tartan for Melrose, which was apparently a lowland Scots name as the Melrose Abbey (wherein Robert the Bruce’s heart is entombed. Think Braveheart).

Truth be told, I haven’t tried to cross The Pond to trace the family line when so much of my heritage is here in the Continental USA. And before I go any further, I am not a Nationalist. My people came here as immigrants, escaping religious persecution, and they established colonies. They married, had children, fought in the American Revolution (on the winning side), pushed westward to Illinois, and fought on the Yankee side of the American Civil War. Only one ancestor – to my present knowledge – participated in any war against Native Americans, and he fought in the Black Hawk War of 1832. He received a land plot for which I hold the original deed, signed by President James Buchanan.

All that aside, I took a DNA test to see where I came from. There’s no Native American. That bit about some Canadian Indian beauty just slipped right through the cracks. No color of any, truth be told: I’m strictly Northern European, English, Irish, Scandinavian.

Specifically: 92% England, Wales, Northwestern Europe. Most of that DNA is Wales & England. 3% Ireland & Scotland. 3% Germanic Europe (probably all those Dutch surnames). 2% Norway.

England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland – those are all countries that were invaded by the Normans (France, more or less) and the Vikings (the Danish, although one could speculate Norwegians as well, since Viking was not a nationality). Just within England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, there was a lot of raiding, raping, pillaging, and – well, there you are.

I’m just freaking pasty white. My ancestry is as old as this country has been a nation, yet I am still a newcomer here. We pushed as far as the Midwest, not migrating any further until the early 1900’s. We arrived on the Mayflower (and before that infamous ship), settled across Connecticut, migrated into Illinois.

I am so sorry I started looking into this family tree stuff again, because I am suddenly finding more “leaves” sprouting on the limbs. The Vortex is sucking me in. I want to trace every family line back as far as I can get before I pay for the International version and start looking overseas. It’s addicting. A little research and you feel the blood of all those women who came before you flowing through your veins.

If you don’t, you’re not truly doing the research. Those women – and men – birthed who you are.

(Sorry, not editing, so this is probably a bit rambling. Sue me.)

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I made no headway in de-cluttering. Seriously, I have a hard time parting with things. But I did a heck of a job cleaning & organizing. I just wish it didn’t wear me out so much.

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The loft is our library. I have never counted how many books we own and they’re only semi-organized into groups. There are more books downstairs and in my studio, and more in the boxes I packed at my father’s house in 2011 and left in storage.

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There are more books in the left-hand corner of the photo (out of sight). I tried to group things so when I do have the time and energy, and that television is gone, I can sit down with a copy of the Dewey Decimal System and organize the books. No, I am not going to number the shelves, nor am I going to try to catalog what we own.

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Yes, that is a cauldron full of rocks. No, I don’t know what I am going to do with those rocks. I hate to throw rocks out where the moss and mildew consume their natural beauty, know what I mean?

OK, so you don’t know what I mean. It’s just hard to part with rocks. I’ve pared it down to this bucket.

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These are rocks, too, but at some point in time, a human being formed, chiseled, and used these rocks until they wore down to fit the hand that wielded them: grinding stones of different sizes and shapes and one coup stick. I try not to think of the heads the coup stick was used on.

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Old pottery and insulators. We have a lot of old insulators. We do not have a lot of old pottery.

That bookcase seeds to be stripped and repainted. I’ve been hauling it around for more than 30 years, it has been painted 3 times and never stripped, and the paint is peeling. I tell you: I hate to part with anything practical, even if it is presently ugly.

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Pewter. The pewter lid in the bottom of the photo is actually a can opener for canned milk. On the flip side, there are two sharp points for indenting the can of milk. The ornate lid at the top is an anomaly. I wish I had the entire pewter set. That lid is ornate and beautiful.

The ice bucket has been in my family for years. A legend is attached to the bottom of it: “Jaci, I don’t know how old this ice bucket is. It was around when I was a kid, pre-WW2. Dad.”

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Ignore the horse. It’s a project. I need to get some galvanized tine & try to beat out new forelegs for it. I have one of the legs for a pattern. It is *not* an antique, anyway, but a replica. No, the treasure here is the trunk.

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The trunk came from Scotland in the early 1880’s when John Melrose immigrated to the United States of America. He had to sign papers that he would not take sides in the American Civil War. The Melroses are hard to trace because Phillip begat John who begat Phillip who begat John who begat Phillip who…

In Scotland, Phillip was born. He married and in 1826, John was born. John came to America. He married and in 1861, Phillip was born. Phillip married and in 1901, John was born. John was my grandfather and he had no sons, only daughters.

This trunk was my mother’s treasure and she passed it on to me, along with all of her genealogy work.

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I probably should take this down. It is hard to contemplate taking it down. The day is still raw in my memory. My son enlisted because of this day in history. This day in history is to my generation what December 7, 1941 was. The only difference between those days is that in 1941, the enemy not only declared himself, but took full credit. I’m not certain we will ever know who, exactly, was the enemy on 9/11/2001. But whoever the enemy was, a lot of heroes gave their lives on both dates. Some were soldiers and some were First Responders.

It may be awhile before I can take this down, fold it up, and retire it.

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From left to right: Arwen, with newborn Javan. Above: Sylvia Cusick Wilcox with her two children, Mary & Jack, and a beloved family pet. Sylvia died within a year of this photo due to complications from the streptococcal bacteria. My dad believed – and I do, too – that she died of flesh-eating bacteria, the same as my little sister. Necrotizing faciitis. She died in Salt Lake City in 1930 and there are no longer any records.

The dog in the last photo was someone’s beloved pup. I found the photo at a Goodwill store. He looks a little like my childhood pet, Butchey, but I think this dog is purebred Cocker Spaniel. He meant something to someone because they had his photo enlarged and framed, and probably hung it on their wall until they passed away and someone from the younger generation didn’t know who the dog was.

So I bought the picture and I hang it on my wall because it reminds me that every generation has had at least one beloved pet that was worthy of a framed photo on a wall.

(That’s a candle holder right above the dog. Goes in a mine, most likely. The long, sharp end is hammered into the wall & the sconce is at the top. I have it hanging sideways to how it would be used.)

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Godot approves of my new arrangement upstairs.

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Zith is thinking about it. She’s not sure about being relegated to the inside of an antique school desk…

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When the TV is moved out, I’ll be able to get better photos of the pump. It’s an old water pump for use with a large dredging system. It sat in the alley behind a girlfriend’s house for decades. When Don & I rented the house, we cleaned up the property. Don converted the pump into a Very Heavy Coffee Table. It takes two men to lift it and move it. That pump is all cast iron.

You wouldn’t believe the offers we’ve had on that monstrosity.

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The entry to my studio now looks pretty and clean.

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THIS is next weekend’s project: dealing with the clutter in the rest of the loft. I wasn’t up to this mess this weekend. This is going to require storage boxes and serious decluttering. Wish me luck.

(No animals were harmed in the collection of those antlers. They are all shed antlers).

The End. Or: The End until I bring the rest of the books home and I sit down and organize the books. That’s a scary thought.

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