The Plan Was…….

Gpa and Gma Hughes older fixedWhen we first start researching our Family History we usually begin with our parents or Grandparents and slowly work our way back as far as we can go. We spend a tremendous amount of time going over documents, gleaning any information we can from them. We add photos of our relatives, pictures of their headstone, and anything else we find interesting to our trees.

Then at some point, we realize that these people are not just names, birth dates, marriage dates, and death dates. They lived unique lives, had relationships and occupations, owned property, and in some cases did amazing deeds. So we begin to put together the story of their lives taken from all the information we have gathered.

All this is exciting and fulfilling to any Genealogist. We have brought confused-smileyour deceased loved ones back to life. Then we ask the question, “What about those who are still living? Shouldn’t we be recording their stories for the next generations?” Of course, we should. So most of the time we concentrate on our oldest living relative, trying to tell a well-rounded, well-documented story of their life. We feel the urgency to do this because we are not sure how long they will be with us.

Somewhere along the line, we recognize that we should begin writing our own story and that of our spouse as well so that there will be an accurate account of our lives. This way we can choose what we feel is the most important facts and events from our past and include them. We get excited that we are able to add photos and even videos to our legacy. The problem is, writing or recording our own stories usually takes a back seat to our Genealogy quest. We figure there is always time to do it, later.

listI have been actively researching my Ancestry for over 25 years. I have seriously thought of writing mine and my husband’s life stories off and on through all those years. I even began my own story about 15 years ago, but I put it away knowing I would finish it one day. I never started writing anything about my husband’s life because I figured I could always work on it after I research just a few more Ancestors. Besides, we have been married almost 34 years, and he has told me stories of growing up in a small, rural Arizona town so many times I felt I wouldn’t need to ask too many questions to adequately write his history.

Then it happened… a little over 1 ago he began to have problems remembering his childhood. The memory loss quickly spread to what he did a few years ago and then to what he did yesterday. We spent the last year having tests done to try to determine what was going on. About 6 months ago we received the devastating news that he had Vascular Dementia. He had suffered several mini-strokes, and we were told that eventually, he would not even remember my name. The worst part is, he will turn 58 years old in December! I thought I’d have more time to ask him for more details about his life, but now I can’t. I have been trying to remember all the stories he told me, I have asked his family to help fill in some blanks for me, but with 8 kids in the family, they don’t remember who did what. Only he knows the complete story of his life and now it is all buried somewhere in his mind that he can no longer reach.

The moral of all this is: You never know from day to day what may Moral of the storyhappen, so don’t assume that you have plenty of time to write your personal story or that of those whom you are blessed enough to still have with you. Don’t put it off so long that one day you too will say “I thought I would have more time!”


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ My Brush With Death

Inkedhome map_LIWhen we moved to Tucson, Arizona from Missouri when I was 11 months old, my parents bought a house in a new subdivision in the southwest area of town. Well, to be accurate, the area was still in the county at that time but by the time we moved away, it was in the city limits.

Having been born and raised in Missouri, the son of a farmer my Dad loved to grow things. In Missouri all you have to do, or so it seemed, was to put some seeds in the ground and something would grow. It didn’t require a lot of care and watering, just weeding and some fertilizer. Our house was located on a corner lot. The street was actually a “u” shape so if you were to drive by our home you could see every part of our yard. He decided to make an oasis in the desert! It was a shock to my Dad when he decided to plant some fruit trees, and they died within the first two months. He also planted grass seed and nothing came up. He ended up having to do something he had never done before….go to a garden shop and ask what to do!

Over the next few years, Dad really did make an oasis out of our yard. Cactus-Rock-Garden-Design 2We had several large trees and one tall palm tree. He was able to successfully grow 2 peach, 1 plum, and 1 apricot tree. He made flower beds along all the exterior walls, and he finally gave in and planted a cactus garden. We were the envy of the neighborhood because our entire yard was lush green grass. We had a common chain link fence that ran between us and our neighbors on two sides. Dad planted a hedge that ran the length of the fence to provide a little privacy for us.

hedge 2I used to spend my weekends out in the yard helping my Dad. I was probably more of a nuisance but I thought I was helping. I would pretend I was a princess and I would walk around my kingdom looking for treasure. Sometimes I would hide one of those penny machine rings in the bushes and then be excited when I would “find” it. This came to an end one Saturday morning when I had my brush with death.

I was about 6 years old and I was helping Dad in the yard when I thought I saw one of the rings I had hidden in the hedge. I immediately went into princess mode and I walked around acting like I was out for Mantis_Mantisa stroll because being a royal was really exhausting and I needed a break. I walked over to the hedge and stuck my hand in to grab the “ring” but I didn’t find anything. When I pulled my hand out there was this huge, green, alien sitting on my little finger. It bent its triangular head and bit me. I screamed, threw my hand up as hard as I could, and ran to my Dad! He grabbed my hand and the alien was still attached, so he pulled it off, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it. I got hysterical, convinced I was about to die.

It took a while but I finally calmed down, but then I got mad. My Dad was laughing at me. He then explained that the alien was actually a praying mantis and that it was harmless. He inspected my finger and confirmed there was no bite. I would live!!

Confession time, as old as I am, I still have a strong aversion to praying mantis.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Picture Perfect Saturday #4

Picture Perfect logoI am currently working on my Family Genealogy Group page for Facebook. In doing so I realized I have a tremendous amount of photos. I decided to feature one a week. No, not everyone is “perfect” however, they are to me!

The photo I am showcasing this week is of my paternal 1st cousins. These are my Dad’s oldest brother Orville Hughes’ 3 children.

This was definitely a much simpler life than most of us live today. The look on the children’s faces is both that of contentment and mischievousness. The car, though it looks old to us was a fairly new one for the time which was about 1937. From left to right are; James Allen Hughes, Thelma Louise Hughes, and Charlene Hazel Hughes.

Charlene, Thelma, James Allen Hughes Uncle Orvilles Kids enhanced

Charlene was born on April 29, 1931, in Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri. She is the only one of the three who lived past adulthood, who got married and had one daughter.

James was born on September 13, 1932, also in Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri. When he was 18 years old he was killed when his motorcycle collided with a car 5 mile south of Lexington. He sustained a severe head and chest injury and died at the scene. This was on June 16, 1851.

Thelma was born on May 25, 1933, again in Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri. She developed Rheumatic Fever at a young age and died from mitral stenosis as a result of the fever. She passed away at the age of 12 on April 19, 1946.

This photo is precious because this is the only know photo of all siblings together.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Mondays for Me ~ La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros

rodeo picIn February every year since 1925, Tucson, Arizona has held a Rodeo and a corresponding parade. Back when it started, the town was still considered a frontier town. The first Tucson Rodeo was held in the middle of Prohibition. With so many visitors expected, decisions were made to clean up the town. Arizona State Prohibition Director Frank Pool led a force of federal officials to town two weeks prior to the rodeo. The Arizona Daily Star reported that 25 stills were captured and an estimated 3000 gallons of moonshine destroyed.

When it first started it was a 3-day event. The first day began with a 2-mile parade Parade 2through the downtown area then turning south toward the Rodeo Grounds. Since its inception this parade has been the world’s longest non-motorized parade and the largest outdoor, midwinter rodeo in the United States. Each year the procession grows and it includes such old horse-drawn vehicles as buckboards, surrey’s (with or without fringe on top), western wagonsstagecoaches, and Conestoga wagons. All floats are pulled either by hand or by horses and of course there are many cowboys and officials on horseback. There are also many marching bands. The highlight of the parade is the float carrying the “Rodeo Royalty”. After the parade, everyone goes to the Rodeo Grounds for the actual event.

As a young child, I always looked forward to the parade. The Rodeo/Parade ran cowgirl mefrom Friday through Sunday. Since this was a major event for the town, on Friday we could wear our “western” clothes to school. Back in those days girls were not allowed to wear pants or shorts to school so it was a treat to wear jeans! In the 1st and 4th grades our class rode the school bus to Downtown to watch the parade. Another exciting thing to do for a kid who only lived 3 blocks from the school! When we returned to school we would have a picnic type lunch in the classroom, then spend the remainder of the day learning the history of rodeos’, Vaqueros (cowboys), and the western way of life.

rodeo pic 2As an adult, I took my 3 children to the parade and to watch the rodeo. My Dad had taken us a few times when I was younger and I wanted my children to experience it also. When I was 20 years old I participated in one of the marching bands, playing my clarinet. I gained respect for all those who perform in those bands. It wasn’t easy to march at a brisk pace, playing a wind instrument for 2 miles. Today the Rodeo is a 7-day event and still draws thousands of rodeo fans each year.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


Monday’s for Me ~ Isn’t That Special?

Me1Remember the Church Lady from the early days of “Saturday Night Live”? She definitely was a little strange. I do remember a couple of women at the church I grew up in resembling this character. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the only strange thing about the church. As a young girl, I didn’t realize it. We had only attended this one, so it wasn’t until I was 19 and started going to a totally different style of church that I realized how different it was.

We started attending Park Ave Disciples of Christ Christian Church in Tucson, AZ right after my family moved there when I was 11 months old. Of course, I don’t remember much about it until I was about 5 years old. My first memory was sitting in the second-row pew with my parents and sister. The young kids had to wait until the singing, oldladys singing 2offering, and communion was completed before going off to our Sunday School class. On this day we had a “special music” time and two women in the congregation got up to sing. I have to be honest, as a kid, I thought the music and songs we sang were boring! I had high hopes that this would be different. The music began and it really wasn’t that bad. Then one of the ladies began to sing….she hit a high note that could break a glass and it was way off-key. By instinct, I threw my hands over my ears and my face cringed. My mother tried to pry them off, but I was determined that I would do anything to protect my ears from this noise. My mother was so embarrassed. I knew I was going to be in trouble, but I didn’t care. Those extreme high notes these women were singing literally hurt my ears.

The second memory was when I used to go with my Dad to the church on Saturdays. He did this for quite a while and as a 6-year-old I really didn’t care what he was doing, I just enjoyed being away from the house. I knew he was constructing a small building out of brick in the south parking lot, but I didn’t know the purpose of it. After a couple of Drive in churchmonths, we quit going on Saturdays. Each Sunday we would drive into the parking lot and see the little building just sitting there. We had been raised not to ask questions, so I never asked what it was for. One Sunday morning my mother woke us up early and said, “Go get in the car.” My sister asked her if we needed to change out of our pajamas and she told us no. My dad was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, and my mother had on her housecoat and slippers. Bewildered, we just rode in the backseat watching for a sign as to where we were going. Imagine my surprise when we pulled into the church parking lot! We drove toward the little building and we saw that someone had installed polls with speakers on them, just like at the drive-in movies! We were going to church service in our car. When my dad placed the speaker in the car window I could hear the pastor talking through it. It was standing inside the building talking on a microphone. A man came around handing out hymnals and we sat in our car and sang to the music coming through the speakers. Then he came back around and took up the offering. We had a bag of coloring books and other things to keep us entertained in the back seat, so my sister and I pulled it out and began to play. I could hear the pastor talking but I didn’t pay attention. After he finished, they gathered up the hymnals and we drove home. We had been to the new Drive-in Church! From that day on we only went inside the church for services during our hot Arizona summers. The rest of the year we “went to the drive-in”. My parents loved it as they could smoke during service and I can tell you one thing, I got a lot of reading time in.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Monday’s for Me ~ Twice In One Day

CartwheelI remember when I was 10 years old that I was jealous of my next-door neighbor who got to be in a gymnastic class. I loved watching the Summer Olympics and I was enthralled with the floor exercises. I wanted to jump and tumble and do somersaults and handsprings. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I was when Beverly said she would show me some moves. She suggested I start with something easy like cartwheels and headstands. It wasn’t long before I doing cartwheels all over the yard. Headstands were a little harder for me.

One Saturday morning I got up early to practice my headstands against the side of the house outside. I did Headstandit over and over again and I was feeling pretty good about myself. Saturdays were my favorite days. I would get up just before the sun came up, fix myself a bowl of Rice Krispies and 2 pieces of toast. Then I would take my little red step stool outside and sit in the grass, making a table of the stool and eating my breakfast without being bothered by my sister. I loved listening to the turtle doves, the sound of them cooing still today takes me back to my Saturday breakfast ritual. About the time I finished, my dad was beginning his weekend yard cleaning. So, I went to the other side of the house to continue practicing. As usual, my mother was standing looking out the window, watching every move I made. As long as I could remember she did this anytime my sister or I went out in the yard. I decided to do a headstand but this time not against the wall. I got the momentum going and up I went. My legs actually went straight up and I was doing it with no help. Then I lost my balance and my body fell backward but my head stayed straight. I had the worse pain in my neck as I stood up and that was the last thing I remembered. When I finally opened my eyes, my dad was holding a wet towel against my head. This was the first time I had ever fainted.

My mother had seen the whole thing from the window and had rushed outside yelling for my dad to help me. Once I got my bearings I was able to walk into the house. My dad had to make a trip to the hardware store so my mother insisted that it would be good for me to go with him. I have to admit it felt good to ride with the windows down and feel the air on my face. My dad wasn’t much of a talker so we rode in silence. I don’t recall what I was looking at but all of a sudden I heard tires squealing and brakes locking and I felt my dad’s arm fly out in front of me pushing me back into my seat. When I looked up I saw a crashed carvehicle directly in front of us, facing us and another one with a large dent in its side sitting on my dad’s side of the car. My dad got out and rushed around and got me out of the car and told me not to move. He ran to the car in front of us. The man inside had his head resting face down on the steering wheel. My dad lifted his head up and his forehead was cut badly from one side to the other. Blood was gushing out everywhere. I saw my dad take his shirt off and place it on the man’s head. The next thing I knew I opened my eyes and a man and women I didn’t know were holding a cup of water over my head, slowly dripping it on my head. I had fainted again! The couple didn’t let me look in the direction of the accident, they just kept telling me everything was alright. After a while my dad came and got me, thanking these kind people for caring for me. As he carried me to the car I remember a few very vivid sights, The first was we had not been involved in the accident. Apparently, my dad was able to brake quickly enough that we were not hit. Second, I saw that you could maybe place an adult size hand between our car and the one facing us. It stopped that short of us. Third, all the people who were in the accident were gone but their cars were there. And fourth, there was a head size hole in the window of the car in front of us. It is strange how those things have stuck with me all these years.

We never made it to the hardware store. My dad turned around and we went straight home. My mother and sister freaked when we got out of the car. My dad only had on a white A-shirt and it was stained red from the blood. He had left his overshirt at the scene of the accident. After everything calmed down I spent the rest of the day sitting quietly, reading a book. and being thankful that we were alive. I have fainted maybe 6 times total in my life. But I have never fainted twice in one day again!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

How We “Land”ed in Arizona ~ 52 Ancestors Week #17

Tucson 1955Have you ever wondered how you ended up living where you lived as a child? Outside of being born into a military family who naturally moves around a lot, how did we get here? Some people are born and raised in the town where their parents, grandparents or even generations of ancestors had lived. Others, like me, were raised thousands of miles from where they were born. I decided I would try to figure out how my family landed in Tucson, Arizona.

On my maternal lines, the Smith side can only be traced back to Missouri as my Great MO map 1850Grandfather Pleasant is a brick wall. On the McGowan, Page, and Walt side the lineages go back to Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. I have discovered the paths they took to get to America and how they eventually landed in Missouri. On my paternal side all the lines Hughes, Hayes, Ogan, and Register lines can be traced back to England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, and Switzerland. I have also discovered the paths they took to get to America and how they eventually landed in Missouri. They all came for a variety of reasons and both sides ended up here.

MissouriThat brings us to my immediate family. Both of my parents’ ancestors came to the State of Missouri in the early 1800s, even before it became a state in 1821. Their roots were firmly planted here. My parents married in 1948 and set up a house where they both had lived most of their lives, in the town of Lexington. My sister was born in 1951 and I came along in January 4 years later. By December of that year, we moved to Tucson, AZ. This was definitely a big change for our family. Missouri is beautiful! Trees everywhere, rivers and lakes abound and the land is dotted with quaint little towns with friendly people. The landscape is mostly flat File179or hilly. The weather is cold in the winter and humid in the summer. Arizona, although it has its own beauty, was the total opposite. Tucson is surrounded by desert. Cactus, mesquite trees and sagebrush makes up most of it. There are mountains surrounding the city, one being over 9000 feet tall. The winters are mild, kind of like spring and the summers are hot and dry. So, with these contrasts, why would they move here?

I was told growing up that it had been suggested by the family doctor that we should move to a drier climate. Apparently, my mother, sister and me had severe asthma and being in Arizona should make it easier. That sounded feasible. However, it was discovered later that the “asthma” excuse had been a lie that my mother fabricated. None of us had ever had it. My dad never accompanied my mother to the doctor and he just took her word for it. As a side note, my mother was a hypochondriac. My whole life I was told by her that she was sick and could die at any moment. Now back to the story.

circle a drI remember we used to visit a couple who lived on our street quite often. As kids, we had to sit on the couch and not move or talk while we were there. I listened to their conversations and realized that they must have known each other before because they talked a lot about Missouri and people I had heard about from there. During the summer before I started fourth grade the gentleman taught me how to play clarinet in preparation to join the school band. I remember that he told me they had lived in Lexington and had known my parents for many years, even before they got married. This couple had moved to Arizona first and bought their home in this subdivision about 6 months before my parents bought our home there. I was thinking maybe they missed their friends and wanted to be near them? Not very likely, at least as far as my dad was concerned. He hated it there.

I don’t think I will ever discover why we “land”ed in Tucson. All of my immediate family are gone now so I have no one to ask. I have never felt a connection to any place or felt like any place was “home’. From the time of my birth until now I have lived in 53 homes in 8 different states. I hope sometime in my life I will land in a place that feels like home!


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

Mondays for Me ~ Can You Say That Again?

Me11I started first grade at the ripe old age of 6. Way back then there was no such thing as Kindergarten, they just threw you right into the classroom. In Arizona if your birthday is before December 31st you could start school at the age of 5, my birthday is in January so I had to wait another whole year. I was so excited, for many reasons. First, I loved to learn. Even though I couldn’t read yet I would spend hours combing through the World Book Encyclopedias we had at home, looking at the pictures. Second, I could make new friends. Ones that didn’t know my sister. Third, I would be out of the house, away from my mother for 8 hours a day! Growing up, I remember talking with other kids and they would either laugh at me or ask me to “say that again”. Most adults would just walk away giving me a sad look. I was quite confused by this so away from home I barely talked.

The first day my teacher, Mrs. Woods, had each one of us stand up and tell the others ourMe22 name and one thing about ourselves. As I listened to the other kids I ran all sorts of things through my head. Should I tell the class I loved to ride my bike? Or perhaps I could tell them our family had a dog? It was hard to decide. When it came to my turn I said: “My name is Valerie and I love to ride my bike”. All the kids started laughing at me. I turned and ran crying from the room. When the teacher caught up with me she just hugged me for what seemed like a very long time. She then took me back into the room and scolded the kids for being cruel. She told them I had a speech problem and the school was going to help me with it.

A speech problem? I never heard that before. On the way home that day a carried a note from Mrs. Woods for my parents to read. I was petrified. My sister, who was four years older than me, was always bringing home notes and my Dad would yell at her and send her to our room. The look on my mothers face when I handed it to her would have killed me if it had the power. When she read it she didn’t look angry or say one word to me. I felt relief. The next morning she drove me to school and we went to the principal’s office. There she told the principal, Mrs. Reinche. that they knew I had a speech problem but they thought it would correct itself as I got older. My mother and sister always spoke baby talk to me since I was born and thought it was hilarious that I talked this way. I can still visualize the look on the principal’s face. She told my mother “We will handle this” and pointed to the door. After she left Mrs. Reinche told me I would be going to speech therapy 3 times a week at the school and it wouldn’t be long before I could speak correctly.

1960s-speech therapyI loved going for the therapy. It was one on one with the therapist and we played “games” and she taught me phonics, helping me to pronounce each word correctly by sounding them out. In class, we were learning to read by using the “Fun with Dick and Jane” series. If you don’t know what that is it was just repetitive words over and over again. Like “See Dick run, run Dick run”. You were learning to read by memory. Since I was learning phonics in therapy I was learning how to sound out the words, and this gave me a great advantage. Once I was able to speak in an understandable way I had enough confidence to stand and read to the class instead of being passed over. I read so well that Mrs. Woods started sending me home with second-grade level books. I would read them and bring them back then she and I would talk about them. She also helped me with my writing and by the end of the school year, I was writing stories.

One of the best things was I no longer got laughed at. I made great friends and I loved school. I was reading third-grade level books by the end of the year and I discovered I loved to write. Using my imagination and writing stories help get me through my very unpleasant childhood. I did have to take a refresher therapy class for my third-grade year, but I didn’t mind. There are still, to this day, some words I have trouble pronouncing. Even so, I am glad I don’t have to hear “can you say that again?’ from others.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.