10 years ago my husband and I took a Genealogy research trip to Missouri. My plan was to visit as many courthouses and cemeteries as we could. I also wanted to visit the Midwest Genealogy Center in Independence. I had contacted some cousins, and we made plans to get together with them. Our 10-day visit to the State was full.
We spent a full day at the Center, three days at some courthouses and a couple of days getting together with cousins. These were a lot of fun, however, as odd as it may seem, I enjoyed visiting the cemeteries the most. I grew up “visiting” people at the cemetery, and my mother always packed a lunch and we would eat lunch there. I have never had a fear of them.
On the next to our last day of being in Missouri, we visited the 2 cemeteries in the town I was born in. My Dad, several aunts and uncles, cousins, and my maternal Great Grandparents are buried there. I also got to meet a previously unknown cousin at one of them. When we left Lexington, we made our way to Buckner where my maternal Grandparents are. We attempted to find the Page Family Cemetery in Page City but the town no longer exists and the Cemetery was on private property.
Our last stop was the Dover Cemetery where my paternal Great Grandparents and 2x Great Grandparents are resting. I also found several other relatives graves there as well. We were heading back to our car when a much older gentleman in overalls approached us. He said he noticed our Arizona license plate, and he just wanted to know who we were visiting. I mentioned the names and his eyes lit up! He told us his Grandma was a Register. I asked what her name was, and he responded “Grandma”. I wasn’t sure if he was teasing me or what so I asked him what her first name was. It turned out that it was my Great Grandmother.
Robert, Elvira, Charles Register
We offered to buy him lunch, and we meet him at a small diner in town. We spent about 3 hours talking with him. He struggled at times to remember some details, but once he got started he told us so many stories and gave me verifiable facts that I didn’t already have. He even called his Granddaughter and had her bring a photo of his Grandma, and he gave it to me. So I now possess a photo that I never would have known existed if it hadn’t been for this encounter, and this unusual source.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.
I was always a tom-boy growing up, always the first one to take a dare and run with it. I remember so many times that the outcome of these daring feats ended in disaster. Once I ended up with stitches in my knee, another time I sprained my ankle so badly from roller skating off our wooden picnic table onto the concrete patio that I was on crutches for 2 weeks.
A perfect example of accepting a dare was when I was 5 years old. We lived on Circle A Drive and the street was shaped like a horseshoe. For the first 8 years that we lived there the street was unpaved. It was not uncommon for the county to dig large holes on the side of the streets to fix pipes or other issues. There was a boy named Terry who lived down the street from us, and he was about 6 years older than me. One day he came over and said they were putting in a swimming pool a few houses down, and he asked if we wanted to see it. My sister and I immediately said yes and off we went.
My sister aged 8 and me aged 4
Sure enough, right in the front of their yard was a large 6-foot deep hole half filled with murky water. My sister said that she had never seen a pool without cement in it and Terry told her that after they are sure the hole is deep enough and that it is the right shape, they drain it and put in the cement. He then challenged my sister to jump in. My sister wasn’t a good swimmer and although she was only 9 years old she already weighted close to 200 pounds, so she was afraid to try. Terry only just began the challenge directed to me when I ran and jumped in the hole!
I remember going under the water and when I came to the surface I couldn’t breathe. My skin had a light brown sludge on and I couldn’t “swim” to the edge. Totally frightened Terry jumped in close to the edge and reached his hand out for me to grab. It took a couple of tries, but we finally clasped hands. After pulling me to the edge he shoved me up onto the dirt. He then struggled to climb up but couldn’t get a good footing. My sister had run to Terry’s house and got his Dad to come help. Eventually we were both laying on the ground. Terry’s Dad was laughing so hard he could hardly speak.
He sent my sister to tell my mother that he was carrying me home and to meet us in the yard with some towels. Terry was instructed to go home. When we got to my house my mother and sister were standing in the yard with the towels and my mother looked angry. That was until she saw me. She started screaming from fear and rushed to get the water hose. She turned it on and began spraying me head to toe trying to wash the sludge off of me. I was still struggling to catch my breath and coughing.
After I got cleaned up enough to go inside, my mother told me to go take a hot shower and wash my hair and body really good. By the time I got out, Terry’s parents were in the living room, along with a freshly scrubbed Terry. They were explaining what had happened, and they told her they would take me with them because we needed to go see our doctor. That is when I found out that the “swimming pool” was actually a hole that was dug to fix a sewer line. Apparently the leak got bigger overnight and sewage had filled the hole. The county workers had been by early in the morning and had dumped some chemicals in it to keep the smell down. This was in 1960 before all of our current regulations. You can image my reaction when I realized I had jumped in a hole of poop!
Thankfully, I had no adverse reactions to the chemicals or from being submerged in the mess. I wish that this event had taught me not to take a dare in the future, but it didn’t. I must say, if nothing else, my childhood was colorful!
This week’s prompt seems very fitting to me. I recently spoke with a cousin, “John”, I had connected with on Facebook. Although he had been on my friends list for several years the extent of our “relationship” had been responding to each other’s posts. I try not to overwhelm my family with information about our shared ancestry, but whenever asked about it I gladly share.
A few weeks ago I posted that if anyone had any stories about our mutual ancestors that I would love to hear them. John responded that he had a lot of stories and he wanted to call me so we could discuss them. I was elated! He was from a branch that I had not heard any stories from. We set up a time for the call and I awaited excitedly. We were on the phone for about and hour and I furiously too notes and asked questions. When the call ended, I got to work trying to verify some of the stories he told me about.
The first bit of information was one I had heard before. My Hughes line was related to Jessie James! I remembered doing a quick search about the possibility of Jessie being a relative, but I didn’t remember the outcome. I had already researched our connection to John Wesley Hardin and John Hardin Clements, the notorious Texas outlaws but I had never added Jessie to the tree. When I started researching I realized why. There was no way we were related, no matter how far back I went. So I put that possibility in the “no way” pile.
I moved on to the next story. It was about our ancestors, whom he named, that supposedly helped to dig up and rebury Civil War soldiers that had died and were buried on the grounds of The Anderson House in Lexington, Missouri. Again, I did some research and found nothing. I had been to this house and the museum that they had on the grounds, so I knew if I called the office, someone may be able to answer the question for me. The poor lady must have thought I was nuts! She was so nice though, and she told me they get calls all the time trying to prove some ancestors’ connection to the battle that was fought there or things happening on the grounds. She informed me that nothing like this ever happened here. My “no way” file just got bigger!
John spent about 15 minutes telling me all about his paternal heritage, how they were descendant from Irish Kings, and he told me outlandish stories about them. This line I wasn’t concerned with, nor did I even attempt to do any research of it because he and I aren’t connected through his fathers line.
Now John is bugging me about when I am going to write up the stories he told me and let the family know about Jessie James! I told him that we were not related to him, and he exclaimed “That’s what my Dad told me, and he’s not a liar!” I told him that maybe he was related to Jessie through his Dad’s line, and I told him I have never researched that line since I am not really connected to it. I tried to calm the situation down by telling him that when I have free time I may be able to look into it for him. I then told him the genealogy mantra: “Genealogy without documentation is mythology.” He understood and at least he didn’t unfriend me!
My oops moment was not thinking through the post about wanting stories. Maybe I should have just contacted a few cousins at a time and ask them if they had any information on the family. I could then, at least, give a few guidelines and explain about oral traditions. These stories can be wonderful and add a lot of character to your family history, as long as we state they are stories and are not proven facts. Lesson learned!
During this time of year that we pause to give thanks, I think it is very fitting that this weeks’ blog should be on Gratitude. We all have a lot to be grateful for, just sometimes we forget to stop and count our blessings and to express gratitude for what we do have.
I am grateful for Genealogy. I wasn’t raised around family since my parents moved us from Missouri to Arizona when I was 11 months old. I lived in Missouri from age 12-14 but because of my mothers mental illness we didn’t get to know many of the relatives. After my mother died in 1999, I had a great desire to know where I came from. And so my journey really began.
Over the last 21 years I have discovered so many amazing things about my ancestors. The most excited thing I have found is actual family! With the onset of social media I have been able to connect with hundreds of relatives. Most are more distant ones but I do have over 150 closer relatives, and only a handful were known to me before this. I have been able to meet a few in person, or talked with them by phone. I have had several who have mailed or emailed me photos and stories about our shared family.
As of two years ago I am the only living member of my family lines going to me. My Dad died in 1974, my mother who disowned me in 1986, died in 1999, my sister who did the same because of my mothers pressure, died in 2012 and my brother who my mother disowned in 1980, died in 2018. I have always felt disconnected from family because of my mother, however now I have a sense of family because of the blessing of finding so many wonderful cousins. I am full of Gratitude!
When you live in the Sonoran Desert, you have to make adjustments to some of the “standard” Christmas traditions. Like snowball fights! Unless you want to make the trip up the 9000+feet tall Mount Lemon to play in the couple of feet of snow that peppers the mountain in December and January. Caroling is another tradition that had to change a bit. I wrote in a previous blog about the last Christmas we spent in Tucson when I was about 12 years old. I received both a bike and a swimsuit as gifts and I put on the suit and went outside to ride the bike. Because of the warm winters, we couldn’t wear coats, scarves or gloves to go caroling. Although I loved hot chocolate, it was always too hot to really enjoy it.
Me at age 5 with “wreath” in window.
One of the main traditions that everyone had to adapt to our weather was decorating the outside of our houses My mother took one of my hula hoops and cut holes in it to string blue Christmas lights on it. She then wrapped silver tinsel between the lights. She hung it in our enormous front window, and we plugged it in a night. Regular live wreaths dried up within days. We also had an aluminum Christmas tree with the color wheel. When my parents first moved to Tucson when I was 11 months old it was December 3rd. They bought a real tree and only had it up for about a week before it was totally dead! Hench, the aluminum one. Granted my mother was a very lazy person, and she probably forgot to water it, but once was enough for my Dad.
My earliest memory of Christmas was a place called Winterhaven. It was a newer subdivision in the northwest part of town. They decided as part of the celebration of the last house being bought that they would encourage all of the homeowners to decorate their yards. There was newspaper article written about it and that year, every night in December, hundreds of cars drove through the neighborhood to look at the sights. The next year they encouraged people to park and walk through. Although our family really had no traditions to speak of, this was one thing my Dad insisted we do every year. I looked forward to it every year because most of the people changed their decorations each season, each time trying to out do their neighbors!
I normally don’t add a lot of photos to my blogs, but I found out today that they decided to not decorate Winterhaven this year and the board also decided to not do it again. It is so sad to see it disappear after over 60 years of tradition. So I hope you enjoy these photos from the late 50s to mid 60s.
I thought I would spend this month leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood, but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs or were a result of her beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.
My 2 times Great Grandma, Elizabeth Marsh was born December 31, 1841, in Chillicothe Missouri. Elizabeth was a religious woman, attending Church every Sunday and reading her Bible daily. She loved reading all the accounts in the Old Testament, and she would tell not only her children but the other children in the surrounding areas the stories that she found there. Her favorite one was about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. We all know the account of how God created man, then from Adams rib He created woman. He set the two of them in this perfect Garden and told them they could eat from any tree in the garden except from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. This Garden was perfect and they wanted for nothing. One day Satan took the shape of a serpent (snake) and tempted Eve with the fruit from the one forbidden tree. Satan told her that she could eat from fruit, and she would not die but instead she would become like God and have great knowledge. She then ate from the fruit, and she did not die. She then took the fruit to Adam and told him to eat from it also, and he did. When God found out what they had done, he banished them from the Garden. Elizabeth came to believe that Satan inhabited ALL snakes, and she was afraid of them. She seldom ventured far from home on foot for fear of encountering one.
Elizabeth passed her fear of snakes down to her children and they in turn passed it down to their children and so on. My mom was raised in Missouri, and she knew about all the types of snakes that lived there and where they were most likely to live. She avoided any place where she thought a snake might be. When we moved to Arizona, my mom found herself with a new dilemma. She did not know any of the species of snakes that dwelt in the Desert, and she had no idea where they may hide. I remember once when we had relatives visiting us we took them on a cookout and hike in the Saguaro National Forest. Just so you know this is not a typical Forest with tall trees, it is filled with hundred-year-old Saguaro cacti. Some of these cacti grow to be 40-60 feet tall and can have up to 25 “arms” on it. While we were hiking up a hill, surrounded by beautiful cactus and Desert plants my mom decided to kick over a rock. Nestled beneath this rock was a very small snake, all coiled up trying to sleep. My mom took off running the opposite direction and didn’t stop until she got to our car. She then got inside and locked the doors. When we all finally reached the car it took a while before my Dad could convince her to come out. When she did she would only sit on the hood of the car! She tried to talk my Dad and my Uncle to go find the snake and kill it, but all they did was laugh.
We lived in a housing community just outside the Tucson City limits and the development was surrounded on 3 sides by Desert. A few years after this experience, early on a summer morning, I was taking a basket full of laundry out to hang on the clothes line. When I opened our back door and stepped outside I saw that there was a pretty large snake crawling along the wall of the house. I dropped the basket and jumped back inside, slamming the door. When my mom found out about the snake, she was hysterical. She started yelling that Satan was in that snake, and we had to kill it. I was 6 years old at the time and my sister was 10 so we were not going to be much help in the “snake killing” department. My Dad was at work, as was every other man in our neighborhood. So my mom devised a plan. I was to wait by the back door and wait for her to whistle. She was going to go out the front door, go into the shed and get a hoe and sneak up on the snake from behind.I was to open the back door and jump out and scream to get the snakes’ attention so that Satan would not see her coming at him. So it began…one…two…three…whistle…jump out…scream…my mom began hitting the snake with the hoe. She was crying and hitting and crying and hitting, and she didn’t stop until there was only a few recognizable pieces of the snake left. She then dropped the hoe, marched inside, crawled in bed and stayed there. When my Dad got home, and he saw what was left of the snake he just shook his head, told us to get in the car, and we went to Mc Donalds for dinner. My mom finally emerged from her bedroom two days later and by then the snake parts had been disposed of. She had another “episode” when she found out the snake had been a rattlesnake, but she got over it much quicker. From that day on until we sold the house and moved, which was 5 years, my mom never went out the back door again. Up until she died at the age of 80 years old she would remind us every chance she got that “Satan was in all snakes and it was our duty to kill them.”
BTW: I have never killed a snake in my life and in fact, I bought my Grandsons an Albino Corn snake for a pet!
Here are some more Superstitions that my mother had:
If you drop a fork you will be having company
Lift your feet up when driving over railroad tracks for good luck
If the bottom of your right foot itches, you are going to take a trip or walk in a new place
Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.
I loved school as a child. I loved learning, I loved reading and writing, I loved recess, but mostly I loved just being away from home. My home life wasn’t the best and this was my escape. I was fortunate enough to have a great 5th grade teacher, who recognized my situation and showed me extra attention and kindness. When anything came up at school that required each classrooms’ participation, Mrs. Holman always picked me for it.
During the second week of school we were informed that one person from each grade would be chosen to be the “banker” for that grade. There were 3 classes per grade so it was a big deal to be chosen. I don’t know how it was determined who would represent a grade, but I was chosen for mine. I was so excited, even though I had no idea what I was going to be doing. Within a couple of days we had the first meeting of the “school bankers”. I learned that our responsibility was to go to all 3 of our grades’ classrooms and give a talk about why it was important to save money. Then we informed the kids that they could open their own savings account and on each Friday they could bring their money to school and “deposit” it in the bank. The perk for me was all 6 of the “bankers” got to go to the large Valley National Bank building in downtown Tucson, AZ. We were to take a tour of it and learn about money.
On the day of the trip to the bank, we all wore our best clothes. To be honest, when we pulled up to this 11-story building I had big butterflies in my stomach. However, once we went inside, they disappeared! There was so much to look at, especially all the people. We got to go behind the counter and watch the tellers give and receive money. We toured the safe deposit box room and along the way, the guide explained what everything was and its purpose. Then we were herded into the elevator, and we rode it to the 11th floor. All of these floors were just offices, but we did get to look out the windows. What a treat for a bunch of kids who had never been in a tall building before!
Then came the best part. We returned to the main floor and met the bank manager. He escorted us to the elevator once again, only this time we went to the basement. There was an enormous, round, metal door with a large lever on it. The manager opened it and we got to go inside. We were in the bank vault where all the money was kept. We viewed how they banded and stacked the different denominations of bills and coins. The manager reached into a drawer and pulled out a bill. He told us we were getting a special treat because very few people got to see what we were about to see. He then pulled out a 100,000 dollar bill! It was passed around, and we all got to hold it and look at it. It was a great day and experience.
That Friday after lunch, we were set up in the cafeteria with each grade having our own table. The children filed in and came to their grades table with their money in hand. My job was to “open” an account for them by putting their name on a saving book. I then took the money and wrote the amount on the first line, and then gave the book to the student. I counted all of the money from that day and place it in an envelope with the amount written on the outside. When we all were done, we took them to the Principals office. We did this each week, adding the new amount to the individual books until the end of school, when we refunded the children’s money. The average payout was $9, which was a lot of cash in 1966. I learned a lot during this process, the most important one was how and why to save money. Oh, I have had a great story to tell about handling a 100,000 dollar bill for all these years.
I thought I would spend these next 3 weeks leading up to Halloween telling stories of things that happened in not only my childhood but in the lives of my Ancestors that helped form most of my mothers superstition beliefs, the ones she tried to pass down to my sister and me. I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.
Superstition: Watch what you eat!
My Grandpa was John Pleasant Smith Sr. born September 8, 1882, in Hazel Hill Missouri. On John’s mothers side his roots grew deep into Ireland’s fertile soil. He had all the superstitions of your typical Irishman, but he also had some that was passed down from his father’s side. Pleasant Smith was said to be a Creek Indian. I haven’t been able to prove nor disprove this since he is my biggest brick wall. I do know that my beloved Grandpa had one Superstition that I have never forgotten.
John Pleasant Smith Sr and my mother Emmajane, 1967
When I was 12 years old, we had just moved back to Missouri, and we settled in the quaint little town of Oak Grove, Missouri. It wasn’t a permanent situation, but we were there long enough for me to finally get to know my Grandpa. The house we rented was only 6 blocks from his home. I would go visit him after school and on Saturdays. He taught me a lot about growing vegetables and taking care of fruit trees. I always thought some of his planting ideas were really just Superstitions. He taught me to plant anything that grows on top of the soil when the Moon is full and anything that grows beneath the soil should be planted in the dark of the Moon. Over the years I have had bumper crops of veggies by following his instructions and I recently discovered that this is even written about in the Farmer’s Almanac. Oh well, so much for that Superstition.
He did other things because of his belief in Superstitions. One was if he left the house by the back door he would have to re-enter the house by that same door. To do otherwise brought bad luck. He believed that if the Moon had a ring around it then it was sure to rain within 3 days. I distinctly remember one day while I was visiting, my Grandma and I were sitting in the living room shelling peas. My Grandpa came in and asked me if I wanted to see a Yellow Headed Blackbird. I was so excited I jumped out of the rocking chair I was sitting in and ran towards the door. My Grandpa froze in place and told me to go back and stop the chair from rocking. He believed if you leave a rocking chair rocking when empty, it invites evil spirits to come into your house to sit in the rocking chair.
Although I remember these Superstitions, they are not the strangest one that he had, the one that has stuck with me all these years. It all started the first time we went to eat at my Grandparents home. We were all sitting around the kitchen table and after my Grandpa said “Grace” my Grandma and mom served our plates. I sat in astonishment as my Grandma brought a plate with only 2 pieces of chicken on it and set it in front of my Grandpa. She went back into the kitchen and came back with 2 smaller plates, one with mashed potatoes and one with green beans, and she placed these in front of him. By the time all the plates were placed on the table Grandpa had 5 separate plates with just one specific food on each one. I had never seen anything like it. I looked at my own plate. I had all the same things as he did but it was all on just one plate. I watched as Grandpa slowly ate each plate of food, one right after the other. After dinner, I asked him why he ate his food like that. He told me that he was raised to believe that if you let your food touch each other on your plate that you will get sick and die. My Grandpa was 84 years old so it made it easy for me to believe it too!
I decided to eat the same way; I mean why risk it, right? When I told my mom about my decision she said if that is what I wanted then go ahead and do it, but I would have to wash my own dishes afterwards. Eating this way only lasted a couple of days. It just wasn’t worth adding all those extra dishes for me to wash!
Here are some other Superstitions held by my mom and Grandpa.
Finding a penny brings good luck. When you pick it up you MUST say “Find a penny, pick it up all the day you’ll have good luck!”
Crossing your fingers for luck or to ward off evil or to not have to tell the truth
Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.
Back in the “dark ages” when I was attending elementary school we only went on one field trip each year. Because of that, the teacher would try to make it very special. I vaguely remember most of them, but my 4th grade one left a lasting impression on me.
My first grade teacher was also my fourth grade teacher. I really liked her, and I was thrilled to find that I would be in her class again. All of the other teachers told their students at the beginning of the year where they would be going, however, Mrs. Woods just kept telling us to wait and see. The months passed by without even a hint of where we were going and all of us kids speculated as to what we would be doing. Then, at the end of February in 1965, Mrs. Woods told us that in one week we would be going on our field trip. The cheering was deafening, and one girl actually started crying.
On March 2nd, we all wore our best clothes to school. I was so excited I hardly slept the night before. All of the children sat quietly in our seats watching the hands on the clock edge towards 10. I don’t think I had ever been in a classroom that was that quiet before. At the stroke of 10 we lined up at the door and walked to the school bus that was waiting for us. I lived 3 blocks from school so getting to ride the bus was a thrill. It took a little over 20 minutes before we arrived in downtown Tucson, and we pulled up in front of the movie theater. We all let out a yell when we saw the words on the marque, “Now playing, “The Sound of Music”!
We all filed into the building, and we walked down what seemed like a mile long aisle. I ended up in the very front row and I sat in awe as I watched all the singing and dancing. I loved it. When we were on our way back to school the girls were trying to sing some of the songs we had heard, but we had the lyrics wrong. That didn’t really matter though because we had such a good time.
Many, many years later, my daughter and I would have girls nights at home. We would rent a couple of movies and buy snacks, then we would pull out the bed on the sofa and watch them. They were always musicals, and we would sing-a-long and have a great time. I had fallen in love with musicals way back in 4th grade, and I have Mrs. Woods to thank for that.
My Dad hated everything about the Beatles, their music, the lyrics, and especially their hair. He would take my sister and I to the mall to buy 45 rpm records about once a month. He wouldn’t let us buy any by this group. My mother had a way of bullying my Dad into doing what she wanted, and what she wanted was to make my sister happy. So finally he gave in and let her buy a couple of them.
The year was 1964, and the Beatles first movie had just come out. In July that year the movie, “A Hard Days Night” featuring the Beatles, began showing at the Drive-in. My sister really wanted to go see it, so after a couple of weeks my Dad surrendered to her wishes and said we could go. I really didn’t like the Beatles, but I loved going to the drive-in. We would take sodas, pop popcorn and buy candy to snack on. We would also bring two foldable lawn chairs for my parents and pillows for my sister and I to lean back on while sitting on the hood of the car.
It was a Friday night, and we were getting things ready to go. I helped carry everything out to the car, placing it all in the trunk. I hate waiting, even as a young child, so I stayed by the car, hoping everyone else would hurry. It was starting to get dark out. As soon as I saw my sister come through the back door I opened the back car door and jumped in! My sister got in the other side and then my parents opened the front doors. When they did, the dome light came on up on the roof. It was then that I happened to look at the floorboard. There between my feet was the largest tarantula I had ever seen!
I jumped out of the car, screaming to the top of my lungs. My Dad rushed around and used his handkerchief to scoop up the intruder. I was hysterical and I refused to get back in the car. After about 5 minutes of stern talking, my mother and sister “convinced” me to get back into the car, and we went to the movies. I spent the entire night checking every corner of the inside and outside of the car to see if there were more “spiders” hiding somewhere. I had a miserable time.
Here it is, 56 years later, and I am still scared of spiders. It doesn’t matter how small they are, if I start screaming my husband comes running to kill the dreaded monster! I blame the Beatles for my fear of arachnids on that first Hard Days Night’s!