Of Genealogy & Graveyards: Talking About The First Person I *Met* Online

Every fall I think of this story. It happened 20+ years ago, and while it seems quaint and only slightly spooky now, I’ll admit that in the moment it gave me pause. 

LONG BEFORE THERE WERE BLOGS, the first person I *met* online was Darlie Ann.

I was doing genealogical research in the time before Ancestry.com.  Back then to find someone with knowledge about your ancestors you needed to leave inquiries on message boards that were on cemetery websites or historical society websites or county genealogical websites.

It was hit or miss.

On one of those boards I left an inquiry about my great uncle, trying to see if anyone knew anything about his early days as a lawyer in a small Ohio town that is north of where I lived then.

Darlie Ann, who lived in Texas, saw my inquiry and contacted me via email to say that her father had been my great uncle’s law partner– and that she had a few sheets of stationery from their law practice.

We communicated back and forth via email, and she offered to send me a sheet of the stationery to add to my file.  I reciprocated by sending her a copy of a group family reunion photo that showed my uncle as an older man.

• • •

DARLIE ANN AND I STAYED IN TOUCH FOR YEARS, like penpals, writing about our lives, exchanging Christmas cards, updating each other about any genealogical research we did.

In fact, in one email Darlie Ann mentioned that recently she’d been to Ohio visiting our small town and had gone to the cemetery where my parents are buried.  She’d taken the opportunity to find their graves, snapped 2 photos of their tombstones, and sent them to me.

So that I’d have the photos for my records.

• • •

CHRISTMAS ROLLED AROUND THAT YEAR, but I didn’t get a card from Darlie Ann.  It seemed odd, but she was older, born around the time my mother was, so perhaps she forgot me?

In the following months I emailed her a few times but got no reply.  I wasn’t entirely surprised because I knew she was selling her house and moving into an apartment.  I figured she was busy.

Welp, one beautiful fall day I opened my desk drawer and saw Darlie Ann’s photos of my parents’ tombstones.  I hadn’t been to the cemetery in years, and it kind of tugged at me that I should go visit.  So I decided that the next day I’d take a mental health day and drive 3 hours each way to go visit them.

And I did.

• • •

I GOT TO THE CEMETERY and parked my car by the oak tree that I use as a guidepost for getting to my parents’ graves in this older part of the cemetery.  But when I walked across the grass to where I thought they were buried I realized I’d parked about an acre north of where they were.

Wrong oak tree.

So I started to walk south casually glancing at the tombstones as I went.  Almost immediately I found myself looking at a new grave with a shiny new tombstone.

This was unusual in this older part of the cemetery.  These lots had been owned, and filled, by families from generations back.  But what was most fascinating about this discovery, and slightly unnerving, was the name I saw on the new tombstone.

Whose grave was I visiting on this glorious autumn day?  It was Darlie Ann, my first internet friend, who’d died a few weeks before and had come back home to be buried in this cemetery in the small town of her birth.

Now how trippy is that?

In Which The Beans Disagree Over The Value Of Texts Announcing Emails

Not seeing eye to eye, but that’s okay.

• • •

To be clear this is NOT a strong opinion tightly held situation.

It’s just that Zen-Den and I disagree over something.  Nothing large, a quiet disagreement.  In fact it might be best described as a puny opinion half-heartedly held situation, but one that does lend itself to consideration and conversation.

Never would I have thought to write about it here except that I’m reading Untamed by Glennon Doyle and in her memoir she talks about that which we disagree on, i.e., the value of texts prompting you to do something now.

In fact if you’ve read what she has written about texting you know that she says: “Texts are not the boss of me, and neither is anybody who texts me.” She is not a fan of them, in general– allowing for a few specific situations in which they are good.

• • •

Getting to our particular disagreement.

Zen-Den, Esq, finds it mildly annoying when someone texts [or worse yet phones] him to say that this someone has sent Z-D an email that they want him to read.  Z-D considers that to be a remnant of old-school business practices left over from when everyone used snail mail and wanted you to know that the document was in the mail.

It is totally unnecessary in today’s electronic world. He thinks of it as weak sauce [my term for his thoughts].

I, on the other hand, like it when someone sends me a short text [no phone calls please] to alert me to the fact that this someone has sent me an email they would like me to read soon.  I consider it a polite heads-up to Ms. Bean, a woman known for forgetting to check her email accounts regularly.

It is not necessary but a good precaution if you want me to read your email on a timely basis.  I call it an act of random kindness.

• • •

So what do you think, my gentle readers?  

Do you like to know when someone has sent you an email? OR do you prefer to find them when you find them?

When receiving a text message about an email that’s been sent to you, does the context, business or personal, influence your answer to the first question?   

Also, do you consider text messages to be bossy? OR do you consider them to be like a polite wave from a neighbor across the street?

Please discuss in the comments below.

• • •

In Which A Forgotten Friend Sends Ms. Bean An Email

The following experience is not how I do things, but there’s an odd sweetness & humor to this story. Plus, you can’t take things like this personally. You gotta laugh.

• • •

Hosta starting to grow in the stones underneath the deck, early spring.

I got an email from someone, let’s call her Pebbles, who I last heard from when I was in my 20s.

Pebbles had gotten my email address from someone on FB who knew where I was. I’m not on FB, but Pebbles was looking for me because, as she explained in her email, she wanted to re-connect with me.

To be my friend again.

Pebbles’s email was filled to the brim with newsy tidbits about her blessed life as the wife of a successful businessman and her role as a granny of a parcel of fabulous little ones and her passion, which was either going to the beach or playing golf.

I can’t remember which.

Surprised, but happy to engage, I replied to Pebbles’s email asking a few questions about that which she had told me and sharing a few details about what was going in our lives now.

• • •

The other day I got a reply to my reply to Pebbles’s email.

In it she answered my questions about her life and commented on my life.  Like a friend might do, right?

But here’s the thing that makes this communication exchange odd– and like none other that I have had.

Pebbles replied back to me, using the email that she’d initially sent to me and I’d replied back to her on; that’s normal enough. HOWEVER, her response came five years after I wrote back to her.

Yes, I said years.

Not five months. Not five weeks. Not five days. Not five hours.

Five years.

• • •

Knowing me as you do, my gentle readers, you can imagine that my inner Nancy Drew is curious.

Questions abound: where the frostbite has Pebbles been for five years? Do I want to know?

And why did she keep my response email for five years? If she wanted to get back in touch again, why didn’t she start a new email to me– like, you know, people do?

And what prompted her to think of me to begin with? I’d really like to know the answer to that question.

• • •

Nut shells discarded by squirrels on the stones, late winter.

So here’s my plan.

I’ll follow Pebbles’s lead and reply back to her recent email… in five years. I’ll ask the above questions.

Then when she responds back to me, presumably in another five years, I’ll tell you what she says in answer to the above questions. In fact, you, my gentle readers, will be the first to know after me.

Because I have no doubt that ten years hence we’ll all still be here reading and commenting on each other’s blogs. We bloggers are a reliable group of people who tend to live in the moment. We like to keep things current.

But as Pebbles has shown me, not everyone does.

Modern Life 101: When The Text Wasn’t Meant For You, What Do You Do?

THE OTHER DAY I received text messages from friends that I wasn’t supposed to receive.  I was part of the conversation by accident.

We all know that stuff like this happens.

[In fact, it’s a miracle that when I text with Z-D I don’t accidentally include his sisters on the text.  In my phone, they’re all set up together so that I can send group texts.  Meaning that if I want to just text Z-D alone, I have to scroll down my contacts to find him.

I figure it’s a matter of time before I get distracted and text his sisters with something like: Pizza 🍕? Beer 🍻 too plz. You get dinner 🆗?]

SO, YOU’RE WONDERING IF what I read in these texts was salacious, aren’t you?  Did I get some good dirt on these friends who included me, but didn’t really mean to include me?

Well, no.

The texting was about how much one friend adored the daughter of another friend and how she was so happy to have spent time with the other friend’s daughter.

Gushy Mom Stuff, you know?

[But this texting did remind of something that happened years ago when email was new.  I got BCCed on messages going between two married friends who were, it seemed to me, having a lesbian affair that their husbands didn’t know about.

I didn’t need to know about it either, but there it was.]

ANYHOO, I FIGURE THAT everyone probably has a story about inadvertently learning something about someone else because that someone else made a mistake when using some kind of newfangled communication technology.

Like a text. Or an email. Or a voice mail, if we’re really reaching back in time.

I’m talking about eavesdropping, modern-style.

So, kids, spill the beans.

 – – 👀 – –

What do you know that you’re not supposed to know? How did you come to know this? Did you do anything with the information that you accidentally learned?

– – ? – –

9 Links For People Who Like Wordplay

… because information is FUN dammit.

Dear me, am I seeing a photo of a deer? Aye, it is a deer, my dear. Is the deer near here? No, from what I hear, the deer is not near here, my dear. 😁

 • • •

Need a laugh? Enjoy a generic millennial ad here.

But I don’t want to not say this word when I apologize.

Did you know that grok, like Jabberwocky, are examples of nonce words?

Miss Phryne Fisher’s 1920s Australian slang is here to help you increase your vocabulary.

There used to be more to the alphabet.

If you write headlines, how good are they? Find out here. [link revised 9/22]

The Oxford comma has an online dating profile that you can view here.

Looking for some petty phrases to use in your work emails? Click here.

According to this, your craft beer name is your grandfather’s job + a word you don’t fully understand.  My craft beer is: Salesman’s Milieu.