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?

1930s Slang: How Do You Say Very Good?

What’s your story, morning glory?

This is today’s silliness, it being the last day of April and all.  Wave good-bye to April.  Busy month for me.  Did different things for the heck of it.

Case in point, out of curiosity I did some genealogical research about ye olde family and in the process I, once again, stumbled over something entertaining.

In that wordy historical way I like.  Bumping gums and a ring-a-ding-ding I say.

What I found is Dirty 30s!, a fun website with a long list of slang terms from, you guessed it, the 1930s.

Reading through this list gave me an idea of how my ancestors spoke to each other.  You shred it, wheat.  Or I assume that they did.  I mean, they probably used slang, right?  No reason to believe that they spoke in scholarly language all the time.

[Well, one did write a book that landed on the NYT best seller list in the 1930s but he must have at least known these words and phrases.  Togged to the bricks, that one.]

Anyway, below I present for your entertainment a simple little poll about the word GOOD.  My theme for the day, it would seem.  I could do worse. Good is good.

Thus I ask of you to shake a leg and use your peepers because you’ve got a poll to take.

[Slang words and phrases defined in comment section below.]

The Stuff Of Family & Ancestors: Thoughts While Sorting Through Boxes

Does this make me feel more alive?

[The question to ask. Always.]

I’ve been in a deciding frame of mind this month. Must get rid of a past that doesn’t serve me.

A past that in many cases is not mine, but I reluctantly accepted and boxed up when elderly relatives passed on, storing their stuff in my closets, I did.

Now, I want empty closets, the feeling of lightness.

Been going through dusty boxes of old family photos and documents and letters. Pamphlets and newspaper articles.

Memorabilia, too.

Does this make me feel more alive?

I shred the photos and docs and letters that don’t call to me, and save those that might… might… might… someday find their way into…

a blog post?

an article or essay?

a memoir, perhaps, even?

But as for the family memorabilia, it’s a different kind of past. Remembered with objects, things of history.

Personal cookbooks;  and 1940s slides [with a projector];  and  handwritten family stories;  and a diary;  and a daguerreotype;  and [of all things] a Civil War soldier’s personal mirror with carved initials.

What shall I decide about these objects, I wonder.

Does this make me feel more alive?

Difficult for me, an adult orphan, to know what to do with these things that held memories for someone who is long gone. Someone who I may never have met.

I intend to make peace with these objects, sending them on their way…

to history museums or libraries?

to antique malls?

to the dump?

I’ve been a good relative, respectful, but now I’m ready to have more space, both literal and figurative, in my life. Must get rid of a past that doesn’t serve me.

Does this make me feel more alive?

Share Your World | Hell’s Bells Nut Shells

Walnut shells on the garden bench left by industrious [hungry?] squirrels.

 What do you consider is the most perfect food for you? (It can be your favorite food to something extremely healthy.)

APPLES: Natural. Sweet. Healthy. Portable. Alkaline. Reasonably priced. Easy to sauce. Nice to crisp. Wonderful to pie. Tasty to cider. Pretty to look at.

 Are you focused on today or tomorrow?

I’m usually focused on both.  They are, after all, connected to each other in ways unbroken.  Like the flow of the eternity symbol [figure eight on its side] my mind glides effortlessly from today to tomorrow, and then back again to today.  I’m mindful of now, but with a sense of perspective about later.

• If you could interview one of your great-great-great grandparents, who would it be (if you know their name) and what would you ask?

The only great-great-great grandparent that I know of is the man who immigrated from Scotland to America.  He was, supposedly, from a well-off nobleman’s family [weren’t they all?], but being a minor son with no title to inherit, he decided to come here to make his fortune.

If I could talk with him I’d ask him: why did he came here? what did he do for a living when he got here? and how did this life differ from the one he left?

• What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination.

Here’s what inspired me last week: did you know that a rainbow can happen even if it’s not raining where you are?

I didn’t, nor did Zen-Den.

On Thursday night he drove home from where he works downtown, and noticed, as he drove along, that a rainbow in the sky seemed to end at our house.

When he got home, he walked inside the house and asked me when it’d rained.  I told him that it hadn’t rained here.

He said that it hadn’t rained on his drive home either… BUT there was a rainbow in the sky out front of our house now.

Of course, we both went running out the front door to see this rainbow– and by golly there it was.  Large and bright and colorful.

Now how amazing is that?

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Catch up with everyone else who is answering Cee’s Share Your World Questions this week by clicking HERE.

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That Place Where Genealogy & A Forgiving Spirit Meet

“It is a duty to forgive everyone that is indebted to us, under pain of the Divine condemnation… for an unforgiving spirit cannot possibly be a happy one.”

~ The Reverend William H. Sutherland, Ohio frontier circuit preacher | DDiv | my great-grandfather

~ • ~

Good thought, eh?  I stumbled upon it when I was doing some random genealogical research.

[Amazing what a person can find online.]

The quote you see above comes from Charles C. Cole’s Lion of the Forest: James B. Finley, Frontier Reformer, a biography about Finley.  Like Finley, my great-grandfather was a frontier circuit preacher who travelled via horse or on foot to spread the word of God.  It was a difficult life and the pay was nominal.  Most men did the job for a few years and then moved onto something less strenuous, less religious.

However, my great-grandfather toughed it out and eventually went on to earn an advanced degree in theology.  Throughout his subsequent career as a reverend he rose within the ranks of the Methodist Episcopal Church* to become an elder of some sort.  [More research needed.]  But before he became someone of note within the church, he ruffled a few feathers out there on the circuit.

[Specifically, the feathers of Finley.]

As I understand it, Finley and my great-grandfather did not agree on what constituted Christian forgiveness.  Finley believed that a Christian could not forgive someone unless that someone had first repented.

My great-grandfather took a more progressive view and said that forgiveness was not dependent upon someone else repenting, but was an action that a good Christian took as a matter of course.  The responsibility to forgive was the appropriate behavior of the forgiver, regardless of what the person requiring forgiveness did– or did not do.

[You still with me here?]

I like learning that my great-grandfather, who is affectionately known within this house as The Old Coot, was not as coot-ish as I imagined him to be.  My take-away from this is that he had a good heart, and apparently the sense to know what to worry about and what to let go of.

Rather modern thinking, for an old-time religious fellow.  I’m impressed.

* In 1844 there was a schism within the U.S.A. Methodist church resulting in the denomination dividing into two factions: the Methodist Episcopal Church condemned slavery;  the Southern Methodist Church allowed slavery.  This schism foreshadowed the Civil War by about 20 years.