Category Archives: Story telling

In Honor Of My Dad’s 101st Birthday!

me & dad

Me & Dad 

My Dad was the person who influenced my life the most while growing up. He showed me unconditional love, even through all the craziness of my teen years. I never really appreciated him until after he was gone. In honor of this remarkable man, this blog is to celebrate his life on what would be his 101st Birthday.

 

Benjamin Douglas “Doug” Hughes was born in Pettis County, Missouri, August 18, 1915. He

Douglas&Lenoard - Restored - Use

Douglas & Leonard 1918

was born the same day that his Uncle who, was blind, died. He was name after this uncle. He was the 8th of 11children born to Charley Hughes. They lived on a farm in rural Missouri, raising all their food, cows and award winning horses. During the Great Depression of the 1930’s they were fortunate enough to not suffer as others did because they were basically self-sustaining. They shared what they had with others in the community and I believe this is where my Dad developed his giving spirit!

Dad at 18At the age of 15 two events influenced his life. The first was he paid 25 cents and got his first drivers license. He said “In those days there was no driving or written test, as long as you had the quarter you got the license!”  He was always proud of the fact that in all his years of driving he had only received 1 ticket. The second event was when his family was living near Lexington Missouri. He along with his brother Leonard and two brother-in-laws Mitchell and Virgil where riding in a wagon going to town. A neighbor came out and an argument broke out between Virgil and the man. This man drew his gun and shot Virgil between the eyes, killing him instantly! This haunted my Dad his whole life.

In 1934-35 my Dad participated in the Civilian Conservation Corp implemented by CCC Camps DadPresident Roosevelt. He served in Lake Tahoe, California. Here he learned to work with wood and stone masonry. These skills helped him the rest of his life. During his lifetime he worked as a horse trainer, as a farmer, as a coal miner, he worked on the railroads, as a butcher and for the last 19 years of his life he worked in the construction field.

 

dad, mildred, lolaHe was married 3 times; the first time was when he was 22 years old in 1937. He married Mildred Shockley and they had a son Benjamin. Unfortunately Benjamin died at 2 months old from Typhoid and his mom died 3 weeks later from the same thing. My Dad was devastated. He married a second time in 1944 to Mildred McQuillen. She had a daughter name Loretta whom my Dad accepted as his own.Mom, Dad, Bro & Sis They never had children and I don’t know what happened but they divorced sometime before 1948. The third was my Mother, Emmajane Smith in 1948. My Mother had a son, Gordon and once again my Dad took him as his own. My sister Mary Leella was born in 1951 and I was born in 1955.

We left Missouri when I was 11 months old and moved to Southern Arizona. When I was 12 years old my Mother had a mental breakdown and the next 7 years were pure hell! My Dad refused to have her committed and he took care of her even through our moves back to Missouri for 2 years then out to California for 5 years. He showed me that you don’t give up on people because the situation is not ideal. He showed strength of character and resolve that I have always admired.

Dad and my oldest son.

In the Fall of 1973 my Dad went to the doctor for a cough that wouldn’t go away. After many tests and x-rays we were told he had lung cancer. He had surgery to remove his right lung then endured several rounds of chemo and radiation therapy. He lived for 9 months and he passed away at home on June 24, 1974. He was 58 years old. This was 42 years ago and I still think about him every day. I still strive to be the kind of woman, wife, mother and Grandmother that would make him proud. I know that I am proud to be his daughter!

 

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Arizona, Charley Hughes, Death, Family History, Family Search, Farming, Genealogy, Hughes, Memories, Missouri, Story telling, Uncategorized

“Hot Topic” Genealogy

HottopicsIt is always amazing to see how much society has changed in the last few hundred years. What is the “norm” for today was taboo a century ago and what was accepted 200 years ago seems unimaginable today. Throughout history there has always been a “Hot Topic” in each generation. Topics such as the Suffrage Movement, Religious Freedoms, Slavery, Prohibition, Wars etc. Today we are hard pressed to find out how our ancestors felt about these issues or if any of them actively supported or opposed them. Unless our ancestor was “famous” for their stand we may never know.

We can make assumptions on some of their beliefs by how they lived. Take for instance civil war battlesthe Civil War. If your ancestor fought for the North, you can assume they were anti-slavery and if they fought for the South they were pro-slavery. Also if they owned slaves you can assume that they believed in it and if they didn’t they were opposed. Some of the “topics” were not so obvious.

If we are lucky we can find membership information, letters, affiliations or other documents that can provide a glimpse into our ancestors’ stance on the issues of their day. However, most of us will never find these gems. We are left wondering if they had any opinion at all. This brings us to our own time in the genealogical timeline.  We have so many “Hot Topics” today that in a hundred years our future generations will wonder where we stood and why.

New scans15I am of the belief that I want to leave as much information for our future generations as possible. Not only about our ancestral line but also of the times in which we live. I have started writing about some of my beliefs, my stands on social issues and any participation’s I have had for or against those issues. To be quite honest I have picketed for one issue and I have picketed against another. I have participated in rallies and marches. I have appeared on local and National television, radio programs, been a Conference Speaker and featured in magazines and newspapers as an expert on one issue. I want my Great Grand-kids to know their Great Grandma held strong opinions on certain subjects and she wasn’t afraid to let others know how she felt. I am trying to be fair and explain both sides of the issues and express why I chose the side I did.

 

What “Hot Topics” do you have an opinion or belief on? Have you gotten involved fighting for or against that Topic? Think about leaving your experiences behind for those coming after you.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/Your-Family-History and http://tinyurl.com/Genealogy-Research-Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.

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Filed under Ancestry, Civil War, Family History, Family Search, Famous, Genealogy, Hints, History, Hot Topic, How-to, Memories, Next Generation, Personal Stories, Story telling, Uncategorized, Write Your Story

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Christmas morning

 

I am often envious of those who have wonderful Christmas memories from their childhood. I was raised in a dysfunctional home where my Mother had a serious mental illness and my mean older sister was allowed to rule. I do have some good memories although they are mixed in with some very bad ones. Our family did have some Christmas traditions that I continued to carry on into the lives of my own children. These are the things I like to remember.

 

We moved to Tucson Arizona just before my first Christmas. Living in a Aluminum Treedesert area you learn adapt some regular traditions to what is available.  Live Christmas trees, although available, were almost impossible to keep alive until Christmas morning. The air was too dry and it was still warm in December so after the first year my Dad went out and bought an aluminum Color WheelChristmas tree. Yes, I said aluminum!  It came with a color wheel which you aimed at the tree and when it was on it would cast the colors of green, red, yellow and blue onto the tree. The tree would then illuminate the room in the various colors.

Me at 5 years old

Me at 5 years old

My Mother found the Indian culture of the area fascinating and she especially loved the turquoise jewelry that was madehere. When it came time to paint the outside of our home it was white with a turquoise trim. So, she brought those colors into our Christmas decorations. The aluminum tree was decked with turquoise colored ornaments and garland. We had white tinsel on the tree. Even the lighted star at the top of the tree was turquoise. One year she made a large wreath to hang in our oversized front windows. It was an old hula hoop wrapped in white garland. She inserted a string of lights inside the hoop and covered each bulb with a silver aluminum pan that came from the pot pies we ate. Of course the lights were a turquoise color. My Dad would string white and blue lights along the edge of our flat roof and drape some inside the huge Century plant in the front yard.

me & dadInside the house we would remove all the pictures hanging on the walls and wrap them like presents, complete with bows. The large Nativity scene was place atop the Television and candles were placed everywhere.

Every year we would make sugar cookies and decorate them with M&M’s. We would then wrap them in saran wrap and hang them from the tree. Guests could remove one and eat it when they came to visit and on Christmas Eve my sister and I got to have one along with hot chocolate. We were also allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve; of course it was one that was specifically wrapped for that purpose!

 

I remember the last Christmas that we spent in Arizona when I was almost Saguaro Cactus12 years old. I got a new bicycle and a one piece swim suit. I put on the suit and jumped on my bike and road around for hours. When we moved to Missouri a few months later some of the kids in my class were asking me questions about AZ.  When I told them I was excited to actually have snow for the Holidays they asked about the Christmas in Tucson. When I told them about the swim suit and bike experience they called me a liar. They couldn’t fathom how it could possibly be 79 degrees on Christmas morning!

Passing along the traditions that we had while growing up is important to the cohesiveness of the generations. It connects us to the past and helps us to share our reasons for these traditions. Spend some time thinking about how you celebrated the Holidays and then write them down. Future generations will love them!

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: 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.

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Filed under Ancestry, Arizona, Christmas, Family History, Genealogy, Personal Stories, Story telling

Missouri State Fair 1968

Sedalia Fair

Me 1968

Isn’t it funny how certain sounds, smells or music can bring back a memory? When I smell Old Spice cologne I think of my Dad, when I smell chewing tobacco I am reminded of my Grandpa, whenever I hear a morning dove cooing I remember having breakfast outside at age 4.

I don’t particularly like watching television first thing in the morning. I like to start my days off with peace and quiet. My husband likes to catch up on world events as soon as he arises. So it was today. During some news story they played a snippet of the Rolling Stone song “Jumping Jack Flash” and memories from 1968 came dancing in my head.

Our family was living in Independence Missouri having moved there from Arizona the year before. They were having the Missouri State Fair in Sedalia and we were going. I was so excited, I had never been to a State fair and I had no idea what to expect. It was an 80 mile drive and I sat enjoying the scenery and listening to my parents talk. After a couple of hours we pull into the parking lot and I was astounded! There were people walking around with their farm animals on leashes, there was music in the air and you could see the large Ferris wheel located in the middle of the fair grounds. As soon as the car stopped I jumped out of the car, ready for a long day of fun.

sheep

It is odd the way most of the day is a bit fuzzy for me. I remember watching the judging of the sheep and pigs. For a girl who was raised in the desert this was fascinating. I had always thought that a sheep was a sheep; I had no idea of the variety of breeds. I can still smell the smell of the livestock pens. I remember the man who Dog at fairwalked around with a tiny Chihuahua who had a hat on and a little pipe in his mouth. Of course I have a picture of this to help with that memory!  I remember riding the Ferris wheel and the Hammer, screaming and laughing. I remember my sister, who because of her weight had to ride the Hammer by herself and she got sick and vomited while in the air. How bad am I that after all these years I still find this extremely hilarious?

Missouri_State_Fair

After my sister got cleaned up it was time for lunch. We found a seat under a canopy as my Dad went to get us hamburgers. While we were eating a band took the stage to the right of us and they began singing “Jumping Jack Flash.”  The teenage kids around us got up and began to dance. My Dad was horrified. I wanted to dance but he said “NO!”  So I sat in my seat and moved with the music and sang along as loudly as I could. I loved it.

I don’t remember much else about the day except after the fair we visited some relatives who lived in Sedalia and my Dad repeatedly proclaiming “How can they play that jungle music in public?” and “How can anyone call that music?” for the next few weeks.

Now every time I hear that song I am transported back to that sunny day in Central Missouri dancing in my seat and having a great time.

When you suddenly have a memory because of a “trigger” of some kind try to write it down as soon as you can. These are the parts of our lives that our descendants will want to know about and they will appreciate the details and feelings and descriptions of sights, sounds and feeling that go with it. Don’t you wish our own Ancestor had been able to do that for us?

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: 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.

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Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, Memories, Missouri, Story telling

Part 5: My Mother’s Great Grandfather was Superstitious –A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

superstition imageI 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.  I will post a blog every Friday and Tuesday and I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

James D. McGowan born in 1837 was a first Generation American. His father Francis McGowan was born and raised in Dublin County, Ireland. Francis immigrated to America in 1811 bringing with him his love of his mother land and his Irish superstitions. Growing up James and his 8 siblings heard the stories and legends of Ireland.

James married Lucy Reavis in 1856 and started a family. He didn’t realize how many of those old superstitions and Irish Fairylegends had interwoven themselves into his life or that he would unknowingly pass them on to his 8 children.  As every “good” Irishman did, James believed in Fairies. A lot of his superstitions were based on this belief. James was a farmer and he owned several hundred acres in Camden, Missouri.

Primrose

Primrose

He took pride in all the things he raised but he was especially proud of the Primrose bushes that he took excellent care of. Every first day of May, James would go outside early in the morning and collect the Primroses to spread around his doors and windows. This was done to keep out the malevolent fairies and to appease the Good People. This would ensure that the rest of the year his family would not be bothered by the fairies.

spilled salt

Dinnertime was always a busy time with 10 people around the table. Inevitably someone would bump the table and knock over the salt shaker. James would insist whoever spilled it would have to throw the spilled salt over their shoulder. They did this to give the fairies their share and to avoid mischief from the fairies.

fishingJames loved to go fishing, not just to put food on the table but for the peace and solitude that it gave. Remember he had 8 children! He was Superstitious about his fishing, believing it was very unlucky for someone to ask a man on his way to go fishing where he was going. Any time this happened to him he would turn back because he knew the question was an evil spell.

James out-lived his wife Lucy by 22 years. When he died in 1901 he left a small box to his son John Henry McGowan.old 4 leaf clover After the funeral, the family and friends gathered at John’s home for food and fellowship. John opened the box and pulled out an old folded piece of paper. Opening it he found 24 pressed 4 leaf shamrocks. His Uncle told him, “If you possess a four-leaf shamrock you will have good luck in gambling, good luck in racing, and witchcraft will have no power over you but, you must always carry it on you. You cannot give it away and you cannot show it to anyone.” These shamrocks had been brought to America by Francis and he had passed them on to James who in turn was now passing them on to John.

Here are some more Superstitions that my Mother had:

Itchy palmIf the palm of your right hand itches it means you will soon be getting money.

Making a wish within 5 minutes of getting out of bed on the first day of the month will come true.first of the month

walking with only one shoe onWalking with one shoe on & one shoe off will make you have some kind of leg or foot problem one day.

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

Come back on Tuesday for the next installment of “My Mothers Superstitions – Tales from the Dark Side.”

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: 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.

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Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Genealogy, Halloween, Ireland, McGowan, Story telling, Superstitions

Part 4: My Mother’s Grandmother was Superstitious –A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

part 4I 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.  I will post a blog every Friday and Tuesday and I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

My Mothers maternal Grandmother Asenath “Dolly” Walt was born February 27 1863 in Camden, Ray, Missouri.  Dolly was said to be a very superstitious woman. Anyone who visited her home knew that she did have what they considered unusual quirks.

ring of salt

It is said that Dolly was petrified of “demons”. She believed that at night they would creep around her home and try to gain access. She kept a large container of salt by both the front and back doors for when visitors came. Upon answering the door she would take a scoop of salt and place it across the doorway. If the person was not a “demon” they could cross over the salt with no problem. The salt would have kept out any non-human who wanted to enter. I guess she never thought that a “demon” would probably not come knocking on her door, he would just kick it open and come in!

tombstone from Machpelah

Machpelah Cemetery

Dolly’s fear of “demons” began at a young age. She had lived her entire life within the 16 mile radius between Camden and Lexington Missouri. Most of her relatives who had passed away were buried in Machpelah Cemetery in Lexington. Even as a young girl this cemetery was considered an old one as the first burial there was in 1839. When Dolly was about 6 years old her younger sister Naomi passed away at the age of 1. In those days visiting a cemetery, especially one that was so far away, was an all day event. This day was no exception. After the small service for Naomi the women went about laying out the picnic lunch for the mourners on the edge of the grounds.  Dolly and her other siblings were racing around, darting in and out of the SONY DSCnearby woods. Dolly, in an attempt to hide from the others ran out of the woods and hid behind a large Headstone. That is when she saw it! A large man/beast come out of a grave and began walking slowly towards her. She ran terrified, screaming, all the way across the cemetery and into her Mother’s arms. When Dolly calmed down enough to speak she told the adults what had happened. They tried to convince her that what she saw was the grave digger climbing out of the hole he had just dug. Try as they might no one could convince her that she hadn’t just seen a “demon”.

Asenath McGowan HSAfter this experience she refused to set foot in the Machpelah Cemetery. When her own daughter Ella (My Grandmother) died in 1921 she pleaded with her son-in-law not to bury her in Lexington and so Ella was buried in the Buckner Cemetery.  Dolly spent 61 years of her life afraid of the “demon” that came out of the grave and was convinced that he was out to get her. Upon her death on February 19, 1931 Dolly’s husband John McGowan had her buried in the Machpelah Cemetery.

Here are some more Superstitions that my Mother had:

If your nose itches you will soon be kissed by a fool.itchy nose

happy new yearIf your house is clean on New Year’s Eve you will have a clean house all year.

Walking over a grave pic

If you get a chill up your back or goose bumps, it means that someone is walking over your grave.

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

Come back on Friday for the next installment of “My Mothers Superstitions  – Tales from the Dark Side.”

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: 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.

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Filed under Ancestry, Cemetery, Family History, Genealogy, Halloween, Story telling, Superstitions

My Mother was Superstitious –A Month of Tales from the Dark Side

SUPERSTITION 1Growing up our lives revolved around superstitions. My Mother had one for every occasion or event, everything from the fear of Friday the 13th to dropping a knife on the floor.  I know that my Mother wasn’t the only person to hold to these superstitions but to this date I have never met another person who believed as many or as strongly as she did.

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.  I will post a blog every Friday and Tuesday and I hope you will enjoy them and even get a laugh or two out of them.

Superstition #1:  If you scare a pregnant woman they will have a child with a mark on it. 

Baby with a birthmark

Baby with a birthmark

 

When I was 5 years old my Brother Gordon came home on leave and he brought his wife and 2 children with him.  Lily was born and raised in France. She had met Gordon while he was stationed there and it didn’t take long before they were married. When they showed up at the door we were all so surprised and thrilled to learn that there would be another child added to their family. It was odd for me to have a niece and a nephew that were only a couple of years younger than I.

Lily

Lily

Lily was a fun person to be around. She had learned to speak English pretty well , although she still had a little trouble making us understand some things she said. One day Lily and I were out in the yard walking around and she was looking very nervous. I asked her what was wrong and she said “I like spiders and I am looking for one.” I thought she was nuts! I hate spiders; they are probably the only creepy crawler that scares me.  The next day my Brother took me with him to the store and he gave me some money to spend. I bought a rubber spider. When I got home I put it in a box and wrapped it up really nice. I was so excited; I ran to the dinner table and gave it to Lily. She was so touched that I thought of her she eagerly tore the wrapping off and opened the box. The next thing I knew chaos broke out. Lily threw the box against the wall and was screaming hysterically! My Brother was trying to calm her down, my Dad grabbed the box and tossed it outside, my Sister was laughing, the two kids were crying and my Mother fainted.

Michael and Baby Earl

Michael and Baby Earl

When everything calmed down my Mother asked me “How could you do such a horrible thing to Lily?” I told her what she had told me the day before and then Lily started laughing. She realized she had said that she liked spiders instead of disliked them. Everyone was fine with it except my Mother. I got in a lot of trouble for it and almost every day until my Nephew Earl was born I had to hear my Mother tell me that the poor little baby was now going to have a spider shaped birthmark on it and that it will be all my fault. After Earl was born Gordon called to tell us he was fine, no birthmarks of any kind. My Mother never believed them; she thought they were just saying that to make me feel better.

Soon after their last son was born, Gordon and Lily divorced. She and the children stayed in France and Gordon was transferred to the Philippines. I never got to see Lily or the kids again.

Along with this Superstition my Mother had all the regular ones too. You know like:

broken mirror 2Breaking a mirror brings 7 years of bad luck

A black cat crossing your path brings bad luckBlack cat crossing your path

knocking on woodKnocking on wood after you say something and you don’t want it to get jinxed.

spilled salt

Throwing salt over our shoulders was a common occurrence at the dinner table. To say the least things were never dull in the Hughes household!

Do you or anyone in your family have a Superstition? I would love to hear about them.

Come back on Tuesday for the next round of My Mothers Superstitions  – Tales from the Dark Side.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Amazon.com: 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.

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Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Halloween, Story telling, Superstitions