Archive for Genealogy

Medical Mystery: No More Southern Food? The Horror!

I have thought for years that I had stress-induced ulcers made worse by acid reflux. I’ve been taking prevacid every day for the past four or five years. I had a gall-bladder removal a couple of years ago, after which a lot of the symptoms I have got better but did not go away. Thus, the whole ulcer thing. But I never got properly tested.

After having some testing done this week it turns out that I don’t have any ulcers at all! I was shocked when the doctor told me this. In fact, I nearly fell off my chair. What does that mean? Where does the continual pain come from? Why on earth would I have all these stomach problems if I have no ulcers and actually, according to the doctor, have an extremely healthy stomach for a 34-year-old woman?

The testing continues. One possibility that I have in the back of my head is Celiac’s disease, which is basically an allergy to gluten. I’m having further tests done to see what the issue is and calling my doctor tomorrow to see if they can test me for this. Things started coming together after my best friend (owner of Little Mountain Bindery, check the blogroll), mentioned her aunt has it and has many of the same symptoms. Then I remembered — crap — I have a cousin who has it! Then I googled a list of symptoms.

I just never paid much attention to my cousin because, well, she’s a little wacky, god bless her. And being a doctor’s kid, I was trained to ignore what sounds like hypochondriac babbling. And she always kind of had that tendency. Of course, now I feel bad for ignoring my cousin. That list of symptoms is strangely accurate to my situation. And my genetics just make it more possible — it’s common in women of Nordic and Celtic descent. I’m Nordic on my mom’s side and Celtic on my dad’s.

Obviously, there’s no telling what it could be — but if it is Celiac’s, then I’m going to have to completely quit eating southern food (no fried chicken, no biscuits and gravy, no fried okra). The consequences of this are just about more than I care to think about at the moment. The lack of fried chicken and okra and 10,000 southern-food things in my life will be a serious issue for me. I’ll never again be able to eat my beloved shrimp etoufee at the Oyster Bar. Or, oh my the horror, any cobbler of any sort!

I love me some good southern food, by god. I’m going to try not to stress out about it until I know for sure. In the mean time, I’m going to just hope that modern medicine will figure out it’s not Celiac’s and I don’t have to consider giving up southern cooking!

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Anonymous Photographs

A few years ago, through a weird coincidence, I ended up owning all the personal photographs of my hometown’s most recent “crazy lady.” Maybe these women aren’t as visible as they were when I was a child, but it used to be common for small towns to have at least one woman who lived alone and acted however she felt, regardless of the social norm.

When I was growing up, that woman was M.T., for a lot of reasons. For one, she wore a full-length fake fur coat and a knee-length strand of pearls everywhere she went long after she was the age that could pull that off. And she wore it year round. For the rest of the story, you’ll have to wait for me to get brave enough to blog about or write about in an essay.

Lucille Morris 1935

I bought M.T.’s personal photos at an auction of her materials after she died. Eventually I’m going to get my hands on her manuscripts, too, but that’s another story.

I’ve owned these photographs for a very long time. I bought them in my hometown,  but I lugged them along from Arkansas to Colorado and back again, then all over the state until I finally settled in Little Rock. Recently, I pulled them out of storage and started looking through them.

I was looking, at first, for pictures of M.T.; I want to write an essay about her based on photographs from different stages of her life. But those rare pictures of her are mixed in dozens of photographs from different time periods of people I don’t know.

Most of them aren’t marked. Some of them are probably M.T.’s family. Some of them belong to the family she lived with for many years at the end of her life, whose name I think was Eudy. Possibly Otto Eudy. That’s all I can seem to gather from the materials I have at hand.

I started looking at some of the photographs in this box and realized I have a real treasure here. I may not know any of these people, but their snapshots, especially those from the 1920’s and 1930’s, are amazing. For example, the picture above is one of the few photographs I have that has a name on it: Lucille Morris, 1935.

Anonymous Couple circa 1920-1930

The scan doesn’t show it well, but the black in the ink of this photograph has a beautiful shiny luster to it that makes Ms. Morris seem even more striking than she already does.

The thing that really surprises me about many of those photographs is that they show so much detail, even in black and white. I feel like I can see every line in Ms. Morris’s face here.

This second photograph of an anonymous couple which I’m placing, based on their clothes, circa 1920’s or 1930’s, also shows some great detail. Both of the faces are obscured or faded here, but the clothing is sharp and crisp. The detail on the clothing makes the photo seem very iconic to me — as if this is a photo of the quintessential “flapper” and her man.

The next photo that struck me was this shot of an infant in his or her crib, shown to the right here. There’s something almost artful about the way the child is placed right at a sharp divide between shadow and light, but still the baby is very clearly lit in the picture. The child’s face is crisp and clear here, and its expression is clearly contented. The detail in the bassinet creates an interesting movement between the child’s smooth forehead and that blast of sunlight in the back ground.

Finally, I have a much smaller snapshot of two girls outside what I think is maybe a school or some kind of public function. It’s a snapshot that has an almost posed air about it. As if the photographer was trying to get the two girlsAnonymous two young girls circa 1920\'s to “act casual. ”

I like the detail of the clothing here too. I’m amazed at how ornate some of physical materials are in many of these photos. The gather of the skirts in this picture, alone, is pretty amazing. Look at the careful gathers of fabric in the baby’s bassinet; or at the creases in the “lover boy’s” pants in the second photo. It’s a part of the past that I personally rarely get to see.

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Genetics tip

Genographic Project theorizes near human extinction around 70,000 years ago or so, right before what Jared Diamond calls “the great leap forward.”

 

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Family Research, Tentative Conclusions, and Famous Relatives

 On Research

Even though I think my “ancestry.com” account is entirely too expensive and that the interface is still a bit clunky, I love the access to so many other family trees and records. It’s quick and easy. If I were trying to do this work the old fashioned library way, it would take me a lifetime to discover even a few generations of my family.  

Over the weekend, when I should have been grading essays, I fell into what I call a “genealogical hole” of database searching.  In the process, I managed to find several branches that go rather far back into English history, two lines that head into Germany, and at least one French line.  I found what I think (but I’m not sure, I haven’t double checked the records) is the only instance of first-cousin marriage in my family (a line that goes back to the early settlements in Puritan Massachusetts.  I guess there weren’t that many good Puritan folk around to marry). 

My major project right now is trying to fill in my sixth generation grandparents. I have all of the info on my fifth generation (great-great grandparents), but there are some gaping holes in parts of my list of great-great-great grandparents. I can’t seem to find any parents listed for Absolom Crandall, one of ggg-grandparents.  Nor can I seem to find any information on Zachary (or Zachariah) Trantham’s parents.    

The seventh generation has even more holes. I need the Zachary Trantham’s grandparents names, Absolom Crandall’s grandparents names, and Mary Freeman’s parents there. 

The eighth generation is also lacking in some information: I need Elizabeth Wilson’s parents names and the parents and grandparents of John G. Colburn.  If I could discover these names, several lines that halt before they get back to Europe would open up for me.  

Tentative Conclusions

I would feel like I had actually accomplished something with all this research if I could manage to track every single branch to its European origin.  I would feel this way because I think it’s pretty cool to be able to trace exactly where I came from, and to imagine the lives of the people who came together to produce me. 

I’m also interested, in a more scholarly sense, in how people came to settle in certain places in the United States and how those settlement patterns determine our current cultural and social identities.   Most specifically, I’m interested in how the Ozarks developed its particular culture. To understand this, I think I have to understand the people who created it.  To do that, I have to understand their history.  I think my family is as good an example of how someone comes to “be from the Ozarks” and how Ozarkian culture was formed.  

Some of my records at the moment are filled with what I would call “most likely suspect” information, meaning that I’m not absolutely positive I’m listing the right person, but a lot of clues are coming together to make this person the most likely ancestor.  I’ll have to do a lot more digging to absolutely confirm it. 

However, even with some of the lines filled with preliminary information, I’ve managed to notice some key themes:  First, I am mostly the child of colonial and pre-colonial immigrants, mostly from England or Ireland.  There are some connections to Germany and France.   There are no branches in my family that come to America after 1800 or so. At least two branches of the family came to the U.S. for religious reasons (Puritans and Quakers). 

Regardless of where they first settled in the U.S. (which was all over the East Coast, from South Carolina to New York), each branch of the family then proceeded to take a journey roughly 200 years long, until they settled in the Ozarks.   There they stayed for another 100-200 years.  What made them all halt right here in the mostly roughy and rocky hills?

Famous Relatives

Another sort of hokey feature of Ancestry.com is the “find famous relatives” tool.  I say “hokey” because, as my fiancee regularly points out, every is related to everyone.  We now know that this is literally true because of DNA.  However, it’s still fun to see what kinds of people our particular lines of DNA produce.  While the results can only be taken with a big grain of salt, its still fun to run a few names through the tool to see what comes up.  

According to the famous relatives tool, I’m distantly related to quite a few writers.  John Milton is supposedly my first cousin 13 times removed. Geoffery Chaucer is listed as my 17th great-grandfather.  The only instance of an African-American connection I’ve seen is the listing they give for Langston Hughes, who is supposedly my 7th cousin three times removed.   Henry David Thoreau and Stephen Crane are both sixth cousins, five times removed. Jane Austen is a seventh cousin four times removed. Gore Vidal is a ninth cousin, apparently. Laura Ingalls Wilder is an eighth cousin, three times removed. One that really thrilled me as T.S. Eliot,seventh cousin six times removed. His “Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock” is my favorite poem.  Finally, George Orwell is listed as a 10th cousin, five times removed.  

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A Research Nerdette Fest

This weekend I found myself pouring over some records in my “Ancestry.com” account. It is ridiculously expensive on a yearly basis, but it is defnitely kept its “worth it” score high this weekend. Their “records hints” section, which is so often “hit and miss,” paid off big for me over the last few days.

I’ve managed to root out at least one branch of the family tree that goes directly to Germany (the first family in my tree that shows any provable relationship to Germany).  This line, for anyone who is researching this sort of thing, is the direct line of folk named Chronister and who lived in Pope County, Arkansas. I also discovered a branch that heads back into England during the year 1066.  (You know, The Battle of Hastings and all of that).  So I’ve broken through one of my goals for this whole family history exploration. I wanted to see if I could trace any families back 1,000 years.   I can.  I wanted to know if anyone came from anywhere other than England (they do).  Besides Germany, I also discovered a branch that goes into France.  

It’s been a productive weekend in that way. All those essays I have yet to mark are mocking me, however.  Carry on . . .

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