Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Father's Gift: 52 Ancestors

In this tribute to Father's Day, here is a scrapbook memory of my father. Dad was a linguist and musician. Our relationship was strained, so it's difficult to remember him in the same way as my mother (sorry, Dad).

Quick drop template and elements from The Blues, May 2015, ClubScrap

For his memorial service, I focused on his musical gifts.
My relationship with Dad was complicated. We rarely agreed about anything, but one thing we did agree on is that music is an essential part of life. I thought his preference for hymns was limiting and he thought my preference for bubble-gum rock was silly. We were both right.

I recently heard about a study that found the music we listened to as teens is the basis for our life-long musical preferences. Dad, growing up in Christian boarding schools and attending Bible College, was immersed in hymns. He loved those hymns and didn’t like at all the recent movement of churches away from hymns to praise music. He loved to sing and also enjoyed writing his own arrangements for choir.

Dad started playing hymns on the harmonica as a child and he learned trombone and keyboard instruments as he got older. As a young adult, he played in a brass trio with his brothers. He played his accordion or piano for family and church. One memory he shared was of taking pipe organ lessons while in college. He must have been thrilled to have the opportunity to fill that church with the powerful sound of his favorite hymns.

Dad felt that hymns sung in English were much less meaningful to [non-English speakers] than if the words were in [their native language]. He added to his projects translating and updating existing translations of hymns, resulting in an updated publication of a [native language] hymnbook. I believe the hymnbook was second in his heart only to the [native language] New Testament, as it was a way to share his beloved hymns with the [native] people.

Recently, as I worked with my tile saw, I thought about the gifts that my Dad gave me. One of those gifts was knowing my way around tools. When Dad needed an assistant, one of the kids would help. I'm grateful that he helped me be more prepared to hang curtain rods and do minor home maintenance.

Dad gave me the gift of planning and list making, though certainly not intentionally. He had what was probably ADD and so had great trouble with planning the sequence of everyday tasks. I learned young to plan whenever he and I were doing something without Mom. To this day I make lists when I feel scattered.

He gave me the gift of maps and geography. Since Mom was blind and Dad drove, he needed a navigator. He taught us how to read maps and guide him on family trips. He absolutely would have hated Waze. He wanted to see and plan his route in advance.

He also taught me to drive a stick-shift. That was definitely a labor of love! Thank you, Dad!

He gave me Wisconsin. Dad tended to be serious, but occasionally the whimsical came out. By the summer before I entered high school, we had traveled in or through about 20 states and much of Mexico. Wisconsin was not one of those states. While staying in Chicago that summer, we visited a cousin who lived north of the city, not far from the Wisconsin state line. At the end of the evening, Dad agreed to drive over that state line. Before heading back to the city, he let us out of the car and had us touch the ground. We could now add Wisconsin to our travel tally.

Dad gave me the gift of family history. He loved to tell the story of taking an ocean voyage in the days following the Pearl Harbor attack. He was a child, but vividly remembered that risky voyage. Though he was an orphan, he also shared what he knew about his family of aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings. His curiosity and knowledge are part of the foundation of my family history adventure.

As I ponder this first Father's Day without Dad, I know he gave me many gifts.

I am not sharing personal and identifying details about my father at this time. I am still keeping a certain level of privacy for my parents, though both have passed.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Mother's Gift: 52 Ancestors

In the final weeks of her life, my mother shared a special disappointment in our last deep mother-daughter talk. In the previous five years she had spent most of her time in bed, with her brain ravaged by a series of strokes. The strokes had damaged her memory and her verbal capacity and changed her personality. Mom told me how sad she was that her strokes had deprived her of the joy of singing. They had destroyed her perfect pitch and she could no longer carry a tune. She felt that was her biggest loss.

In this late tribute to Mother's Day (May was a bad month for my family), here is a scrapbook memory of my mother. She was partially sighted -- legally blind. One of her eyes was a glass eye, so her eyes don't track together for the camera. She was always game for photos, though. 

Quick drop template and elements from The Blues, May 2015, ClubScrap

For her memorial service, I focused on the gifts she gave as a mother.
... Today I'd like to remember Mom through the unique gifts she gave me: gifts that arose from her own interests and passions, gifts given with a full measure of her love, gifts that are uniquely from Molly.

My Mother gave me the empowering gift of words. Mom was a writer and an avid reader. I remember how the words of Talking Books filled our house from the time she woke up until the time she went to sleep. She listened to novels and biographies, science fiction and news magazines. By the time I started school, I was privileged to have heard the words of authors such as Pearl Buck and Isaac Asimov. Talking Books were Mom's ticket to the universe, and her family was fortunate to share her journeys.

Mom also read books and magazines by holding the page close to her face and using a magnifying glass. Her example inspired me and I asked at about age four to learn to read. Mom acquired a reading primer and she patiently taught me the alphabet and phonics. With her limited vision, it must have been very hard for her to share a book with me — a squirming child, yet she spent the time and effort to give me a strong start.

Mom's old manual typewriter stood always at the ready for writing letters and articles. As a child, I marveled at how fast she could type, although she could not see the keys. She had learned to touch type as a young child, when she first started school at the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind. In turn, when my hands grew large enough to type, she patiently taught me touch typing, though I was a most reluctant pupil.

Mom also taught me writing skills by example and instruction. She was on the writing staff of her high school newsletter and continued to write for newspapers and newsletters throughout her life. When she wrote, she asked us to review what she had written. Mom used those times as a teaching tool, to discuss the structure of sentence and story.

She taught me to love words, to acquire a broad vocabulary, and to use words correctly. She taught that words have the power to inform, to entertain and to provide escape.

My Mother gave me the gift of inquisitiveness. I remember going on a family outing so Mom could research an article on the local reservoir. As I played at the water's edge, she talked about finding the answers to the "W" questions: who, when, why, where, what and how. She used those questions throughout her life, not only as a writer, but also in her personal life to draw people out and expand her world. She made sure I knew the right questions to ask.

My Mother gave me the gift of self-sufficiency. She was a child of the Great Depression and came to young womanhood during World War II. She watched her Mother and other women struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads. She knew true hardship. I was a child of the 50s and 60s who idolized the TV fantasy of June Cleaver. Mom lectured me many times on my foolish attitude. She knew from experience how important it is for each adult to be able to support themselves and a family. She encouraged me to study, to go to college, to learn a skill, to establish a career, and to know that marriage and family are an option, but not the only option.

My Mother gave me the gift of music. When the Talking Books weren't playing, music filled our home. At nap time and bedtime she played classical recordings. On Sunday mornings, as we got ready for church, she played religious music. Sometimes she played old American folk songs and patriotic songs. She made sure that her children were exposed to fine music, as well as to the music that is our nation's heritage.

Mom had a beautiful voice: a clear soprano with a wide range. She claimed to have perfect pitch. She played piano and had at one time experimented with Hawaiian guitar. She wanted her children to be musicians, also. I must have been quite a challenge to her, since my musical abilities are merely adequate. Yet she patiently taught me basic piano skills and how to read music. She gave me her old guitar and helped me restring it as a Western guitar. Since my pitch is so poor, I struggled to tune it, so Mom taught me how to tune by resonance, rather than frequency.

My worst musical challenge was when my voice deepened and I could no longer sing the melody. I despaired of ever being able to harmonize. Mom used her wonderful talent to rescue me. We played records and sang with the organ for many hours and many weeks. She patiently guided me along the alto part. In church, she would sit next to me and would guide me by singing the alto part an octave higher, her clear, pure soprano soaring over the other voices.

When she was a senior in high school, she wrote a poem for her school newsletter that reflected her love of music. I'd like to share with you the last verse of that poem:

School is what you make it. / Life is what you do. / Music adds a richness / All your long life through.

I am not sharing personal details at this time, as I am still keeping a certain level of privacy for my parents, though both have passed.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

He Bought the Farm: 52 Ancestors

In the previous post, land records positively identified the eight children of an Ohio farmer. However, the parents of the farmer, Lazarus Maddox, are not as easy to identify. A male Maddox descendant of Lazarus has graciously agreed to take a Y-DNA test, which should help identify his family. One of the puzzles for his descendants is whether there is a meaning to the Pickaway County farm that Lazarus bought.

Lazarus Maddox was born about 1787, probably in Kentucky. The first known record for him in Ohio was his service in the War of 1812, along with men from Pickaway County and Ross County, under the command Captain Robert Bradshaw. Some of the  names of his fellow soldiers are names that appear in other records associated with the Maddox family. Familiar names include Hayes, Knoles, Alkire, Baker, Webb, Wilson, Boggs, Burbridge and McAlister.

Marriage book 1, page 82, shows that on November 3, 1816, Elizabeth Greaton married Lazarus Maddox. The marriage was celebrated by Joseph Hays, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Elizabeth's father, David Greaton, gave consent and Lazarus signed an affidavit that he was over 21. Interestingly, the legal paperwork was dated November 5, 1816. It is possible that the minister reported the wrong date to the county clerk.

Starting in 1822, Lazarus appears on the Pickaway County tax rolls, paying tax on land. But the farm of interest didn't exist yet.

In 1823, Lazarus joined a survey crew, acting as a chain carrier for survey 12346. In the DAR abstract of surveys, it is the only place his name appears. The survey was being done for a man named John L. Wilson.

Generally the chain carriers were young men who happened to live in the area. Lazarus was in his mid-30s. Why would he join the crew? In 1821, Lazarus had been sued for a debt of $51. He swore to the court that he had no money and no way to get any. Did he take the work of the chain carrier just to earn some cash?

In 1841, Lazarus bought that exact farm from John Wilson. Why that farm? What is the connection? Did he just like the land after he worked on the survey, or is there a family connection?

In 1830, Lazarus had words with a neighbor, Timothy Wale, who had set fire to Lazarus' stable. There is a court case about the words spoken, but not one about the destroyed stable. I wonder what they argued about!

Lazarus and Elizabeth had eight children. Their exact birth order is not fully known. The children were:
  • Clarissa (1818-1903, married Knoles)
  • John
  • William (about 1820-1869, my line)
  • Eliza Ellen (1820s-1840s, married Long)
  • David (1826-1907)
  • Joseph
  • Mary (1834-1907, married Neff)
  • Susannah (1837-1917, married Alkire)

Lazarus died in March, 1850, of dyspepsia (indigestion). The information given to the census taker was that he was 63 years of age at death and had been born in Kentucky. As he did not provide the information, it may not be correct. His burial location is unknown, but may have been at the nearby Methodist Church cemetery or on the Hayes farm where his grandson was buried. If there was a marker, none is found today.

And so ends the story of a Pickaway County, Ohio farmer, until the day that DNA adds another chapter.