Lucky to be here

You know, it is actually mind boggling when one stops to consider how did they get to be here … exist, that is. I mean, when you really think about all the dots that had to connect to make it possible for each one of us to be here … and then for our descendants to be here, it is actually amazing to ponder.

We all come from ancestors, who thankfully, lived long enough to begat our grandparents, our great grandparents, our great great grandparents… well, you get the picture. And in those early days, that was no small feat.

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Burial record for 4th great grandmother, Celindah Court Brown, 9 March 1843 at St. Thomas Cathedral, Bombay, India

I’ve been hunting for evidence of my 4th great grandmother, Celindah Court’s parents for years. She was born about 1805 in Calcutta, Bengal, India  and although I have found her marriage record, death records and records for all of her children, I have yet to be able to determine who her parents were or even an exact birthday for her.

I have been fortunate enough to find an 1813 baptism record for her that took place in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England and which lists her parents as Malay. Her father was English, of that I am certain, otherwise she would not have been able to marry as well and own property as she did, nor would she have been taken to England to be baptized. But, a Malay mother is certainly a possibility and my DNA does seem to back that up, showing that my genetic makeup consists of two percent of Asia East.

A couple of months ago, I came across a will for an Elizabeth Court, who recognizes my 4x great grandmother in her will as her goddaughter. Obviously, my grandmother was very much loved, as she was left money, jewels and all of Elizabeth’s property and goods that weren’t specifically given to someone else . At first I thought that perhaps Elizabeth was Celindah’s aunt, possibly a sister to her father and was quite excited that Elizabeth could be my missing link to breaking down my break wall. Turns out, I believe my hypothesis is half right… more extensive review of the will shows that Elizabeth was a widow, which means Court was her married name. I now believe Elizabeth is Celindah’s aunt but her father’s sister-in-law. The next step was to figure out who Elizabeth’s husband was and I found that out tonight. Thomas Court married Elizabeth Fisher in 1799 in Calcutta, Bengal, India. How do I know I have the right man? Thomas and Elizabeth Court had a son named Thomas Rowland Court… who happens to be mentioned in Elizabeth’s will, confirming I am on the right track.

But, that still hasn’t helped me yet identify Celindah’s father, but I feel I am getting closer and the closer I get, the more I am aware that it is by happenstance that I am here… breathing… able to write these words in the first place. Elizabeth died at 50. Her husband, Thomas died at 40. Their son died at 25 and his daughter at two and his wife at 26. My 4x great grandmother’s parents were missing from her life at her baptism and she was only about eight years old then. Celindah, in fact died at 38 after having nine children with only six of them living when she passed and another four of them died before they were 30 years of age. One daughter lived to be 73 and yet, another daughter, my 3rd great grandmother Celindah Elizabeth Jane Brown, in fact her first born, actually lived to be be 94 years old. How lucky is that?

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Birth/Baptism record of 3rd great grandmother, Celindah Elizabeth Jane Brown, 25 April 1828 in Bombay, India

That grandmother, Celindah Elizabeth Jane, who was born in Bombay, India, married Francis Clough and had 10 children by the time she was 33, with my 2nd great grandmother, Mary Audin Clough being their firstborn. Celindah Elizabeth Jane lost three of those children by age 29 and her husband, my 3rd great grandfather at 39.

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2nd great grandmother, Mary Audin Clough Panchaud (1846-1909)

My great great grandmother, Mary Audin, had been widowed twice and buried three children by age 30 when she met and married my 2nd great grandfather, Louis Panchaud in England. He was 23 years older than she was and also a widower. Their marriage would only last 12 months before he committed suicide. Mary had given birth six months after their marriage and was pregnant with my great grandfather, Louis Benoni Panchaud, when he killed himself. My great grandfather was born eight months later and it’s quite possible his father had no idea he was leaving his wife with child. After a life full of heartache and death, Mary Audin died alone at age 63 in Dimboola, Victoria, Australia. Mary’s two sons did live to reach adulthood. My Uncle Albert became a man of the cloth, thus having no children, and also died at age 63 in Cornwall, England, a beloved parish priest.

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Great Grandfather, Louis Benoni Panchaud (1878-1950) and family, including grandfather, Louis William Panchaud (1922-2006) in sailor suit

My great grandfather immigrated to Bermuda, where he met my great grandmother and begat four children of his own, including my grandfather, Louis

In the grand scheme of things, I consider myself quite lucky that I even exist. I mean, each one of my grandparents was a child that outlived their siblings. For all but a couple, they had to grow up without their parents. While familial lines were ceasing to exist on collateral lines, mine continued. When you think about it that way… it’s pretty amazing that I, let alone my children, are even here. But here we are and here we continue… and now my children are bringing the next generation to life.

Although, I haven’t been able to find who begat the first Celindah, I’d like to think that she is smiling down at what she started and perhaps she plays a small part in my trouble at finding her parents … maybe this is her way of ensuring that her memory continues and a reminder that without her, there would be no me.


The Dawn of a New Age

I know this will come as a shock for some because I certainly don’t act it, and to be completely honest, I think it’s a mild shock to me too… but in eight days … I turn 50.

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Me at 5 months

Not quite sure what to think about it. I remember when I was younger, probably about 10 or 12, I used to cry myself to sleep because I didn’t want to die. Silly, I know, but I used to try to imagine life after I was gone and it scared the hell out of me thinking that I would just cease to exist and my family would go on. Oh, the silliness of youth. Thank goodness, I don’t have those worries anymore.

I don’t feel 50. Well, not most days. My body is starting to tell me that I can’t continue as I have in the past…. For example, I used to LOVE roller coasters… but I learned a few years ago that the love wasn’t being returned anymore and my eyes have decided that really cool bi-focals are the required accessory de jour. But for the most part I don’t feel old. And frankly, I’m not. Fifty is the new 30.

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Visiting Washington in 2005

I’ve had a great life so far… is it was I thought it would be when I was younger? Nope. After high school, I had planned on buying a Trek bicycle, find a list of hostels and cycle around Europe. I had no plans beyond that. But the Navy interfered and life happened. Would I change it? Nope. I have a beautful, although at times frustrating and annoying, family. I have three extremely intelligent and handsome sons. I have two absolutely adorable grandsons who love their nannie and a husband who has stuck by me throughout all my crazy attempts to put him in the poor house and I’ve had an exciting career serving our beautiful country. Life. Is. Good.

My sons, in their attempt at humor and to remind me that I am turning 50, tell me I will be half a century old. They are right, but oh, what I have learned in my half century of life… I have learned that we are never too old to learn. You may not like the lessons, they may be tougher to grasp, but you can still learn. When you make a promise to your children, they believe you will follow through with that promise. Do so. To break them starts a pattern of mistrust and lost respect. Trust me on this… do not break your promises to your children. Make sure they grow up knowing they can count on you and your word. By the time you get to 50, you start to look back on your life and you want to be proud of the place you find yourself at this moment. Make sure you have no regrets. Make good choices throughout your life so you have none. Accountability is extremely important. Be willing to take ownership of your decisions. Bad or good… There’s always a lesson in them and both will help grow you into the person you will be at 50. Life is not a game. There are no do-overs but you can make it fun. Don’t just exist and don’t wait too late to find your passion and have fun with it. Live life to the fullest of your ability. Don’t just live for someone else. Try to find yourself early and don’t waste years being something you’re not. You can love your family and be your own person at the same time. One of the biggest lessons I learned was to never apologize for who you are. Don’t be afraid to be different. Be willing to take a chance and step outside your comfort zone. If people talk about you, it means you’ve made an impact on their life. Take time for yourself. Make time to do what you want to do… by yourself. Absolutely make memories with your children. They grow up way too fast and you don’t want to look back with regret at the missed opportunities.

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Participating in the Tour de Corn in East Prairie, Mo. in 2003.

Teach your children the value of volunteering and taking care of the underdog. Start when they are young and make it a regular occurrence so when they are older it becomes natural for them to care for others. Be kind without expectations. Find a job that you love so working doesn’t become a chore. When you get to the point that you hate to go to work, it’s time for a change… be strong enough to make it. Be thankful for everything. Nothing is promised and nothing is owed. Make your own way. Don’t give up your goals and dreams. It may take time to fulfill them and they may need adaptation, but never stop dreaming… I’ve been constantly thinking of moving to Europe and getting dreadlocks, lately! LOL …  Never settle for less than you deserve. Sometimes the love of your life is your complete opposite and you may think you have nothing in common, but somehow, their outlook on life is what you needed to complete yours.

I’ve spent my first half century serving my country, taking care of my family, doing what other people wanted me to do or what I needed to do and less for myself. But that’s changing. As I get closer to 50, I don’t seem to sweat the small stuff as much… or else I just don’t give a crap anymore. I’m less fearful of what others think and I’m not afraid to voice my opinions… I know what you’re thinking… you can’t believe there was ever a time I was, but believe me, I really used to be shy. I’m still taking care of my family and those responsibilities are still tremendous, but it’s because I want to do so. And I can live with that. I’m at peace with my life.

So, perhaps 50 won’t be that bad. It’s kind of exciting really to think of the next few decades and where they may lead me but I’m ready for it.

Oh, yeah, and one of the most exciting lessons I’ve learned … don’t be afraid to buy a Harley. And ride it… straight into the next half century. 10646783_10152518327866461_2610490039390440352_n


A good woman

This story for my Auntie was written as I was on the road, headed back home to West Tennessee from her funeral in Ohio. Thinking of her all day, I quickly put pen to paper or rather fingers to keyboard, to flesh out my thoughts. After being home and rested for a bit, I looked back at what I had written and felt I could do better. So, for those who have read my story earlier, please forgive me for a few changes. Auntie Audie brought out the best in all she came in contact with and respectfully so, deserves the best in return. 

Six days ago a door to my family’s history was closed. Its doorkeeper, a wondrous storyteller, bridged the past to the future – connecting present generations to generations long past and reminded us of our family’s rich heritage and devotion to God.

Yesterday, our family matriarch was laid to rest and with her, our connection to a glimpse of a Bermuda long gone. Although we lost our beloved sister, mother, grandmother and auntie, her leaving was not just a time of mourning and sadness, but also of a celebration of her life and the love that she gave to us all. The lessons that she taught us in life – love of family, of life and for the almighty – carried over in her remembrance. A gathering of family – siblings, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews – came together to celebrate and to remember the woman, who without, many would not be here today.

She was my grandfather’s younger sister and although she was two generations from me, she was one of my favorite family members. Auntie Audie meant a great deal to me. Growing up, I would see her quite often when she visited my grandparents, who lived in the same small town in Ohio. Or we would go to her home for visits, which I loved to do because she had a swimming pool and was always ready to offer a swim, even if I came without a suit, she would tell me she had one for me to use! She was always one who loved to spoil too with snacks and soda, as well as lots of hugs and kisses.

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Father, Louis Benoni holding baby Dorothy Audine, mom Dorothy “Dorrie” May Tatem, and brothers Louis “Billy” William and Albert “Ray” Raymond Panchaud

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Dorothy Audine Panchaud

Dorothy Audine Panchaud Richards was born at home on Thursday, January 20, 1927 in Spanish Point, Bermuda. The third child and only daughter of Louis Benoni Panchaud and Dorothy May Tatem, she was welcomed by her older brothers, four-year old Billy (Louis William) and two-year old Ray (Albert Raymond).

A third brother (and probably her favorite because she could spoil him since he was so much younger than her) joined the family about 10 years later. Named for her mother and grandmother Mary Audin Clough, who in turn was named for her grandmother Mary Audin, Dorothy was called Audie during her life and grew to be a beautiful and stately woman.

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Grandmother Mary Audin Clough

Born into a prominent and old Bermuda family, whose ties to the island began in the 1600s, she grew up healthy, strong, very independent and very much loved, surrounded by a large and extended family on the island.
MARR_PANCHAUDAudine_RICHARDSRobertShe met the love of her life, Robert “Bob” Sanford Richards, a young American sailor while he was on duty in Bermuda. Marriage at 20 and five children soon followed, as well as a move that would take her from her island home to a new home and country in 1952.

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Audie and younger brother Michael Panchaud

A gifted pianist, she taught hundreds of students for more than five decades to embrace their talents and to develop a love of music. A steadfast fixture at the organ of her home church, you could find her every Sunday, filling the sanctuary with beautiful and heartfelt music in tribute and honor of her beloved savior.

Audie led a life many dream of – her family and friends were always close by, and she found fulfillment in her life taking care of her family – her children and her many grandchildren, great grandchildren and nieces and nephews and through her selfless service to the church and to others in need. She was a true woman of God and a genuine friend.

Always a teacher, she was the one who helped instill in me my love of genealogy and my thirst to know where my family came from. From her many albums of old family photographs handed down to her from her mother to her stories and anecdotes of family members which seemed to make the past come alive, her love of family showed through and has been my guiding force as I strive to learn exactly who we are, where we come from and to honor our ancestors who made it possible for us to be here today. For that, I will be eternally indebted to her. I am happy that I was able to introduce her to my contribution to our family’s history and lineage – my sons and her great-great grand nephews and her great-great-great grand nephew, my grandson Liam soon after he was born.

RICHARDS_Robert_AudinePANCHAUD_Nov 2006Uncle Bob, her beloved husband of 70 years was called home first on December 1, 2015 and Auntie Audie, I’m sure feeling she could not continue without him, soon followed less than two months later. I believe they are both laughing and happy to be together once more and I’m willing to bet they have joined her oldest brother and my grandpa, Louis “Billy” William Panchaud and my nana, Angelena Dorothy Mello Panchaud, in a friendly game of bowling once more.

Rest in peace loved ones, for we will soon see one another once more.


Remembering 9/11 and Michael

It’s been 14 years since the attack on America on 9/11 and Michael’s death. All day, I’ve thought of him and every time I have heard Alan Jackson’s song, “Where were you when the world stopped turning” I’ve cried… so needless to say it’s not been a good day. Michael, you have NOT been forgotten and neither have the other amazing Americans and citizens of other freedom loving countries who were taken to soon by an act of cowardice. America has not forgotten and we swear… your sacrifice WILL NOT be in vain! Rest in Peace shipmate… until we meet again.

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This is a story I wrote immediately after 9/11 and after learning that one of my co-workers, a friend who worked for me onboard USS WASP for three years, had been killed at the Pentagon.  I can’t tell you how that felt to get that phone call. I was on duty and we were watching it unfold on TV. We were scared because we knew that Mike was in the Pentagon that day and worried for his safety. I remember there being talk that out of that huge building and thousands of people being inside, why did Mike have to be one who died. We could hardly see the TV through the tears that were streaming down our faces, praying that he was okay and that the call was a mistake. But it wasn’t. Mike was gone and he wouldn’t have wished anyone else to have taken his place. He…

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It’s not my day… I’m not dead

Each year on the last Monday of May, Americans take a three-day weekend to celebrate Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer. Many spend the weekend grilling, camping or fishing and some head to the beach, but all are enjoying time spent with family and friends. It’s a great start to the summer season but that’s not the real reason we have the holiday weekend. Hopefully, in the midst of enjoying the weekend, we also take time to reflect on the true meaning of the federal holiday.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was a day set aside to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving our country. Decoration Day began after the Civil War ended to honor those who gave their lives during our country’s bloodiest conflict, and was proclaimed, not by the president but by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

America has always given freely of its sons and daughters during its fight for freedom – whether it’s ours or another country’s. Between our first battle, the fight for independence in 1775, to today, May 24, 2015 and our current conflicts in support of the Global War on Terrorism, America has lost almost 1.3 million men and women on the battlefield. Those brave souls who have died in our country’s battles, are who we should be honoring and remembering today.

Fort_logan_national_cemetery_4All day I’ve been the recipient of gratitude and well-wishes – and although I am very grateful and honored that people have been thinking of me and my service to our nation – today’s not about me.

It’s not my day. I’m not dead.

Nor, is it about any other living military person or veteran…. our day is in November and it’s called Veterans Day.

Today is the day to honor our war dead. Those brave men and women, who while answering the call of their nation, made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. They are who Memorial Day is for.

Honor them.


ACCOLADES

One day last week, I came home to an email which said I needed to moderate a comment on my blog. It was a comment left by Mark Subel, the chief digital officer of Crestleaf.com, informing me that my blog, FamilyHeirlooms had been selected as a must read for up and coming genealogy blogs. Talk about feeling amazed and honored!

I’ve always loved to write and when I started my genealogy blog, it was really just a venue for me to write the stories of the ancestors I discovered in my daily family history search. Truth be told, they don’t even have to be my ancestors. I often write stories on a headstone that “speaks” to me as I walk through cemeteries or search for “lost” family Bibles and photographs which have identifying info on them and then research the names I come across in the hopes of reuniting the lost artifact with family once again and I’ve been very lucky to have been able to reconnect lost family treasures with their rightful families.

I’ve never considered that my blog might be something that other people would enjoy reading, but I am blessed and grateful to know that there are people, other than my family and friends, who enjoy my stories.

Thank you to Crestleaf.com for the shout out and support and thank you to my followers for coming with me as I navigate throughout history, discovering one ancestor at a time.
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TOMBSTONE TUESDAY: Family means you’re never alone

COCKRELL_HughMurry_1904_2Whenever I’m stressed, I like to walk in cemeteries to help calm myself and today was a beautiful day for it.

Today, I found myself walking through Salem Associate Reformed Presbyterian Cemetery located in Atoka, Tennessee. I decided to walk to the furthest corner to see who was there, but on the way I stumbled upon a little headstone, lying on the ground and all alone. The stone will certainly be lost to the effects of nature within a few years, if not returned to a standing position.

COCKRELL_HughMurry_1904The stone I discovered marks the final resting place of little Hugh Murry Cockrell who’s life was just beginning when he died on March 28, 1904. It saddened me to see him all alone, with no parents or other relatives buried next to him and it made me want to know more about Hugh and his family. Where were his parents and why weren’t they buried next to him? Did they move away from the area after he died?

Hugh Murry Cockrell was the first born of Bryant Thomas Cockrell and Margaret E. Morrison and was born on Oct. 16, 1898 in Tipton County, Tenn. His father moved to Tipton County with his family when he was just a boy, and it is where he met his mother.

Bryant Thomas Cockrell was born Aug. 1, 1873 in Kentucky, the son of Thomas E.S. Cockrell and Sallie Tipton. His father was born in Kentucky about 1838 and his mother, in Kentucky on Dec. 8, 1848.

The 1880 federal census finds the Cockrell family living in Brighton, Tipton County, TN. Thomas, 42 was a general mechanic and Sallie, 28 was a house wife, busily taking care of Bryant, 7 and his older sister Mary C. who was 10 at the time.

Hugh’s mother, Margaret E. Morrison was the daughter of Hugh and Ellen L. Morrison. She was born in Tipton County, Tennessee in December 1872. Hugh Morrison was the son of Irish immigrants, Chestnut and Margaret Morrison, and was born in South Carolina in May 1848 and died Oct. 4, 1914. Her mother, Ellen, was born in Mississippi on Oct 29, 1844 and died on Feb. 12, 1875, when Margaret or Maggie, as she was better known as, was just two years old. She died four days after giving birth to her sister who later died in September of that year.

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The 1880 federal census for Monroe, Mississippi, Arkansas lists Hugh Morrison, 32 and his young daughter Maggie, 8, living with the Guyne family as borders where her father worked as a farmer.

The Morrison family eventually found their way back to Tipton County where Maggie met and married B.T. Cockrell on Dec. 29, 1897. The young couple was blessed with the birth of their son Hugh Murry, a short ten months later.

The young family, along with little Hugh, is located on the 1900 federal census, living with Maggie’s father at Carson Lake in Troy Township, Mississippi, Arkansas. Bryant, 27, is a farm laborer, working along side with his father-in-law.

A daughter soon joins the family and she is named Flossie Ellen. She shares her name with her father’s youngest sister and her maternal grandmother, and she was born on March 5, 1901 in Tipton County, Tenn. But, like her mother suffered before her, she too loses her mama before the age of two. Maggie dies the following year at the age of 29 on Aug. 7, 1902. Bryant is just 29 when he becomes a widower with a young daughter and son, just a couple of years older than his father-in-law was when he became a widower.

Approximately 18 months later, tragedy strikes the family again when young Hugh Murry passes away at the age of 5 on March 28, 1904. The pain must have been unbearable for the young father to bear for it seems he vanishes for a time being. The 1910 federal census shows an 8-year-old Flossie living with her paternal grandmother Sallie and her new husband, Robert R. Mitchell, in Justice Precinct 3, Cherokee, Texas without her father.

But by the age of 18, Flossie has been reunited with her father and is now living with him and her grandmother, who is once again widowed, in Tipton County, Tenn. In 1920, Bryant is 47 and doesn’t appear to have ever remarried. He is employed as an automobile machinist, which seems he has followed in his father’s footsteps. His mother, Sallie, is 71 and keeps house. Sometime, after 1920, Flossie marries Leonard Thomas Abraham and has a son, whom they name Leonard Thomas, Jr.

Hugh’s father, Bryant Thomas Cockrell died on Nov. 15, 1953 in Shelby County, Tenn., and was buried in Salem alongside his mother. His sister Flossie Ellen Cockrell Abraham died on Dec. 24, 1963 and is also buried in Salem, along with her husband and son. His grandfather whom he was named after, Hugh Morrison, died on Oct. 4, 1914 and is also resting in Salem, as well as his grandmother Ellen and his great-grandparents, Chestnut and Margaret Morrison, who died in 1902 and 1904, respectively.

When I stumbled upon little Hugh’s headstone I was sad to think he was spending eternity all alone. There are no family stones next to him, but after learning whom his family is, I find he is not alone and has never been. For in Salem ARP Cemetery, he has his parents, sister, and his maternal and paternal grandparents, great-grandparents, not to mention uncles, aunties and cousins all at rest within the same hollowed grounds. Although his time on earth was cut too short and he was unable to leave his mark, I have to believe his family has done that for him, for with family, alone is something little Huge will never be.


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