For Love of Country

Today is Veterans Day and along with Memorial Day, one of the most important days for Americans to remember each year. If it were not for America’s veterans, who stepped up and served their country when needed, we would not have the freedoms we have today. I am proud to have served this great country and I am even prouder that I come from a long line of veterans, both American and British, who have fought on both sides of the pond.

My seventh great-grandfather, Jeremiah Gard and his sons, including my sixth great-grandfather, Alexander Guard and his cousins fought for a young America during the Revolutionary War. My great-great-great-great uncle, William L. Guard was a Captain in the Mexican-American War. My great-great uncle Henry George Louis Panchaud or Harry as he was called, was a well-known and decorated colonel in the Boer War in South Africa.

During WWI, my great-great-uncle, Philip Archibald Tatem, was 24 years old when he left his home in Bermuda with the Bermuda Volunteer Rifle Corps and joined the Lincolnshire Regiment in France. He was killed on Sept. 25, 1916, during the Battle of the Somme after heavy fighting. His body was never identified, but he is honored on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing in Somme, France. His younger brother, Graham Tatem, also served in WWI and fortunately, did make it back to Bermuda. My paternal great-grandfather, Louis Benoni Panchaud, also served during WWI as a part of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, as well as his older brother, Albert Louis Panchaud, who served as a chaplain in the British Army.

My maternal grandfather, Melvin Richard Guard was a prisoner of war during World War II in Germany for more than a year, while my paternal grandfather, Louis William Panchaud, guarded American caught German prisoners of war sent to Bermuda. My uncle Robert Sanford Richards served in the U.S. Navy during WWII.  My grandmother’s brother, my great uncle Loren Breeden served also in the Army during WWII.  My uncle Larry Dean Guard fought in Vietnam and my brother, Brian David Panchaud, served in Iraq during Desert Storm. I served almost 23 years in the United States Navy retiring as a Chief Petty Officer and my husband, Gary Steven Onorati was a career Marine, giving more than 21 years to the Corps, retiring as a Master Gunnery Sergeant and my father-in-law Armando Valifrank Onorati served in the Army during the Korean War. My oldest son, Riean James Onorati carried on the family tradition and served as a member of the Tennessee National Guard.

A few years ago, while he was serving in Iraq as a military consultant, I received a sobering comment from my brother on Facebook. He said, “I believe hell is empty, as pure evil walks the earth here in Iraq.” But even with that knowledge, he truly believed in what he and his unit were doing to help the Iraqi people.

I am proud of my family’s contributions to our great nation and to the countries they have called home. I am also proud of those whom I call friends and those I don’t know personally. Without their sacrifice, I would not be living the life I have today.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

One of my favorite artifacts in the Tipton County Museum is a Nazi flag.

Yes, you read that right… A 5.5′ x 3.5′ Reichskriegsflagge  –  a German Imperial War Flag.

But no, it’s probably not for the reason you may be thinking of.

Many people when they come into the Museum, steer clear of the flag. They seem to be afraid of it and they actually go around it, trying not to let their eyes be drawn to it. But when I see that, I have to go up to them and introduce them to my favorite artifact.

To most people, the flag represents one of the most heinous periods of human history, but by the same token, if you ignore the flag, you miss out on one of the most amazing stories of perseverance and righteousness.

On the flag, hidden in plain sight, are the names of the 74 soldiers who captured the flag as a war trophy and brought it back to America, as proof of their defeat of the Third Reich. The soldiers, the majority of them no older than boys, were members of companies A, B, C, and D, later designated as the 382nd, 383rd and 384th, respectively, Medical Collecting Companies (also known as Ambulance Motor Companies) and the 684th Medical Clearing Company. The companies were a part of the 53rd Medical Battalion, 136th Medical Regiment, 34th Division. 

The 53rd Medical Battalion departed the United States on Feb. 19, 1942, from New York on the USS Neville (APA-9), a United States Navy attack transport ship. Built for duty during World War I, her departure from the New York Port of Embarkation was her first trans-oceanic run of the second world war and she had on board hundreds of young Americans, many who would not return to her shores.

The battalion arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland on March 2, 1942, where the various units and detachments of the battalion were sent where they were needed. The 74 men named on the flag, landed as a part of the 53rd Medical Battalion in Normandy, France between D plus 1 and D plus 7 in support of V Corps, where they served for the duration of the war.  They saw action during the Battle of Saint-Lo, and participated in the liberation of Paris, where they helped evacuate over 300 Allied casualties who were being held as prisoners of war in hospitals within the city. They followed troop movements to the West Wall, or Siegfried Line, as the Allies called it, and were able to evacuate more than 180 patients and escape capture when they found themselves isolated at Heppenbach, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge.

The battalion marched hundreds of miles through France, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Germany. Their daily routine consisted of scheduled ambulance runs and the treatments of minor sick and wounded. In March 1944 alone, more than 775 patients were transported through war torn battlefields and over 600 patients treated. That same month, the men of the 53rd Medical Battalion covered a distance of 431 miles. They participated in the Battle of Germany, (Sept -Dec 1944) where they learned that supplies coming from the rear were often non-existent, and had to rely on captured German medicinals, blankets and litters to keep the chain of evacuation moving. In February 1945, the companies were assisting an average of 99 patients a day and they helped evacuate and treat POWs when they were liberated from German POW camps.

The 74 men of the 53rd Medical Battalion came from all walks of life. When you read their names, you’ll see that many are Italian and Jewish names. The majority of them were immigrants or first generation Americans. Some served because they were drafted and some because they wanted too. But they all served their country because they understood that Adolf Hitler had to be stopped.

The 53rd Medical Battalion was awarded the Meritorious Service Unit plaque for superior performance of duty in the accomplishments of their exceptionally difficult task, as well as Bronze Service Stars for the Normandy Campaign. Many of the men also received individual awards for their bravery.

The flag on display at the Tipton County Museum is not one to be feared or repelled by. It has history and lessons that need to be remembered. One, that we never forget the atrocities that occurred during WWII and continually take steps so they are not repeated, and two, to remember that it is because of brave young men like the 74 named, that evil was defeated.

Personally, I like to think that those young men were essentially giving Hitler the finger while saying, “To hell with you Hitler! We captured your flag and we’re making it ours now!”

The 74 brave young men of the 53rd Medical Battalion whose names are written on the flag are:

  • Pvt. Otho Taylor
  • Sgt. James Savastano,
  • Corp. Pat [Patrick A] Paris
  • Pvt. Ralph J. Simon – Stacyville, Iowa
  • Carlos Porras – Route 1, Box 30J, Wasco, Cali.
  • PFC. Ben [R] Behrens
  • Pvt. Harvey [C] Alford –  Harpursville, NY
  • Rip Shoemaker
  • Pvt. 1C Stephen [J] Lukas
  • Pvt. John [H] Wallerich
  • Pvt John Shumaker
  • Pvt. Royce [W] O’Brien
  • Pvt. Charles Robison
  • Pvt. Gilbert [J] Chanti
  • Gary Flippo
  • PFC Nicholas Elnicky
  • Pvt. Joe Scerbo
  • Bennedict Delmonico
  • Corp John [C] Benson
  • Pvt. Harry [Harold J] Flood
  • Clarence Airhart
  • PFC William [F] Callan
  • PFC Jerome [P] Giblin
  • Pvt. Romie Lopes
  • Staff Sgt Donald [D] Brugger
  • Lamar Gordon
  • PFC Jimmy [Vincent J] Fonti
  • Pvt Mathew Sarra
  • Pvt Bill [William E] Herrick
  • Pvt Santo Plazzo
  • Pvt Glenn [K] Walters
  • PFC Jerry [Jerome P] Faraci
  • Pvt Frank Contillo
  • PFC Charles Hendrickson
  • Bill Himes
  • PFC Robert Scherbaum
  • Pvt Frank [L] Heeren
  • Alvin Ball
  • Vincent Guagliardo
  • James Alexander
  • Pvt Edward [T] Jones
  • Jake Ellison
  • PFC Ed [Edward E] Fairclough
  • Sgt Thomas [F] Hale
  • Walter Williams
  • PFC Edwin [H] Chattin
  • PFC Henry [W] Dkystra
  • Sgt Harry [W] Lindbloom
  • PFC Pete [Peter C] Williams
  • PFC Louie [Louis] Solometo
  • Pvt Mike [Michael G] Durcanin
  • PFC Henry [C] Kee
  • Pete O. Trapani
  • Capt Sam [Samuel H] Malivuk, [M.C.]
  • PFC Clarence Jeffery
  • Pvt John [E] Lesynski
  • PFC Walt [Walter H] Potorski
  • PFC Max Rosen
  • PFC Frances Vogler
  • Bill Mulhelland
  • Pvt Lefty [William M] Olszewski
  • Pvt Francis [C] Kramer
  • Pvt Nate [Nathan L] Hartley
  • Pvt Rufus [W] Taylor
  • Benny Gicalese
  • Leon Mack
  • PFC Karl [W] Kiefer
  • PFC Elmer Decann
  • Pvt Harvey Thompson
  • Pvt Jes [Jessie G] Poindexter
  • Pvt Scott [M] Voyles
  • Leroy Rogers
  • Luke Lund
  • Anthony Pope

All is NOT lost… thousands of records for 1890 Census DO still exist

The 1890 census is often thought to have been completely destroyed by an early January 1921 fire, but that is not exactly correct. An estimated 25 percent of the census was destroyed and another 50 percent did suffered fire, smoke and water damage. But the real cause of its demise was not a fire, but rather the lack of care.  After the fire occurred, preservation wasn’t high on the list of tasks of the current census director, Sam Rogers. After the fire was out and the first responders left, Rogers wouldn’t allow anyone to touch the1890 census until insurance adjusters had examined the overall damage.

The census was basically “forgotten” and set aside while the questions of the fire’s origins were being debated and investigated. Meanwhile, the still soggy, “charred about the edges” original and only copies of the 1890 schedules remained in ruins. At the end of January, the records damaged in the fire were moved for temporary storage. Over the next few months, rumors spread that salvage attempts would not be made and that Rogers had recommended that Congress authorize destruction of the 1890 census. Prominent historians, attorneys, and genealogical organizations wrote to the new Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, the Librarian of Congress, and other government officials in protest and pushed for a national archival building.

Although their calls were being heard, no action was being taken and in December 1932 with no archival building in sight, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers no longer necessary for current business and scheduled for destruction. He asked the Librarian to report back to him any documents that should be retained for their historical interest. On that list, item 22 for the Bureau of the Census read “Schedules, Population . . . 1890, Original.” For some reason unknown, the Librarian identified no records as permanent, and the list was sent forward with Congress authorizing destruction on Feb. 21, 1933. At least one report states the 1890 census papers were finally destroyed in 1935, and a small scribbled note found in a Census Bureau file states “remaining schedules destroyed by Department of Commerce in 1934.

Heartbreaking, I know!

But all was not lost… some fragments of the 1890 census have been found that document just over 6,000 ­– actually, to be exact, some 6,160 individuals. Even with this limited amount of information, the 1890 Census could still be hugely helpful to a researcher who is lucky enough to have had ancestors who lived in the geographical locations that were saved. Family Search – – offers the complete 1890 census fragments online… for FREE. Both a searchable index and images are available.

According to the National Archives, the available locations are:

  • Parts of Perry Co., Alabama
  • Parts of the District of Columbia
  • Columbus, Muscogee Co., Georgia
  • Mound Twp., McDonough Co., Illinois
  • Rockford, Wright Co., Minnesota
  • Jersey City, Hudson Co., New Jersey
  • Eastchester, Westchester Co., New York
  • Brookhaven Twp., Suffolk Co., New York
  • Parts of Cleveland Co., North Carolina
  • Parts of Gaston Co., North Carolina
  • Cincinnati, Hamilton Co., Ohio
  • Wayne Twp., Clinton Co., Ohio
  • Jefferson Twp., Union Co., South Dakota
  • Parts of Ellis Co., Texas
  • Parts of Hood Co., Texas
  • Kaufman, Kaufman Co., Texas
  • Parts of Rusk Co., Texas
  • Trinity Town and parts of Trinity Co., TX

So, if you are fortunate enough to have family members living in those areas be sure to give what’s left of the 1890 a look!


The 1890 Census Fragment

You will notice that the 1890 images look quite different than other enumerations. The 1890 census was the only one to include just one family per page. It also used a vertical layout with wider columns.

The 1890 Census of Union Veterans and Widows of the Civil War

The second section of the 1890 Census was a special enumeration of Union (and some Confederate) veterans, and is very large with 90,000+ images offered online. This remaining section of the 1890 census is even more valuable because it is so vast and much of it has survived.

The National Archives explains that the Pension Office requested the special enumeration to help Union veterans locate comrades to testify in pension claims and to determine the number of survivors and widows for pension legislation. Some congressmen also thought it scientifically useful to know the effect of various types of military service upon veterans’ longevity. To assist in the enumeration, the Pension Office prepared a list of veterans’ names and addresses from their files and from available military records held by the War Department. The superintendent of the census planned to print in volumes the veterans information (name, rank, length of service, and post office address) compiled from the 1890 enumeration and place copies with libraries and veterans organizations so individuals could more easily locate their fellow veterans.

Although the goal was to record Union veterans and widows, some Confederate soldiers were also included so check this database even if your ancestor fought on the side of the south. There are also some veterans from the War of 1812 listed, as well as veterans of the Mexican War and even the Seminole War (1828-1833)


Unfortunately, the records for the states of Alabama through Kansas (alphabetically) are now mostly lost, but records remain from all states from Kentucky through Wyoming. This includes:

  • U.S. Navy Vessels and Navy Yards
  • Washington, DC
  • Kentucky (part)
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma and Indian Territories
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Because this record set contains a vast number of individuals there is a good chance that you may locate an ancestor. Finding one may mean access to military information on the veteran or his widow’s name, his rank, date of enlistment, date of discharge, address, disability incurred by the veteran, special notes and often more.

For more information on the 1890 Census fire, the National Archives published an article, “First in the Path of the Firemen: The Fate of the 1890 Population Census,” in its Spring 1996 Prologue.

Remembering Freedom is not Free

Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day to honor those Americans lost during the Civil War, now honors and commemorates all American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Many Americans have forgotten, or perhaps they’ve never really known, what the true meaning of the day is for. Most will celebrate the three-day “holiday” weekend by starting their summer… days at the beach or camping out, BBQs and enjoying family and friends. Not once, will many of them even stop for a moment to reflect on the very reason they have the weekend to celebrate at all.

It seems that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s prediction in 1941 has come to pass, “Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men died to win them.”

Tonight, I walked around my local cemetery looking at the numerous headstones, which had been decorated with American flags for the weekend. Many of the flags had been knocked down due to the fierce storm we had the night before, so I spent time righting flags, saluting fallen comrades and thanking them for their service and sacrifice. It also made me wonder, why we decorated the final resting places of our military heroes only for the weekend? Why we don’t ensure that the American flag, the very one they pledged to support and the one, many died defending, is not permanently flown over their headstones?

As I walked between the rows of stones, drawn to those marked with flags, I stopped at each one I came across for a moment of quiet reflection. Not all had died in service of their country, but all had served and that was good enough for me. Young men, like SP4


SP4 Ronald Gordon Smith is buried in R.H. Munford Cemetery in Covington, TN

Ronald Gordon Smith, USARV, who was killed in Vietnam. He was 19 when he arrived in country on May 14, 1967, as a soldier with Co. A, 2nd BN, 1st Inf., 196th Infantry Brigade and celebrated his birthday a short 18 days later on the fields of the Republic of Vietnam. He drew his last breath at age 20 on Nov. 21, 1967 in a battle in the Quang Tin Province, six short months after arriving. He is remembered on panel 30E, line 60 on the Vietnam Wall and I came across this memory shared online on Memorial Day 1999 from one of his friends which shows he was very much loved and is missed, “Dearest Smitty, In three days you could have been 52 years old-as I am. You could have had a wife, children, and a dog-a whole and complete life. Instead you will always be 20 years old in my mind, driving a red Corvair, smiling and laughing. I still love you as my best high school friend. I think of you so often still and pray God’s blessings on you in heaven and on your family and friends left on earth. I love you, Judy.”

Since the dawn of our country, more than 42 million men and women have served to protect this great land of ours, and more than 1.3 million have died doing so. It seems the least we can do is spend a few moments reflecting on those who have given their lives in combat so that we can live ours in freedom.

As the years pass, it becomes easier to forget the person behind the name, and so it falls on our shoulders; the legacy holders – the parents, spouses, children, siblings and friends – to tell the story our soldiers can no longer tell. This Memorial Day, before you fire up the BBQ, take a moment to reflect on all of our fallen countrymen and women of all wars and the sacrifice they have made on our behalf and to remember that our freedom has never been free.

In Flanders Field
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915 
during the second battle of Ypres, Belgium

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Lucky to be here

You know, it is actually mind boggling when one stops to consider how did I 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.


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 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 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… thinking… 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. 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, her first born, actually lived to be be 94 years old. How lucky is that?


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.


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.


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.

Sherri Lyn Panchaud 666

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.


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.

family shot

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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…

View original post 692 more words

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.


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, 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 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.




The discovery of family, past and present

Beneath the Dirt

Artifacts with attitudes ... the stories beneath the dirt at the Tipton County Museum

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

This is the most popular online genealogy magazine in the world, as measured by Alexa.

The Unsilent Majority

My Voice. My Thoughts. My Blog

A Literary Artist's Music

Passion, Inspiration, & Adventure


food, glorious food.

The Better Man Project ™

a man chasing dreams

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

The Blog

The latest news on and the WordPress community.