Category Archives: Misc Stories

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.

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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.

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


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.


Age ain’t nothing but a number

This weekend’s research brought to light that many of our ancestors lied or committed “age fabrication” when filling out documents, especially on marriage certificates or military enlistment papers. And it wasn’t the simple or honest mistakes we often find on census forms when census takers write down or hear the wrong year, or even the ancestor’s lack of knowledge of his or her own true age.

It was outright falsehoods… well, at least from my people.

Now, I realize people have lied or misrepresented their age for centuries. They either claim they are older than they truly are, perhaps making them old enough to participate in a particular event, such as a marriage or participation in military service.  Or they shave a few years off of their lives, hoping to fit in the environment they’re trying to be a part of. Maybe an older widow is marrying a younger man and doesn’t want people to know she is older. Or an older gentleman lists his age years younger than he actually is when wooing the hand of a much younger female while trying to impress his suitability to her father.

MARR_BREEDEN_Rebecca_RUDISELL_Oris_1933The marriage certificate of my great aunt Rebecca Mae Breeden reflects her age as 19 when she married Oris Edward Rudisell on Oct. 25, 1930 in Cambridge City, Wayne, Indiana, listing her birthday as March 13, 1911.  But, in all actuality, Rebecca was just 15 years old when she married her 21 year-old groom – her true birthday being March 13, 1914.

Marriagecert_ThaddeusGUARD_WintersMy great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Winters stated on her marriage certificate to my great grandfather Thaddeus Clifford Guard, that she was 18 when they married on May 16, 1907 in Cleves, Hamilton, Ohio. Her real birthdate of June 3, 1890 proves she was only 16 at the time of her marriage.

Both of these family members lied so they could get married without having to wait several years to come of age. Pretty harmless I imagine, although, I’m not sure what their parents thought about the life-changing fibs.

And these are just a couple of my inventive ancestors.

But, I also learned this weekend that sometimes people lie about their age to reinvent themselves. I was helping a fellow researcher track down her wayward grandfather, who apparently abandoned his family just a few years and a couple of children after his 1921 marriage to her 19 year-old grandmother in Canada. Her mother is now 94 and would like to know what happened to her father or at least, where he is buried before she dies.

Unfortunately, a quick search revealed that her father, most likely, abandoned a previous family in the United Kingdom and then perhaps, did the same thing to her family. His marriage certificate to his Canadian wife reported that he was a 41 year-old engineer, had been born in Montreal and had never been married. But a Canadian passenger list has him entering Canada as a married 41 year-old engineer, arriving in Toronto in 1911 from Bristol, England. It also says he was born in Ireland and not Montreal. She’s positive this is the same man, and I believe so as well, given his name and occupation, but the trail is cold after the marriage. The wife and children are living with the wife’s parents and the husband has vanished.

I wonder if the young wife ever learned that her husband was in fact, a married 50 year-old Irishman? Did he head back to England or Ireland to be with his other family, or did he move on and start another one?

Why would someone claim to be 10 years younger than they really were? Did our ancestors believe even back then, that people were treated better or worse due to their age? Did they purposely change their age, their status, their residency to knowingly abscond from their obligations? Did they really not know how old they really were? Were they just really poor record keepers?

It was all of the above and more.

Misrepresentation is definitely not a 21st century phenomenon and it will not end with the next century. People do what they feel they need to do to reach whatever point in life they feel they need to be at. Even if it means flubbing a few numbers.


Tombstone Tuesday: Weep not for her

Several years ago, six to be honest, I found myself in the community of Jaffrey, New Hampshire, attending the funeral of my mother-in-law. After the service, my family and I headed back to my brother-in-law’s home so my husband could visit with his brother for a while. On the way to his home I noticed a very old looking cemetery, and as one who never passes up the chance to explore God’s acre, I went for a walk to locate the ancient burying ground, while the men were talking,

Most people, having just attended a funeral, would have had enough of being in the land of the dead, but I find cemeteries calm me. I am more relaxed walking up and down the rows of lost loved ones. There are no sounds, save those of nature. I enjoy reading the names, the epitaphs and trying to figure the age of those who have passed. I wonder what their lives held for them and why death found them when it did. Did they have dreams and ambitions? Did they achieve their goals? Did they have a good life, or was it one of pain and suffering?

It pains me to see graves of obvious neglect, ones long forgotten. Why weren’t they remembered by their families? Was there no one left to mourn or did the knowledge of their life pass on as their body did with the passing of generations. I, especially, dislike seeing the tiny headstones of children, believing them to be beautiful souls whose light must have been too bright to endure the darkness of our world.

Miss Lucy Lathrop was born about Nov. 1815 and died March 24, 1836 in Jaffrey, NH

Miss Lucy Lathrop was born about Nov. 1815 and died March 24, 1836 in Jaffrey, NH

The cemetery I found that day is called the Village Cemetery, and according to its entry on Find-A-Grave, is sometimes referred to as the Baptist Cemetery and was established about 1829 on the land once owned by Oliver Bacon in east Jaffery. On this day, as I walked up and down the rows of tombstones that had been standing for more than a century, I stumbled onto the final resting place of Miss Lucy Lathrop. Remembered with a beautifully ornate stone, Miss Lucy was just 20 years and five months old when she died on March 24, 1836.

The stone’s engraving is evident of how much an impact her sudden departure had on others. Inscribed on the stone for all to see was, “This monument of respect was purchase by the female friends of the deceased, and erected, sacred to her memory.” The poem at the bottom reads, “Weep not for her! – She was far too fair. Too pure to dwell on this guilt-tainted earth; the sinless glory, and the golden air of Zion, seamed [sic] to claim her from her birth. A spirit wander’d from its native zone, which, soon discovering, took her for its own. Weep not for her!”

The marker left to sum up her short 20 years was not purchased by her family, but by her friends. 

This leads to so many unanswered questions. Where was her family? Why didn’t they erect a monument in her memory? Did she have family in New Hampshire? Was she an immigrant looking for a better life, leaving her family in the old country? What about her personality, her friendship, her goodness, resonated so deeply within her friends, that they joined together, pooling their resources to remember their friend in this manner?

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New Hampshire, Death and Disinterment Records, 1754-1947 for Lucy Lathrop.

A quick search on the Internet pulls up very little for Miss Lucy Lathrop, except for a New Hampshire Death and Disinterment Record established 70 years after her death. Besides the surprising date of when the death record was written, it also records her father as John Farwell, which causes one to ask, was Lathrop then, a married name?

But then why, would her friends purchase a stone and inscribe it with the words Miss Lucy Lathrop? And what did they know in 1906 when her death and disinterment record was established, that wasn’t known in 1836 when she was buried?

We may never discover the truth about who Miss Lucy Lathrop was, but the marker erected by her friends in her honor will ensure her memory lives on.

Weep not for her!

 


We are all connected

Indoeuropean%20language%20family%20tree So, I was pretty excited about 3 o’clock this morning when I discovered several of my 12th great grandparents. And when I say discovered, I followed the trail back and was able to find documented proof (well, at least the index of the proof… when I get to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City tomorrow, I’ll find copies of the actual documents) of marriages and births.

14 GENERATIONS BACK.

I know… impressive, right? You’d think so… until you realized that at 14 generations you have 16,384 grandparents.

Yes, you read that right. 16,384 great grandparents… they’d be your Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandmas & Grandpas. Talk about a family reunion!

I found six.

All born in England from 1550 to 1570… John Garde married Mary Suthcott, Richard Gyst married Margaret Lake, and William Tetherly married Mercy Spinney. Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 7.50.21 PM

I actually even found three of my 13th great grandfathers – Nycholas Suthcott, Thomas Gyst and William Lake – 15th generations back… but, by just adding another generation, a short span of 25 years, you’d have about 32,768 grandparents.

The below chart demonstrates how the grandparents double… it doesn’t take many generations to become overwhelmed with family.

2 Parents

4 Grandparents

8 Great Grandparents

16 Great Great Grandparents

32 Great Great Great Grandparents

64 Great Great Great Great Grandparents

128 Great Great Great Great Great Grandparents

256 Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandparents

512 Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandparents

1024 Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Grandparents

When you do the math, by the time you get to 20 generations or 500 years, you’d have 1,048,576 grandparents. Do you think you’d remember their names?

The United States only has 3.2 million people.

The world’s population right now is about 7.2 billion people. Less than 10 billion people have ever lived on the earth but if you go back 40 generations or a thousand years… you’d have more than a trillion ancestors.

I know… mind boggling, isn’t it?

By now, you’re wondering, how in the world can I have a trillion ancestors when only 10 billion have ever lived on the earth?

deliverance-1972--00Remember Deliverance? Yep…. Inbreeding makes it possible. You don’t normally find that in the first 10 generations, but going back further the population drops and so did the choice in partners. You might have had a trillion ancestors 40 generations ago, but not a trillion different ones.

Population genetic scientists have actually done a lot of research on this subject and in an article authored by Steven Olson in the May 2002 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, he describes some amazing results of their studies:

  • In all probability, you and I are descended from English royalty
  • Everyone in the world is descended from Nefertiti and Confucius,
  • Everyone in the Western world is descended from Charlemagne,
  • Eighty percent of Charlemagne’s contemporaries are also ancestors of us all.

So what does this all really mean?

One, that I have a ton of work to do! But, if you go back 22 generations, you’ll find our common ancestors and realize WE ARE ALL RELATED.

Now, let’s play nice together… we’re family afterall.


Unknown Female Child

While researching today at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, I ran across an interesting entry in a parish record that made me stop and do a double take. After magnifying the document so I could read it better, I was dismayed at what I had discovered – the burial of an unidentified child.

The parish record, which recorded the marriages and burials for the village of Harworth in Nottingham, England, held the following disturbing entry for the date of January 26, 1723:

An unknown female child found dead upon Harworth Comon & buried in Harworth Church Yard.

COLDCASE_1723No name, age or identifying marks, was used to describe the child and unlike the other burial entries, there was no father or mother’s name listed, claiming kinship. There was no evidence that this child was loved, missed or even remembered.

Unknown female child.

Somewhere, a family is missing a part of their family tree. An descendant doesn’t know that unknown female child is a part of their history – one of their ancestors.

Unknown female child.

Just thinking of those words, the only words left to history to remember her, bothers me and leaves me with so many unanswered questions. For almost 300 years, this child, somebody’s baby, somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s loved one, has been known only as an unknown female child.

What happened to that little girl? Was she an infant? A toddler? Was she old enough to speak out? Did she have a family that loved her and missed her? Was it an accident? Did someone hurt her? Was it someone she knew or loved?

And the biggest question?

Why wasn’t she claimed?

Everyone deserves to be remembered. Every being deserves to know that they mattered. Every life deserves to be recorded.

Especially, an unknown female child.


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