The Circle Game: Loss and Healing
Posted on July 26, 2022 17 Comments
Dear Readers you may be wondering where I have been. I have been wondering that too. If one has lived a half century or more one has endured loss. Sometimes the losses are monumental like death or war, and sometimes so subtle we may hardly notice them. Then one day you wake-up to the passage of time and realize all the things that have slipped away… Everyone who has lived through the last two and a half years of the Covid-19 pandemic has lived through unspeakable loss and yet we hardly let it register in our consciousness. There have been 6.4 million deaths from Covid-19 world-wide; well over 1 million in the US. Many fundamentals of the way we live have shifted, and yet we barely take note. We may telecommute, shop more online and attend more meetings remotely. and only in reflecting back three years ago to the summer of 2019 do we realize how different life was then—to what it is today. Within that backdrop, I have lost my 98 year old neighbor, friend, and mother/grandmother figure. I have become estranged from a child and I have lost a previously dear friend.
I have dealt with personal demons involving a prescription drug taken occasionally to help me sleep that turned into a nightmare. It took months for my to realize what was happening. It was only by keeping careful notes did I realize the drug was causing anxiety, sleeplessness, and other issues— which was why I was taking it in the first place! The reason it was hard to figure out was that it has such a long half life it’s a few days after taking a dose that the rebound or withdrawal happens– so no easy cause and effect. We all make missteps. No one gets by unscathed.
I find comfort in my ancestors like my 2nd great grandmother Catherine Adeline STEWART MOSIER who endured more loss than seems possible in one lifetime. And of course I have (with my cousin’s help) transcribed and illustrated my great grandmother, Mary “Lulu” PADEN MOSIER ANDERSON’s diary which covers the years 1913-1922 that are to be found as chapters of the Soprano’s Aria. After a recent trip to the library I happened upon the new novel by Isabel Allende, “Violeta.” And finally I have just finished the novel, “Lemons in the Garden of Love” by Ames Sheldon, who as it turns out, is my 5th cousin once removed on my SHELDON line. And what all these stories have in common are strong women, who have faced loss and yet they had meaningful lives. As Friedrich Nietzsche said: “What doesn’t kill me –makes me stronger.” We age, discovering new pains and new strengths, and things about ourselves that were previously unrealized.
In an age of the constant drone of helplessness and the futility of hope– it’s nice to be reminded that our kin have trod these paths before us. One of my favorite quotes:
We are all just trying to make the best of a crazy situation.Ram Dass in “How Can I Help”
I think that sums up life rather nicely, don’t you? Over time the world keeps speeding up. Getting crazier and crazier and we humans feel we can’t cope. Climate change, Covid-19, deep political divisions tearing families apart, gun violence in the US; and an increase in fascism around the globe with a concordant contraction of personal freedom. And here in America, especially for women, a turning back of the clock that our mothers, grandmothers and great grandmothers worked so hard to achieve. Equality and body autonomy just ripped away, couched as a religious right to life, is really the destruction of freedom for all those born female. As a woman, the world looks more and more like the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
While we have never had more women on the US Supreme Court; we also have never had a Supreme COurt justice who was also a member of a religious pseudo-christian cult like the “People of Praise”. Founded in 1971 the People of Praise teach “that men have authority over their wives.” I cringe as I write the words. It is groups like the People of Praise that inspired Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” first published in 1985. Ames Sheldon credits a dream about her grandmother’s aunt in the early 60’s as the genesis of her novel “Lemon’s in the Garden of Love” which tells the fictionalized story of Blanche Ames and her work in the early 20th century for Women’s Rights especially in regard to women’s reproductive rights. The regressive movement towards earlier times, when females could not vote, had no access to birth control and males held all institutional power is not something I can sit by and idly mourn, as just another loss. A recent Emerson University poll found among women “a 10-point swing for those saying they were much more interested in voting in the midterms because of the Supreme Court’s decision compared to September. Among women aged 18 to 29, the swing increased to 20 points.” There is palpable anger and determination.
In Amanda Ripley’s recent opinion piece in the Washington Post titled “I Stopped Reading the News” (published July 8 2022) she identifies 3 things the News lacks: Hope, Agency and Dignity. It’s well worth a read. All of us, are in need of more hope, agency and dignity. Reading my great Grandmother’s diary I see how what began as the American Women’s League, an organization where women sold magazine subscriptions, led to a national network of women joined together to fight for the causes that mattered to them. Foremost was the right to vote, followed by the right to birth control. I came of age in a time when “the pill” was widely available to young women and that was followed in 1973 by the Supreme Court decision in Roe vs Wade that until recently made it possible for women to have autonomy over how and when they chose to have children. This allowed many women to escape poverty and abusive relationships. As you can read in my great grandmother’s diary, how she became a “divorced and emancipated women” at a time when a huge social stigma was attached to women choosing this path in life.
As a teenager Joni Mitchell was my favorite artist. I listened to her songs hours on end. Someone recently posted a video from the Newport Folk Festival of Joni singing the Circle Game. The chorus is worth sharing.
And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return, we can only look
Behind, from where we came
And go round and round and round, in the circle gameJoni Mitchell
Putting difficult experiences in writing; that is hope and agency. In writing, we give ourselves and our readers their dignity. There is so little in life that is not bettered by the collective experience– the knowing that others feel the same way, that our paths are not new. That is the reason to explore the lives of our ancestors and actively work in the present– to prepare for the future. Women’s greatest successes have been accomplished via their natural talent for networking, collaborating and shared sacrifice. We can meet each loss with the mourning that is its due—but then we must pick up our hope AND our agency and get to work.
A recent example is a teen named Olivia Julianna, 19, who heard Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz’s speech arguing “women who are worried about dwindling abortion access are too unattractive to become pregnant.” She used it as an opportunity to raise $1.9 million and counting for the Gen-Z for Choice Abortion Fund. ( This fund splits all donations evenly among 50 local abortion funds across the United States.) The organization is a “youth-led nonprofit working to educate our generation and create tangible change on issues that disproportionately affect young people.” That is Agency! That is Hope! Give women their Dignity! Things may look bad—but we CAN make it better.
Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.
A Love Letter to Young Genealogists
Posted on June 11, 2022 9 Comments
Dear Young Genealogist,
Once upon a time I was you. I always had an interest in the past and unlike many of my peers I enjoyed hanging out with old people (gray haired retirees). I liked their stories and their points of view. I tried to imagine living through life without cars and planes and coming from places far away beyond American shores. Other than looking at old photographs and family heirlooms my earliest recollection of a true genealogy pursuit was in 6th grade when we were asked to create a family tree and then later to do a report on a country from which our ancestors came. Mine was on Sweden, but at the time I had no idea exactly where in Sweden my ancestors were from. But I also remember feeling uncomfortable for my younger brother who was adopted and did not know his true family tree. Always be sensitive to those with less information than you. We all start in different places on our journeys.
My real pursuit of genealogy happened when I was 17 and read a Family Circle magazine article. And that was over 50 years ago. I have written about that previously here.
Recently a very dear friend and I exchanged letters beginning over 50 years ago. Reading this one I wrote back in 1984 is very interesting regarding genealogy.
“I’ve been working on the genealogy a bit lately. Well last week I got 4 letters from my relatives giving me lots of information. One from Ken, my grandmother Carrie’s brother. He traced the HENAGERs back to the 1600’s in Germany. He hasn’t given me all the details as he isn’t sure which if two brothers is his grandfather. He also gave me a lots of dates and things working back to a Josiah FRANKLIN, which might be the son of Josiah FRANKLIN, Benjamin FRANKLIN’s father.” [Although this turned out not to be true.]
“Also got a letter from my great aunt and uncle (my grandfather Milo’s brother). Anyway they sent a lot of things…a copy of a letter which traces the ALLEN’s to my great-great grandmother Lucinda Mary ALLEN who is quite closely related to Ethan ALLEN.” [Also turned out not to be true].
“Also my great great grandmother Catherine (STEWART) MOSIER. She told her children that she was descended from Mary Queen of Scots. When Catherine was living in Lincoln, Nebraska she received $3,000 from a lawyer who had been searching for her. He also gave her a book on the history of the STEWART family. Eilene said her grandmother always had that book with her but unfortunately it has been lost. Anyway, I never thought that delving into my family’s past would bring up such possibilities, even if they aren’t true, which quite possibly they aren’t, it sure is fun working on the whole thing. I guess you can tell I’m excited about it.” While its not shown that we are descended from Mary Queen of Scots YDNA has proven that we are descended from the Royal STEWARTs through Sir John STEWART Bonkyll. So of these early claims half turned out to be partly true.
So that is a cautionary tale for young genealogists. Some things, especially back then, turned out to be nothing more than wishful thinking. But whether fact or fiction or something in between when you start a genealogical journey expect to be surprised, confounded and amused. If you aren’t having fun, then please reevaluate your action plan. If you are running into stuffy old gatekeepers and curmudgeons, keep reaching out until you find the relatives and genealogists willing to help and maybe even mentor you. They are a godsend. Please remember to say thank you. It goes a long way and is sometimes forgotten in the age of instant gratification.
Your relatives and progeny will appreciate your journey as you discover your family’s past. Don’t forget you are part of a very old story. And I am sure young genealogists have lots to teach us oldsters, as well. We bridge the age gap and make the world a better place. And if you indulge me just a bit more—please focus on the stories. They are the most important things you may hear—you may not know it at the time—but trust me every one you record will be a gift to future generations.
Love to you all—and may you be blessed with many stories…Special hello to Daniel Loftus and Gen_Z Genealogy.
Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.
Mundane to Profane: Writing our Own Stories
Posted on May 30, 2022 3 Comments
“Sadness is but a wall between two gardens.”Kahlil Gibran
I have suffered in my life, but I have always diminished that suffering by comparing it with that of others; finding it not so bad as theirs and not worthy of memorializing. The truth is when we tell our stories it can make our friends and family uncomfortable. It can make us uncomfortable. That’s why we tend to shy away from immortalizing those stories. Yesterday, while talking to genealogy friends we were talking about all of the stories that are lost because no one records them. From the mundane to the profane, history forgets. And these days we have such short memories. Whether blessing or curse my memories and the stories I tell about them have become a curse. Perhaps not rising to the level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but certainly on the spectrum of trauma that sets you up for lifelong triggers and maladaptive responses. But all stories can be re-written.
The latest shooting of children by a gunman in Uvalde, Texas makes me think of all the children and families which will relive that day every time something triggers that memory. Every person alive will respond in different ways to National tragedies like the shooting of President Kennedy, the Challenger disaster, 911 or the latest mass shooting. Each of these traumas affects us depending on our temperament, our proximity and our ability to compartmentalize tragedies that are beyond our control. Today is Memorial Day. The day to remember those that died in the service of their country. It has morphed into a remembering of all of our dead. Perhaps that makes it more palatable, not to remember specifically those slaughtered in war, but to remember all that we have lost.
I wrote about my name and the process I had gone through to reframe the discomfort it caused. Writing can be a process of healing. We take something tragic and try to find a way to bring something good to come out of it. With all that is threatening us in the world from the War in Ukraine to global warming, it becomes increasingly more difficult to find peace and happiness. We focus on the positive, on what we can control and the goodness we can find, whether a flower pushing itself up through cracked pavement or the delight of watching young squirrels chase each other round a tree trunk. Life goes on in spite of unspeakable tragedy. Writing is a way of recording the past but it can also be an instrument of healing.
“We read to know we are not alone”– William Nicholson wrote in his play Shadowlands. We write to connect our past with our present, and perhaps to touch someone in the future. It is our act of hope that something we record will resonate with someone who needs to read it. I told this story to a couple of friends just yesterday. It records a painful incident from twenty years ago that was echoed in something that happened a few days ago. It is a small thing but emblematic of how sometimes it’s family that strikes the cruelest of blows.
I was reminded of a time after my Dad died and my mother had returned from a trip to Costa Rica. My brother was at her house and I had brought her flowers. My Mom says to me, ” Kelly, put them in that vase right there.” Then she adds, “Isn’t that a beautiful vase is that your brother gave me.” I say, “Mom, I gave you that vase for Mother’s Day. I bought it at Macy’s when I was shopping for a wedding gift” She argues with me and I take and turn the crystal vase upside down and it still has a Macy’s sticker on it. Silence. My brother does not say, “Mom I didn’t get that for you.” My Mom does not say, “I am sorry I forgot.” Then Mom says, “Kelly get me the paper bag on the dining table, which I dutifully retrieve. Then she directs me to give it to my brother which I do. Inside are gifts for my brother from Costa Rica. There is nothing for me, and that is her point.
So why share something so personal and painful? Why hang out our dirty laundry for the world to see? For me it is many things. It is an act of courage and defiance. While I have relieved that painful memory recently when something similar caused it to resurface I can choose whether to tell the story as the victim or as a badge of courage. Nietzsche wrote “Out of life’s school of war—what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.” We hear the shortened version often.
“What doesn’t kill you makes me stronger.”Nietzsche
None of us gets through life unscathed. Luck, circumstance, genetics, trauma— the cauldron of life is not the same for each of us. Sometimes life is unspeakably cruel in ways that are difficult to give voice to. From seemingly random tragedies, like gun violence, to the ravages of cancer or chronic illness. We cannot make sense of it. But I do know, at pivotal moments we have an opportunity to record the comedies, histories and the tragedies of our lives and those that came before us. They will not always be pretty and they may sometimes be painful, but they are the authentic stuff of life. The more we uncover the family stories of our ancestors–the more we realize we are not alone. Families are messy. They are full of joy and sorrow. And for many they do not appear in equal measure and yet we endure, we survive and occasionally we triumph. I think of the movie: ” As Good As it Gets” and I have to smile. Sometimes just being able to tell a painful story or step on a crack makes us the hero of our own story. For me there is a release in setting the story free. I don’t have to remember it and I can change it as I see fit. I invite you dear reader to do the same. Whether you share your stories or not, write it down. Give it a voice.
Kelly Wheaton ©2022 All Rights Reserved
Can Ancestry’s Ethnicity Breakdown get any Worse?
Posted on May 20, 2022 3 Comments
Sadly the answer is yes, for me. You may wish to look at this blog post first, that I did back in April 2022. First off let’s look at April’s version versus the new one.
Compare that with the newest one two month later
First off they have changed the colors so that may make it tough to follow. I have ascribed the maternal side as the green (Sweden Denmark) Teal (Norway). Now the purples are showing as German and Finnish. Okay on paper this is my paper ancestry:
55% British, Scottish, Irish
18% German, French, Swiss
I, as I have often explained have one 100% Scandinavian grandparent who is 3/4 Swedish and 1/4 Norwegian. And yet my Ancestry DNA “estimate” shows my total Scandinavian as 48% of my DNA. Which means I only got 2% of my DNA from my maternal grandmother which I know via matches and segment painting is false. So I am here to remind you again to take these estimates with a pound of salt.
Furthermore, My Maternal side is not where my German comes in, that’s heavily from my father’s side and I have the matches to prove it. In actuality the first iteration is closer to the truth than the second. And neither of them give me any confidence at all in these new “estimates” which are at best parlor game material. My guess is they are highly influence by most recent ancestry from an area. My Scandinavian ancestors immigrated to the US in 1850-1870’s. My English as far back as 1620. Most of my German ancestry is from the early 1700’s. It just isn’t possible for these wide swings in ancestry to be real. There is something seriously wrong with the algorithms. If we have had some swings and misses Ancestry struck out here. Below is my breakdown from 23andme which is much closer to reality.
Remember you mileage may vary. Often these estimates get better over time but for me Ancestry just gets worse and worse. I really couldn’t believe how bad this was….
Kelly Wheaton ©2022 All Rights Reserved.
Heirlooms: The Family Bible & a Lundberg Coincidence
Posted on May 17, 2022 3 Comments
Early on in my genealogy career I sought after the family bibles of various members of my family and my husband’s as well. I was able to photograph a couple and there were a few more whose existence was talked about, but they had mysteriously disappeared. The ones I did photograph– were over 50 years ago– before I had much idea what I was doing. I am glad to have what I have although where those bibles ended up, I am not sure.
I only have one Bible that previously belonged to a family member [photo above] and it was pictured in my last blog post. That’s what got me thinking about bibles and the treasure that they are. The one I have belonged to my grandfather Roy Sidney Lundberg and as it turns out it was given to him by his paternal grandparents Johan Solomon Lundberg and his wife Anna Olofsdotter who immigrated to America in April of 1880 with their five children. This family is my most recent immigrant family.
The following is a photo of the inscription of Roy’s confirmation Bible. The date of publishing is 1903 in Orebo, Sweden and as you can see given in 1905.
Transcription: Ett minure från farfar och farmor till Roys Sidney Lundberg På hans confirmation day 11 Juni 1905 i Bethania Kyrken af 22nd gatan & 36th ave söder Minneapolis Minn. Lâs flitigt i desna bok. Sôk först efter Guds rike och hans rättfärdighet så faller diy allt annat till.
Translation: “A token from [paternal] grandfather and grandmother Lundburg to Roy Sidney Lundberg on his confirmation day 11 June 1905 in Bethania Church corner of 22nd street & 36th ave south Minneapolis Minn. Read this book frequently. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. Everything else will fall into place when the timing is right.”
Well just after I started this blog post i got an invitation from a distant cousin in Sweden Casja Lundburg to a new group for our Lundberg family on Facebook. Whereupon another cousin posted this lovely painting that was likely done in remembrance of Johan Soloman Lundberg’s Parents Johan Petter Lundberg and Catharina Jacobsdotter’s marriage. They the great-grandparents of Roy Sidney Lundberg and parents of his grandparents who gave him the bible!
A heartfelt thank you to Erik Feldt who not only gave permission to use the photo but also provided the following transcription and translation:
The text in archaic Swedish:
Jag eder ständig wälgång önskar
O må ni allltid lycklig bli
Må eder framtidsbana grönska
Och gledje blomsterstrå er stiga
Må ni många sälla dagar levfa
Med lugn och gledje intill varandras bröst
Och älskade barn er ömt omgifva
Med gledje uppå åldrens höst
In English it should be something like this:
I wish you constant prosperity
And may you always be happy
May your future path flourish
And joy like flowers rise
May you live many cheerful days
With calm and joy next to each other’s chest
And surrounded by beloved children
With happiness in the autumn of your age.
Rebuilding a Family History
It drives home the point that we all have bits and pieces of the family puzzle that get passed down through various branches of a family. Sometimes when we are lucky those pieces are shared and we all become the richer for that sharing. In that regard my earlier piece on the Misattributed Heirloom is another part of the story.
Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved
Looking at Ancestry’s New Ethnicity Estimates
Posted on April 15, 2022 4 Comments
Ancestry has a new feature which I would love, if it got it right for me or my husband. I applaud the attempt, but it just isn’t ready for prime time with the results for us. I share this detailed discussion to caution others in accepting it as a fact. It may get some people right, but I would proceed with caution. My husband has 4 grandparents as follows. One 100% Swedish, married to mixed English/Welsh/Dutch; 1 100% Irish (could have Scots back further) married to 1 100% German. So on paper it should be 25% Swedish, 25% English-Dutch-Welsh; 25% Irish and 25% German. Because we can inherit from our grandparents unevenly each range might be 15-35% This is what his chart looks like:
The line should be closer to where the purple line is. All the Swedish is definitely from his father’s side and the German, Scottish, Irish Welsh from his mother’s side. I won’t quibble over the percentages other than to say that in their ranges they seem to overly favor Swedish results . On paper he should have about 25% Swedish—this could range up to the 38% but most likely is in the 20-30% range.
In my particular estimate The range for Swedish is 3-32% but it opts for the high end—an obvious error.
My Swedish on paper should be about 18.75% and my Norwegian about 6.25%. Ancestry reports I have 32% Swedish and 14% (Range 0-23%) Norwegian and 2% Finnish (0-2% range) (total of 57%). So even being super generous my Swedish should be in the 30% range tops and my Norwegian 15% tops. There is no Finnish as far back as the early 1600’s. If I did get the top amounts as suggested by Ancestry it would be more than 50% from my maternal grandfather and nothing from my maternal grandmother. That is NOT POSSIBLE. Based on what I have been able to paint with DNA Painter I can account for 6.2% DEFINITELY coming from my maternal grandmother. This would leave 43.8% from my maternal grandfather. My guess is it’s not more than 40% and maybe far less. 23andme reports 34.8% Scandinavian which I think much more likely. I have fewer matches on my maternal grandmother’s side due to very small family sizes 2-4 surviving children in the last 4-5 generations. My maternal grandfather has much larger families and many matches.
Since my Swedish and Norwegian as well as my husband is more recent I think the Ancestry algorithm has a bias towards larger (more recent segments) that tends to skew the more recent immigrants percentages upwards and dimisses the older (smaller) colonial segments.
Here is my overall breakdown
Here the Germanic should be on my paternal side and the range is shown as 0-24%. On paper it should be about 18%, and based on my DNA Painter findings it is at least 18% of my genome (not 2% as Ancestry reports). Although it suggests it could be up to 24%!
Finally let’s take a look at my English which on paper is about 55% of my Ancestry. Ancestry reports a range of 28-50% and places me at the low end. I think some of the Scandinavian over reporting should be English. To be fair Yorkshire and Norwegian share a lot of DNA.
The point of all this is to again treat it with a great deal of skepticism. I also think it most likely that the more recently you have admixture from Europe the more likely it will appear in higher percentages in your breakdown. use EXTREME Caution in taking these too seriously.
Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved
Let’s Talk About Death
Posted on April 11, 2022 1 Comment
Family Historians and genealogists should be ever mindful of what happens to all their hard work and accumulated books and files when they depart this life, for good. Some recent deaths and illnesses of family and friends reminded me the best time to prepare is long before we think we need to.
A few years back I looked at my massive book collection and decided if I read a book every few days I did not have time to read everything I had. So I decided to edit my collection and reduced it by nearly a half. Suddenly I had a place to put things! And it was easier to organize and find things. But recently I was looking at my books and wanted an easy way for my family to evaluate the book collection at my demise or incapacitation. So I ordered some removable colored stickers and have placed a sticker inside each book. Family can grab what interests them. Then to help in dispersal:
- Pink = donate, sell or otherwise dispose
- Orange = donate to local Genealogy Society Library
- Yellow = family significant books or needs further evaluation
- Green = first editions, rare books and of monetary value
In the process of going through each book I ended up with 2 grocery sacks of books that have been donated to the library. The process has taken a few days but I am quite satisfied with the ease and simplicity of the process. For very valuable books I have slipped a printout of current sales price or note inside. What could be a huge future burden, eliminated!
It’s been a couple of weeks and I went looking for a book of Haiku found it and sat down to read it. It’s worth maybe $15-40 on Ebay. However when reading through it I realized I did not much like most of the translations and in reading the essay in the back I discovered I liked the literal translations much better than the westernized version. So I thought to myself why keep a book that does not please me. Let it be found by someone else who might treasure it — so off it went to the library to be donated. Better to have fewer books that delight , than those that annoy or weigh you down. And don’t forget this comes from a lifelong book-lover.
Every genealogist should face the fact that unless someone in the family has shown “true” interest in your collection, it may end up in the rubbish if you do not make other arrangements in advance. There are many options but whatever you choose to do put it in writing. What organization or individual gets what. Here are some possibilities:
- Donate to a local genealogical or historical society
- Donate to a surname specific organization
- Donate to a geographic specific genealogical or historical association
- Donate to a major genealogical repository
- Digitize and dump any non-original documents, photos etc. now
- Donate digital copies to appropriate organizations
- Convert genealogies into stories and consider making them into books
- Locate relatives that would be delighted to receive part of your collection
Whatever you decide, please check in advance to see if the individual or organization is interested in your entire or parts of your collection. Many books that use to have more value but have since been digitized have less value to collectors than the used to. Use a broad based search engine like Bookfinder.com to get an idea of your book’s value.
At this juncture in time most kids don’t want our stuff and if they are interested in heirlooms it’s likely to be a short list. Here’s a novel idea, ask them what they want. Have them wander around your abode and have them make a list of what they want. If you do not have children or grandchildren ask and friends or cousins with whom you choose to share. Once you have those lists you can set out your decisions based on their desires. There’s no sense giving Bobby the painting you love, but he didn’t ask for, when Mary did. Make informed choices For small objects you can use the same color coding I used above but with a person’s name on a yellow sticker. Pink is no particular value—can be donated. Orange could have where to donate and green suggests the check out the value. If you are super organized you could take photos of objects along with notes on its provenance, value, appraisal etc. Yes this is a lot of work but it does not need to be done all at once. I am in my 6th decade—if I give myself a couple of years I should be able to get this done. During the process I can weed out things no one wants and donate them myself or sell them. Possibilities include Craig’s List, Ebay, consignment or garage sale.
Below is a 4 liter “Really Useful Box” which is 14 5/8″ x 10 1/4″ x 3 3/8″ and I find particularly helpful. This one contains keepsakes from my grandparents. Others I have designated for children or grandchildren. This one contains a Swedish Bible given to Roy by his grandmother and grandfather upon his confirmation in 1905. A beaded evening purse of Helen’s, an engraved calling card tray, jewelry etc. I like that you can see what is inside and that they stack nicely and are easily loaded into the car (as we did more than once during the fires). Use whatever system works for you.
As I work through the process myself I may have additions to this blog post or another follow-up piece. I started writing this piece and before I published mine my friend Paul Chiddick’s posted this excellent one. Please feel free to share your ideas in the comments.
Paul recommends Planning a Future for Your Family’s Past by Marian Burk Wood. And there are lots of books out there like Get it Together designed to help you plan your estate.
Kelly Wheaton ©2022 All Rights Reserved.
Fill a Jar: Writing Challenge
Posted on March 28, 2022 2 Comments
“The magical view of language, in a nutshell is that the word is part of the thing it stands for–the word contains some of the juice or the essence
or soul of the thing it points to.”Peter Elbow in Writing with Power
This idea came to me whilst taking a walk on a misty morning. I was thinking about a jar of pebbles I have collected and what will it take to get me to stoop down and pick up a new one? What makes me pick up that pebble and not this one? What makes some bit of writing more appealing, more tangible than another?
This challenge is designed for those who haven’t written before or are convinced they don’t have time to write, or that they must be polished writers in order to write. It has several different variations so feel free to adapt it to suit:
- Write a word, phrase, sentence, or thought on a piece of paper, fold and place in a mason jar, box or other suitable container
- Do this whenever you think of it—just a word or sentence when the mood strikes you
- The snippets can be descriptive of any subject of your choosing
- They could be memory images such as my piece: Hands in the Mud
- They can be something you heard, read, saw, smelled, ate [I could imagine recipe titles, book titles, quotes…]
- Could be a turn of a phrase you liked, a clever rythme, a haiku, descriptions of [fill in the blank]
- Could be something you imagine your ancestor saying
- You can make these completely non thematic (random)
- Or you could choose a theme like my “grandmother Carrie”, “my childhood”, “my great uncle” or “a favorite place”
- Whenever you think of something jot it down
When the jar or box is full, take all the pieces of papers out and type them into a blank document. You have now written something! And so that is one hurdle put behind you. If you picked someone you knew you might have quite a few memories or descriptions about them. Are there any themes?—can you rearrange the lines to make a poem or story or is a list sufficient? Can you use these random bits as inspiration? Do you have some lines that you really like?
If you used the Random or non-thematic approach, can you organize the slips into themes? Are there things you tend to gravitate towards? If so take note because this is where your energy or passion may be found. is there anything that makes you want to write more? Is there any magic here or do they read like a census description? Analyze what you like or what is missing. If you like nothing but one slip of paper throw out the rest and start adding to that one as you hone your craft.
Use the slips of paper as fire starters, otherwise known as writing prompts. The idea is to make writing fun, playful, and something that you look forward to doing. You can be serious or silly, that’s up to you. Make up your own version—just can’t use the excuse you don’t have time, you don’t know how to write or you have nothing to say.
You can even take pot shots at your writing if you’d like—my writing is as flat as my newly pressed shirt. My writing would make great bird-cage lining. Let your critic have free reign– if that’s what’s holding you back. The critic eventually gets tired and your creative self can take center stage. Remember writing is a process. When the process works the magic takes hold and you lose yourself. If the critic sits like a punitive school master on your shoulder you won’t be able to tap into the magical. You can brush the critic off or outwit the critic by doing a bit of ducking and weaving. The only time the critic is your friend is at the very end of the writing project. Until then, “not now!” should be your mantra to your critic.
Fill the jar, find out who you are! If you can’t write, what are you afraid of exposing?
Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.
Endings: A Soprano’s Aria Chapter 36
Posted on March 27, 2022 2 Comments
Aug 18 – 1920 – I am surprised to see that I have not written in my diary for so long a time. I’ll try and recal a few dates.
The Last two weeks of Summer S. was filled with hard work. The typing was perhaps the hardest for I couldn’t do that and Syl came home and engrossed so much of Jessies time. So some of it had to wait until afterwards. It was all done beautifully at last. I finished up everything and came out with a credit of 2 in every subject. And a credit of 3 units in all three subjects. The last day July 31 as I was waiting for my P. T. book to be marked, J called at the house. I did not see him. I went directly over to Eilenes and spent the evening. On Monday she came over and we went down to see Mrs. Smith and she bought a piece of poplin to make a dress (Aug. 2)
Aug 4 – J called and I had a pleasant visit. He did not stay long. The little car is in the city for awhile.
Aug 6 – Betty’s Birthday [Mrs Fryer’s daughter] – Bettys 10th birthday. I bought her a scrap book and took it to San Rafael on Sun. had a very fine trip but was disappointed to find when I arrived that they had been sent to Notre Dame in S. F. I had an awful time finding visiting several convents in the mean time and at last I found the place. It was after suppertime and visiting hours. The good Mother Superior waived all rules and let me see my darlings who were overjoyed to see me and so pleased with the scrap book and Aunt Elsies page that I was well repaid for all my strenuous time hunting them up.
Aug 7 – Eilene brought the money for for the dress and some for me.
Aug 10 – I went to Mrs Pfitzers to meet Mrs Milliken and pay her for the silk. All this while I am doing housework and a little sewing for myself. Making over Irenes brown silk dress.
Sat July 14 – Mr and Mrs Mooney and two children came over to see us. We had a pleasant time.
Sun July 15 – J and Syl and I went over to the city and out to the beach. It was cloudy foggy and cold but I enjoyed every moment of it. Frank H [ Hoffman] drove out to the beach and picked us up and drove home past Ingleside and stopped at Smiths for some honey and a short call. Then home leaving J. & Eilene to cook dinner while they took me on to Allies where I had a bite and then we three Allie, Agnes and I went to the California to see a fine film. Then home to Berkeley by the everlasting hills. Received letters from Milo, Carrie and Lolita. They are all well and so this brings me back again to Aug 18, a fine day.
Sep 1920 – School has begun. Resumed my Friday night course in applied design.
Sep 25 – began $25.00 course in color design under Mr. Ralph Johonnot at the Y.W.C.A. auditorium. Think I shall like it immensely. Tuesday Thurs. Sat. also Miss Sellenders class on fri eve which will make 4 classes a week for 5 weeks.
Met friend J. [Joseph Richardson] who told me a remarkably amazing story of his life and his true relation to Mrs. Fryer who was not his sister at all but his wife forced by cruel circumstances to pass as his sister. I was so dazed by the story that I can hardly grasp it yet. So Lois and Paul are Josephine and Bettys half sister and bro. O cruel world and crueler laws that govern its blundering humans.
Sat Sep 25 – Went to S. F. for the night. Recd letters from Milo and Carrie
Sun Sep 26 – Went to convent to see Josephine and Betty. Took them the Ribbon and manicure set. They were delighted to see me J and E called in for a few min. at the convent. J was there and left before I arrived. The rest went on for a long ride in dad’s machine. I came back to Eilenes and couldn’t get in. Dad M came and crawled in the bath room win. and opened the door for me and then went away. I got dinner for the hungry motorists who arrived about 8 oclock.
Sep 27 — Came back over to Berk by way of Oak. called on Jessie at work and got my bag at St. Marks that I left there sat. Glad to get it back again. Just unpacked my bags and brought in wash, that J. and Syl did on sun. Got a letter from Bro Horace.
Oct. All mo. — busy with Johonnots course in color and design. I liked it immensely, and made several good designs, held the final exhibition at the Oakland Auditorium which was well attended and appreciated. Sent mother a birthday card. [Millie COATS PADEN]
Oct 26 – commenced practice teaching at the Lockwood school like it pretty well went over to the city several Sundays to see Josephine and Betty.
Nov 2 – went to Lockwood school
“ 4 “ “
Nov 7 – Went to convent to see J. and B.
“ 9 – unobserved anniversary [her wedding, now divorced]
Nov 10 – commenced sewing for Mrs Martin of the city for 5 dollars a day and my lunch and din and have made 40 dollars up to date (the 2nd)
Nov 16 – 53 birthday Mrs. Martin gave me a good book and Ella gave me a bottle of toilet water.
Nov 14 – Eilene and Frank drove over and bought a dress form from Mrs.Milliken and took it home in the car we had a fine ride down after it.
1921 April 3 – Grand mother Mrs Catherine Mosier died at Butte So. Dak. Aged 93 years.
April 10 – Josephines 12 birthday – I went to Notre Dame Convent and took her a birthday cake and Fairy Story book “Laboulacs” J. came in his new car. I dident see it. Spent the afternoon at the convent and then went to Eilenes. Met Dewey and Allie who took me to the Ferry. Dewey took me to the end of the wharf to see the boat Ashbury Park that runs between S.F and Vallejo. And said it came from N. York City on its own power. Jessie and Syl went to Smiths to a dinner.
(Began Teachers Training course Sep 2 1919 at Oak. High school at 12 and Jefferson st. My first teacher was Mr Lance Abernathy who taught theory and methods also textiles. I attended every Tuesday and Friday nights going on the street car from 1534 Bonita Ave Berkeley. I studied color and design under Miss Sellender Miss Jacobsen and Ralph Johonnot. I also attended the summer session of the University of Cal in 1920. I finished with a short course of Oral English under Mr. Jacobs. from Jan 31, 1921 to April 1 1921).
Fall term 1921
During that time, I put in several months practice teaching 2 days per week at Lockwood school and from Jan to June teaching sewing and remodeling at the Mobilized Women of Berkeley at 10 and University Ave. Berkeley California, in the year 1921.[note: This Bernard Maybeck, architect, designed building still stands and has unique glass blocks set in concrete in a lattice-work pattern & is still standing as of this writing.]
In October I studied Lamp Shade making in San Francisco at the Emporium and The White House, and in Nov 1921 did lamp shades at home for a factory.
The class Alumni gave a dinner at the Hotel Stuart in S.F. which was also the occasion of presenting diplomas. These were later exchanged for more comprehensive diplomas showing the work covered and signed by the university faculty at the graduation exercises of the class of Jan 31 1922
In summer of 1921 I visited my cousin in Los Angeles.
In November 1921 I went to St Helena to nurse in a sanitarium for a few weeks. [ you can read more about this in the Case of the Mysterious Birth Certificate]
Feb 3 1922 – I joined a millinery class. Began work renovating and trimming hats for the Mobilized Women of Berk[eley]
Sat Mar 11 –Worked at M. W. B [Mobilized Women of Berkeley] all day
Sun “ 10 1922 spent evening in bringing this record up to date.
The above is the last regular entry in the diary. However the page below was from 1913, and it predates the first entry in the dairy which was September 1st 1913. So in a remarkable way we arrive back at the beginning.
Aug 15 Mrs Gussie Halstrom wrote a love letter to my husband which I found in his pocket on Monday the 18. That evening I went to Mrs Reynicks and later the same evening to Mrs Della Mc Vickers. Stayed at the latter place Tuesday, Wednesday and leaving Thursday morning and going to Mrs Lizzie Neumans at 1017 Hawthorne St. Minn .
Thurs Aug 21 I filed suit for divorce on the grounds of cruel and inhumane treatment
Fri Aug 22 withdrew suit upon my husbands promise to reform. Mr Michael ODonnel attorney Charge $18 Sat 23 Got ? Letter until day in St Paul ? F.S.M. [Franklin Stewart Mosier]
Recapping the diary begins in 1910 as a business and correspondence ledger and ends in 1922. It both records the mundanities of life as well as historical events and Lulu’s struggles with a failing marriage and supporting her family and then herself.
Lulu married Frank Nov 8, 1989 when she was 21. The fact that she was not married at her mother-in-law’s hotel in Dodge, like his sisters, along with the fact that no family members were witnesses for there marriage lends me to think her family did not approve of her marriage to Frank. Lulu was the eldest of 13 children and perhaps she saw Frank as her ticket out of taking care of her younger siblings and escaping her father’s demands as her vocal teacher. Whatever the case 9 1/2 months after she wed Frank, their first child arrives. In total 8 children are born between 1890 and 1903. As far as I can tell Lulu’s sons and daughters were close and good to their mother. She certainly cared for and worried after them.
After March of 1922 when the diary ends we have scant records of Lulu’s life. In 1923 she was living in Berkeley. In 1924 and 1925 she is living in Oakland and in 1926 & 1927 she is living at 171 Miramar Street in San Francisco. Not sure of the reason to her return to San Francisco. Did she get a teaching job? The City Directories do not reflect her occupation, however she is living independently. On the 9th of July 1927 she marries Karl B Anderson who had been an immigrant from Sweden. In 1928 they appear in the City Directory at 48 Delmar, San Francisco together with his occupation as Foreman at California Stevedore Company, Pier 26 [loading and unloading freight on ships].
I think it would be safe to say thay the dress Lulu is wearing above, was designed and sewn by Lulu. Lulu must have welcomed a return to one of San Francisco’s lovely Victorian houses, just 3 blocks from Golden Gate Park and even less of a distance to Buena Vista Park. And with a Bay Window!
On the 1930 census they have moved to 219 Jules Ave and Karl’s son Carl B is 16 is living with them. I like to think that Lulu finally found happiness with a man who loved her as she deserved. She moved again in 1930 from Ingleside District of San Francisco back to the Inner Sunset, I am sure it would have been a move that pleased her. 1715 18th Ave is about 3 miles north of Jules Ave and about 5 blocks from her beloved Golden Gate Park. On the 23 of October 1930 at 2:50 in the afternoon she died at home of chronic interstitial nephritis, chronic myocarditis and general anasarca [fluid retention, edema]. Her physician certified she had the chronic conditions otherwise known as kidney and heart disease for 6 years. We know she had been suffering from various ailments including psoriasis for many years before that. She was a few weeks shy of her 68th birthday. She is laid to rest at Cypress Lawn Cemetery in Colma, California. She was the mother of eight children and only the last predeceased her. She was a devoted mother and grandmother, avid reader, seamstress, teacher and above all else, a fine Soprano who found solace in song.
Dear Readers I hope you have enjoyed Lulu’s diary as much as I have. There may be a couple of more chapters although they will not be of her writing. And again a heartfelt thanks to my cousin Dale Mead for his permission to share Lulu’s diary and to my cousin Malia Hammerstrom for her help in the transcribing.
Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights reserved.
Hands in the Mud: Writing Challenge
Posted on March 27, 2022 3 Comments
I was daydreaming about mud which led to this piece of writing. I will have some writing suggestions at the end.
“Learn to humble yourself, you are but earth and clay.”Thomas a Kempis
When I was a kid we made mud pies. The best mud was made from dirt with lots of clay in it. The mud was mixed with grass, ostensibly to give the mud patties shape and keep them from falling apart. There is something satisfying about a fragrant mud pie steaming in the summer sun. Or mud oozing thru one’s fingers or even better one’s toes— giving the perfect excuse to let mud play, turn into water play. The mud where I grew up was a dark ashy brown, when properly wet. Once after Castro Park was built across the street from our house, it rained very heavily and all that ashy mud ran down the unlandscaped hill, down the street, into our driveway and deposited itself quite evenly in a 3 inch layer in our garage. When it dried and was shoveled out it still left its earthy dust behind. It hid in corners and boxes and generally made it impossible to be rid of it completely. Mud does that sort of thing. They say ashes to ashes dust to dust—but fail to mention how dust is forever.
As I got older and I went to kindergarten, mud gave way to clay. We actually had a kiln in Mrs. Walker’s kindergarten classroom and I made two objects out of clay that were fired and glazed and dutifully given to my mother as gifts. Even though it may have pained my mother to keep them, she did not throw them out, in fact I think I did and now sometimes wish I had saved them. My first sculpture was a small squirrel holding a nut, glazed in a leafy brown glaze. It was pinched out of clay rather crudely but was quite recognizable. The second was a sandy colored birds’ nest with 3 smooth blue eggs. Later I graduated to plasticine and then Fimo, crafting all sorts of miniatures out of clay.
In 1960 my parents and grandparents bought 68 acres of wilderness in the Mayacamas Mountains of the Napa Valley. My usual playground was Dry Creek, truly a misnomer as it never went dry. It is there I found veins of a lovely blue-gray clay along the creek bank. The clay was always fissured with roots and bits of dirt and debris so I don’t remember ever fashioning anything permanent from it. But I certainly liked playing in it. My mother said the way to do it properly was to make a liquid out of the clay —strain it to remove impurities and then let the moisture evaporate to leave a purified clay. I never got that far. In High School I took a ceramics class. I lacked the confidence to try my hand at the potter’s wheel so I spent most of the year working on a sculpture of a naked, lounging young women. My teacher really liked it and gave me an undeserved A. In the end I deposited the unfired, unglazed figure into the garbage bin. So much for my career as a sculptor!
When my children were young we all enrolled in a pit fired ceramic class where which we all enjoyed. It turned out to be quite challenging. We built coil pots and sculptures from red clay and burnished them with spoons. The burnishing took hours and hours a day for several weeks! My daughter Anne made a lovely fox and I made a harbor seal as well as a pot.
It truly made me appreciate the craftsmanship of Native American Indian pots like this one I bought in 1986. Its decorated in the “Repeating Feather Pattern.”
I have even fashioned a few things from clay with my grandchildren. However as much as I like the feel of slick wet clay I really do not care for the desiccating feel of drying clay on my hands. Too close to chalk dust or the ash dust one encounters when cleaning out the fireplace. Yet, I do have a love of ceramics. I bought these Keena figures in Niagara Falls Canada and they watch over my kitchen. I still love their simplicity. They make me smile.
Life is full of seemingly random connections. I enjoy bringing them together in story. Many years ago I found out that my my 4th great grandparents, Nicholas MOSER (1762-1821) and Elizabeth LOY (c1769), married in Orange County (now Alamance), North Carolina. And then later discovered that Elizabeth LOY’s first cousin was George LOY, the first of the family of famous Moravian LOY Potters. I was quite pleased with that find since it gave me a kinship with people I knew little about. They had a connection to the earth, to the clay they fashioned into useful objects and that made me happy. Then while watching Season 4 of “Outlander” I immediately recognized the pottery plates, bowls and jugs of the Fraser cabin fashioned after the Moravian potters of the North Carolina region in which some of the books and now the TV series are based.
Pottery is as one of human’s oldest inventions. Venus of Dolní Věstonice is a clay figurine from the Czech Republic dating back to 29,000–25,000 BC. It would seem getting our hands in the mud and trying to represent figures, animals or make utilitarian objects is a very old endeavour.
We even use pottery to describe cultures such as Corded ware or Bell Beaker as descriptive of the pots they fashioned. So something as seemingly unmeaningful as making mud pies may have a very early genesis that ties us to our very ancient pasts. My interests in family, genealogy, and genetic genealogy are all tied together with clay.
We cannot escape our pasts, and the things that attract our attention. Seemingly random things in life can have a storyline. I set out with the memory of making mud pies and was a bit surprised where I ended up. I really had no idea how many things that memory would invoke. So here is the writing challenge:
- Grab a handful of clay, pick a memory that involves something tangible
- Start writing about that memory and see where it goes
- You don’t have to force it into something more than it is, if nothing comes then let it go and pick something else
- It could be anything from catching your first fish, learning to ride a bike, a favorite childhood recipe
- Could be you write about a memory of a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, friend
- You aren’t telling their life story (or yours) you are just illustrating something that matters to you
- It need not be earth shattering–you aren’t trying to impress anyone, you are just practicing your craft
I have no interest in writing an autobiography, but as I said in Write it Down I do want to leave something behind. This story actually reveals quite a lot about me and things that matter to me. Writing does that. So take your clay and mold it as you will. Most of all, be playful with your writing—have fun!
Kelly Wheaton © 2022 All Rights Reserved.