Sunday, August 23, 2015


For the past several weeks I have been compiling Genealogy research for various family members, including my late husband's family. It has been so interesting. Every time I find out something new, it opens up another path. I have to be careful, so I don't lose my way! I have discovered that it is not the politicians or the generals or even the Founding Fathers who built this country. Instead, it was built by the people whose names are mostly forgotten, perhaps scribbled in a Bible somewhere or carved in a fading tombstone. They are the footnotes to the story. The ones in the headlines had the vision, but the people whose names are unknown made that vision come true.

They came over to this country as indentured servants or escaping oppression in their homelands. They came to escape famine in Ireland and religious persecution. And they kept moving. Wherever there was an opportunity they would pick up and move on. In some cases. Not all.

In one family tree a father and his two sons go off to fight in the war, on the Confederate side.
In another family tree, a young teacher left to fight for the Union and barely survived his ordeal in a prison camp. Yet, in another family tree, a Confederate soldier from Alabama lost his life at Gettysburg and is buried there. Two were volunteer nurses on the Union side, who later applied for an old-age  pension.

These ancestors were farmers and laborers, railroad men and bricklayers. The women, listed on the census reports as "Keeping House" often had a house full of  children. One family were tenant farmers (or sharecroppers) in Alabama and were forced off of their prime land when TVA moved in. All the able-bodied adults in the household and children that were old enough, picked cotton to scratch out a living. But out of that poor sharecropper family came recognition when a son went off to World War II and came home to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Another family raised generations in a hollow named after them in the scenic landscape of southern Tennessee. They farmed the land, hunted in the gentle rolling hills and rarely left this beautiful piece of land, unless it was to serve in the military. They can trace their roots back to a Revolutionary War soldier who was an early settler and mentioned in the history of the county.

There are ancestors  that were explorers, pioneers and settlers in a new country, often moving onto land grants given in return for military service by the federal government. Some emigrated west with the Gold Rush, settling in the Sierra Nevada region and yet others settled in the West Virginia hills and hollows, working on the railroad and farming the land. Many loved ones lost their lives to Tuberculosis, called Consumption in the Depression years.

Another family member counts among his ancestors a plantation owner in Alabama. An old-timer remembers the story told of the Indians, curious about the white children, and how the mother would be protective of the little ones, keeping them inside.

Every once in a while, a noted person shows up in the family tree, usually by marriage. There is the uncle several generations back who became a founding member of the Sierra Club, advocating for the forests and the environment long before it became popular to do so. There is the distant cousin that became the first President of the Sierra Pacific Power Company (after publishing a newspaper in Reno and Carson City), in the early 1900's. His son attended Harvard University and married a girl from Massachusetts. Another distant cousin in the family tree married a U.S. Congressman from Michigan, although he elected to only serve one term.

And soldiers. Every one of these family trees had men who signed their names on draft cards and many served in all the battles since the country was founded. I have found ancestors with military records from the Revolutionary War, up until the Vietnam War. I find it simply amazing.

Friday, August 21, 2015


   I am listening to a deeper way.
  Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. 
 Be still, they say. Watch and listen. 
You are the result of the love of thousands.”
      Linda Hogan, Native American Writer 

Indian Mounds near Helen, Georgia

Coincidence or God's Way of Remaining Anonymous

This is a picture of my grandparents, Karl and Anna, in 1923. I never knew my grandfather. He died from cancer a few years after the war, long before I was born. "Oma" lived for another 40 years. I remember a story that my mother told me about my grandmother, a story that could be called a coincidence, but not if you believe in something more. My mother had a picture of herself hanging on her bedroom wall. One night it was storming so badly that the thunderstorm caused the picture to fall and break on the floor. It woke her up. The next day my mother received a phone call from Germany that Oma had passed away that morning. The time difference between Germany and the United States is around six hours. It was around the same time that my mother was awakened by the storm and the fallen picture. She called me in Texas to give me the sad news. Whether this was a coincidence or God's way of remaining anonymous, I will never forget that story.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Sunday Drive

It's funny how things that are coincidental work together. Case in point, I've been doing some genealogy research on my son-in-law's family. There is a town near where I live that has the oldest operational post office (since 1840) in the state of Alabama. I told my daughter a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to take a drive (about 45 minutes away) to see the post office. It's right off the interstate and I have driven by the sign dozens of times, but I never managed to visit the little town.

The old Post Office

A couple of days ago I found a file online from the Tennessee Valley Authority. The TVA, as we know it here in North Alabama, was formed in the 1930's to divert flood plains, among other things, and many families in the area had to removed and relocated. My son-in-law's great-grandfather was a sharecropper (or tenant farmer) who was married with six children. In 1935 Mr. B was 39 years old and only had a 4th grade education. His wife had no education and could not read or write. They were a family of ten and it took all of the older children to help with the farming in order to support the family. They owned three mules, some cattle, hogs and 80 chickens. They relied on spring water and outdoor facilities. After several months of looking for another place to live Mr. B. was able to purchase 79 acres of land, which was less desirable than what he had, and the TVA provided tents for the family to live in while they waited to have a house built. The family was poor, as notated in the comments by the TVA worker, who called Mr. and  Mrs. B "dirty and unkempt" and the younger children, "poorly dressed". The address that Mr.and Mrs. B. used as their postal address was no less the little historical post office that had caught my attention.

Country Roads

Old-time signs and dance hall

Cotton fields dot the landscape

Friday, July 10, 2015

Ten Places in My Heart

 Here are some random pictures from my files. Some bring a tinge of sadness, some of joy, all of memories stored in my heart.

This is a castle near the German village that I was born in. Every time that we
went to visit my Oma we would pass this view and knew that we were almost home.

When my daughter and I went to Washington DC our very first stop was Arlington Cemetery. We walked to JFK's eternal flame, walked all the way to the top and toured Robert E. Lee's "Arlington House", which he lost during the Civil War and whose heirs were involved in a lawsuit to reclaim after the war; We watched the changing of the guard in awe and silence.
And we walked among the graves; the sky was a perfect blue above the thousands of white crosses.

There is a little cove in the Great Smoky Mountains, Cades Cove, where my spirit comes alive in the untouched landscape of hundreds of years ago.

A fountain in Savannah, Georgia, a beautiful and historic city divided into
squares with gorgeous homes and Southern gentility. We came here on a trip to visit some old friends. I would like to go back someday.

This is a picture of the government housing, or "quarters" that we lived in while stationed in Germany in the 1960's and 1970's. Some of my fondest memories are from my 'Army brat' days, and later, Army wife.

London was my favorite city. I think I was British in my previous life:) We spent four days in London, took a side trip to Windsor Castle, rode on the Underground, and went to see three plays while we were there.

The Mississippi River, picture taken in Hannibal, Missouri. 
My sister and her husband lived here briefly and showed me around (Mark Twain)
Samuel Clemen's hometown. I fell in love with the little river town and was pleased
 to see my niece graduate from high school.

The lighthouse in Biloxi, Mississippi. My husband's family lived on the Gulf Coast and for many years we made regular trips to the coast and rented a condo on the oceanside. Sweet memories of my husband and mother-in-law.

Paris in 1978, my husband and me.

My sweet mother, taken in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on a trip to the mountains when
she was undergoing cancer treatment. We lost her seven months later.

Summer "Staycation"

Four of my grandchildren spent the night with me this week. I am the "crafty" Nemaw, so I found this
bird feeder idea on Pinterest. It is very simple. Cut up two oranges. Let the children eat the
oranges (which they did). Mix together oats, peanut butter and birdseed and pack it into the oranges. I used some skewers and twine to hang them up. 

We went to a matinee to see "Max" the movie. Wonderful movie.

Afterwards, we walked around to see the fountains.

It turned out to be a beautiful and sunny day.

Day Trips

 My favorite thing to do when I have a day off from work is to find fun and interesting things to do within a couple of hours away. Thankfully, where I live in Alabama (a stone's throw from Tennessee) there are many places to visit and see, such as these beautiful caverns a short distance from where I live. The pictures do not give it justice as it is a very large cave and has one of the largest openings on record. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to tour the cave. For people who would have difficulty walking they provided golf carts because the path was wide enough. At the very end our tour guide turned off the lights and my grandson and one other little boy spoke up in the extreme darkness, "Can we turn on the lights now?" The cave was owned by an individual who purchased the land in order to explore the cave and eventually sold it to the state, who wisely turned it into a tourist attraction. One of the highlights was the "cathedral" room, hence the name "Cathedral Caverns" and knowing that the cave was featured in the Tom Sawyer movie made in the 1980's. My daughter took better pictures on her iphone.

The entrance to the caverns.

The cathedral room.

These look like statues or busts of people.

Another view of the entrance.