Miscellaneous Musings

It’s All About the Dash

Walking through the cemetery, I weave my way through rows and rows of weathered headstones. Some stand at attention like sentinels. Some are sprawled on the ground, slumbering. Whether erect or reclined, each of these stones marks the final resting places of so many from so long ago.

I take note of the names inscribed on the stones—a few familiar, most unknown. Birth and death dates are chiseled under the names of the deceased.

On many of these markers, the dates are linked by a small line. Almost insignificant, this little en dash seems inconsequential.

But I know that this mark represents so much more than what is first perceived, especially to family historians like me.

For you see, we know it’s all about the dash. It’s about the life lived between a person’s first breath and final heartbeat.

And so, I will tell the stories of our ancestors, detailing their lives within the dashes. I wonder what their stories will say…

#genealogy     #lifestory     #thelifebetween

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Family Food History

When I was a child, I loved television. Of course, we only had three channels, if the antenna was working properly that day. (Move the rabbit ears a bit more, a bit more… stop… now, don’t move!) Our family would congregate around the TV set almost every evening.  My favorite shows were All in the Family, Andy Griffith Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard, Gilligan’s Island, Happy DaysI Dream of Jeannie, Laverne and Shirley, Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and Welcome Back, Kotter.  And Saturday mornings?  Those cartoons/kids’ shows were the best!  My siblings and I loved The Bugs Bunny Show, Captain Kangaroo, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Flintstones, Hong Kong Phooey, H.R. Pufnstuf, Josie and the Pussycats, and Scooby Doo.

This days, however, I do not watch much television. (I guess I am too busy writing blog entries.) When I do turn on the tube, I tend to prefer:

  • Genealogically related (pun intended) shows (As if you couldn’t surmise that already!)
  • Sappy love stories (What can I say? I have a thing for happily ever after.)
  • Home repair shows
  • And My Grandmother’s Ravioli

Each episode of My Grandmother’s Ravioli begins with this monologue:

I’m Mo Rocca, and this is my grandmother. When I was growing up, she used to make the biggest, most elaborate Sunday dinners. I will never forget Momma’s ravioli. But I, I never learned how to cook. That’s why I’m pulling out all the stops to get your grandmothers and grandfathers to teach me their favorite family recipes. Why not learn from the masters?

“So why do I like this show?” you might ask. The reason is because I believe that family recipes are an important part of family history. Certain foods remind me of certain people. When I prepare the food that these long-gone family members had made, it is as if these loved ones are joining me at the dinner table.

When I remember my maternal grandmother, I think of fried plantains, Seabreezes, and rum cake. (Yum… rum… My grandmother sure knew how to whip up a mean rum cake, although I swear, you could get drunk off those fumes!)

The first Christmas that I shared with my hubby (then my boyfriend), we spent the holiday break with my grandmother and step-grandfather. In honor of our visit, she and I made her famous rum cake or, should I say, TWO rum cakes. The four of us polished off those cakes in two days!  Although it has been 15 years since my grandmother died, I think of her every time I bake a rum cake and reminisce about that visit and the laughs we share.

When I remember my paternal great-grandmother, I think of snickerdoodles, shepherd’s pie, meat pies, and sweet tea… lots and lots of sweet tea. (So much sweet tea, in fact, that she and my Great-Great-Aunt Carella joked at family reunions that sweet tea flowed through our family’s veins! I think they might have been right!)

Growing up, my family visited my two paternal great-grandmothers on Sundays. My grandfather’s mother always treated us to family stories, followed by baked goods or Sunday supper. One of my favorite memories of her was the day we made rolled sugar cookies together. No matter what my great-grandma made, she never consulted a recipe. (She used to boast that she could cook circles around Betty Crocker.) I watched, fascinated, as she added a handful of this and a pinch of that to create a perfect sugar cookie dough. As she rolled out the dough, my great-grandmother told me about how she would make these cookies as a girl, around about my age. She then handed me an empty jelly jar and told me to cut out as many cookies as I could from that piece of dough. Press and turn, press and turn… one by one, I cut out those cookies. When I was done, she gave me a smile and told me that I had done well. Even though she has been dead 24 years, I still remember that smile.

On my spouse’s side, I will always equate ham and bean soup with his maternal grandmother. His grandmother often had a pot of bean soup simmering on the stove when we visited. (And, of course, we had to sample bowl or two each time. We can’t be rude, now can we?)

What I remember most about that soup was sitting with her at her 1950’s era kitchen table, listening to her as she shared stories of other family members, both alive and gone, and of herself, both old and young. I learned so much about my husband’s family at that table. Fifteen years have passed since his maternal grandmother died, but I think of her each and every time I make a pot of ham and bean soup.

My husband’s paternal grandmother was renowned for her cooking. Family lore has that her cooking was what initially attracted my husband’s grandfather. In 1936, a young, Italian-born Marine was assigned to a post in South Charleston, West Virginia. While in Charleston, he met and fell in love with a young lady who cooked sumptuous Italian food. They married within months of meeting.

When I met my husband’s paternal grandmother more than 50 years later, her husband was no longer alive to enjoy her cooking. However, their large family—sons, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—gathered at her table to enjoy her sumptuous foods. What I remember most about those meals was how she never seemed to join us; instead, she waited on us, making sure plates and stomachs were full. And she rarely allowed help with cleanup, even though some of us offered. She did, however, welcome a helping hand and a willingness to learn when it came to preparing the food.

Several times, I joined her in the kitchen, learning to prepare smelts, gnocchi, and ravioli. (Okay, so they were really tortellini, but who was I to argue with her?)  While we cooked, she told me all about her very large Appalachian family—her father who was a preacher, her mother who was given both a boy’s and girl’s name (Willie Alice), and her many, many brothers and sisters. We laughed about funny times in her childhood and wiped away tears when she talked about her sister who died from a car fire and her brother who was killed in a tank during World War II. (She claimed the tears were from the onions.) Although 12 years have passed since she passed away, I think of her still when I make homemade gnocchi.

So you see, family recipes are an important part of our family history. Each of us, especially family historians, should take the time to document this aspect of our loved ones’ lives. Considering attaching family recipes to family tree records. Like census records, these recipes (especially those written in that person’s own hand) tells part of that person’s life story.

Culture and personal preferences are captured when we remember to document the food of our lives. Every time a family recipe is prepared and shared, a part of our ancestors live on.

#familyhistory       #familyrecipes       #memories

What foods remind you of specific family members and why? Please feel free share your memories of your own life and the lives of your ancestors. I would love to hear from you.
Categories: Cole-Marriner Line, Miscellaneous Musings, Spangler-Kenney Line, Taylor-Thomas Line, Williams-Stott Line | Tags: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

March On, March On

On this last day of Black History Month and in anticipation of Women’s History Month starting tomorrow, I am taking a break from documenting our families’ history to talk about some bigger issues…

I am a rural raised, rural residing, heterosexual, higher educated, middle class, middle-aged, white women.

I was brought up in a household poor in income but rich in spirit. Despite growing up in a lower-bracket financially, I worked hard and studied hard, eventually earning two degrees.

I am married to my longtime love; together, we are raising caring, compassionate children. I am very spiritual, identifying as a Christian, and am grateful for the goodness God has given me.

All in all, I am what would be termed one of the “privileged” people, because I understand that, for the most part, the cards are stacked in my favor. Granted, I might not hold all the cards, but I have been dealt a pretty good hand.

Lately, I have read and heard too many diatribes from those who are similar to me in circumstances, lambasting the peaceful marches and movements for equality. They question the veracity of the tumblr_nje75vixs71tr6ni8o1_500concerns and grievances shared by many, many others—”others” being the operative word. For many of these individuals, if they do not personally witness or experience a bias, then obviously bigotry and oppression do not exist—something like the egocentric premise behind the adage, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

In addition, some of these same people argue that they are not one of the “privileged” nor do they have any biases whatsoever.  “Oh, please! Really? None at all? Wow, just wow!”

Let’s start at the beginning and address the “white” elephant in the room, shall we? In the United States, if you are of predominantly European descent (as I am, as evidenced by this family history blog), then you might be perceived in a more positive way by some people (albeit sometimes subconsciously) by virtue of your skin color.  You probably are not aware of it or have even asked for it. It just is. In most areas of this country, you are the “norm”—almost everyone around you is the same as you, pigmentally speaking. You rarely are considered the outsider because of your skin color.

5877b1fa1700008501929b47“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences” ~Audre Lorde

Add to that, you are privileged by your skin color because, throughout history, this country has been predominately Caucasian. As a result, our history has been whitewashed. The majority of those in power have “looked” like you. Overall, being white has been the standard operating procedure of this nation.  Of course, you cannot help being white; you were born that way. You are who you are—as long as you are not exploiting your skin color to your own advantage or to the detriment of others, there is nothing for which should apologize.  However, you must understand and accept that your skin color probably has been to your advantage not to your detriment.

And, on the flip side, those who do not share your pigmentation have experienced and continue to experience discrimination, both big and small, because of their skin color. Just because you do not “see” it does not make it so. Do not discount or diminish other people’s experiences.


“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives here. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.”  ~Audre Lorde

As Salt ‘n Pepa quipped, let’s talk about sex. If you are, like me, heterosexual, you are part of the majority. About five percent of the population in the United States identifies as either gay/lesbian or bisexual. If you are straight, you are not the underdog. You have not experienced backlash because of the gender of the one you love. Because you are straight, you have not been ostracized because of your sexuality. You are one of the “privileged”; please treat those who experience bias and hatred because of their sexual orientation with compassion and respect.


“As women, we must stand up for ourselves..As women, we must stand up for each other. And finally, as women, we must stand up for justice for all.” ~Michelle Obama

Equal Pay: About 50.8 percent of the U.S. population is female; 47 percent of the labor force and 59 percent of the college-educated, entry-level workforce are women. Despite that, in the United States, the average women earns 84 cents for every dollar the average man makes. Some people attribute this to the fact that women, as a whole, are the caregivers in the family, taking more time off work and working at more part-time jobs, but this is not always the case.

Case in point: Several years ago, I worked at a job where I had more education and experience than the only man in the same job; however, the male made more, because, according to management, he had a family to support.  (Can you believe this was in the last decade and not the 1950s?)

“The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long-standing, and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Maternity/Paternity Leave: The United States is one of only three countries in the world that does not guarantee paid maternity leave. While some states have introduced paid maternity (and paternity) leave—California, Rhode Island and New Jersey, in most states, paid parental leave policies remain up to individual employers. Some private companies also give paid maternity leave to employers; however, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this only accounts for about 12 percent of new mothers, with only five percent of low-wage earners receiving paid maternity leave. Having a child in America is especially tough for the 40 percent of families who have a female breadwinner.

And let’s not forget the men who would like to take paternity leave. Although the United States has the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for parents (both male and female) to take up to 12 weeks off following the birth of baby, there is no rule requiring that the leave be paid, and companies with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s what happened both times when I was pregnant: My company was very small (less than 10 employees). Both times, I had to fight to get even an unpaid maternity leave, as my boss knew that he was not mandated to provide one at all. In the end, both times, I was permitted to have eight weeks of unpaid leave and not a day more. (And this was within the last 15 years! And I was management… Can you imagine how hard it must be for mothers who are not salaried?)

Equal Representation: Despite the fact that women make up half the world’s population, less than one-quarter of the world’s countries have had a female head of state. As we are all aware, the United States, which is considered a “leader” in women’s rights, has never had a female head of state, while many countries commonly thought of as anti-women’s rights have had females as leaders. Only two countries have at least 50 percent or more of their seats in government filled by women—Rwanda and Andorra. Five countries have no women at all in their governments.

“Tremendous amounts of talent are lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.” ~Shirley Chisholm

It is not just in government where women lack power; the same is true in business. Even though women earn almost 60 percent of undergraduate degrees, 60 percent of all master’s degrees; 47 percent of all law degrees, 48 percent of all medical degrees, and more than 44 percent of master’s degrees in business and management, including 37 percent of MBAs, only 14.2 percent of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women. Out of 500 companies, women held only 21 (4.2 percent) of CEO positions in S&P 500 companies. Women hold just 16.9 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. In the financial services industry, women make up 54.2 percent of the labor force but are only 12.4 percent of executive officers and 18.3 percent of board directors; none are CEOs. Women account for 78.4 percent of the labor force in health care and social assistance but only 14.6 percent of executive officers and 12.4 percent of board directors. Again, none are CEOs. In the legal field, women are 45.4 percent of associates but only 25 percent of non-equity partners and 15 percent of equity partners. In the field of medicine, women comprise 34.3 percent of all physicians and surgeons but only 15.9 percent of medical school deans. An in information technology realm, women hold only 9 percent of management positions and account for only 14 percent of senior management positions at Silicon Valley startups.

“I raise up my voice—not so I can shout but so that those without a voice can be heard…We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back.” ~Malala Yousafzai

The representation of women of color in corporate leadership roles is even worse. Women of color represent 36.3 percent of our nation’s female population and approximately 18 percent of the entire U.S. population. They make up about one-third of the female workforce. And yet, women of color occupy only 11.9 percent of managerial and professional positions. And of those women, 5.3 percent are African-American, 2.7 percent are Asian-American, and 3.9 percent are Latina. Women of color hold only 3.2 percent of the board seats of Fortune 500 companies. More than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies have no women of color as board directors at all.


“We live in a world in which women are battered and are unable to flee from the men who beat them, although their door is theoretically standing wide open. One out of every four women becomes a victim of severe violence. One out of every two will be confronted by sexual harassment over her lifetime. These crimes are everywhere and can take place behind any front door in the country, every day, and barely elicit much more than a shrug of the shoulders and superficial dismay.”  ~Natascha Kampusch

Domestic Violence: In this country, one in four women has been or will be the victim of domestic violence. This is more common than those suffering from breast cancer (1 in 8 women) or Alzheimer’s (1 in 6 women). According to the FBI, from the end of 2001 through mid-2012, more women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends (11,766) than U.S troops killed in Iraq (4,486), U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan (2,002), and people killed in the terrorist activities on American soil (3,073) combined!  What is even sadder, in some countries and cultures around the world, domestic violence is accepted.

Sexual Violence: Every 98 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. One out of every six women in the United States has been the victim of rape or attempted rape. The likelihood that a person suffers suicidal or depressive thoughts increases after sexual violence. 94 percent of women who are raped experience post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms during the two weeks following the rape. 30 percent of women report post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms nine months after the rape. 33 percent of women who are raped contemplate suicide, with 13 percent of women who are raped attempting suicide. Approximately 70 percent of rape or sexual assault victims experience moderate to severe distress, a larger percentage than for any other violent crime.

“If there is one message that echoes forth…let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all.” ~Hillary Clinton

#bethechange     #blackhistorymonth     #equalrights     #makeachange     #womensrights

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Crunching the Numbers, 2016

Crunching numbers

A new year has begun. On this first day of 2017, I am taking some time to reflect on the year past and contemplate the year ahead.  Of course, as an amateur genealogist, I prefer to look back instead of forward. It is just who I am. So here goes…

Unlike the past two years, for the 2016 year, WordPress has decided not to send its bloggers their own personalized annual reports for our online journals. No worries, though…I will just create my own 2016 Annual Report (minus all the bells and whistles and animated fanfare from WordPress.)

According to the 2015 annual report, my blog, Princes, Paupers, Pilgrims & Pioneers: Our Predecessors and Me, did pretty well. Could this year’s performance be better? Let’s see…

After juxtaposing the yearly statistics, I was pleasantly surprised. In 2016, my blog was viewed 2,931 times by 1,475 visitors in 30 countries with the vast majority of them from the United States. In 2016, my blog gained 112 likes and 63 comments. (Wow!  Thank you all!)

The top 25 posts in 2016, receiving the most views, were the following:

  1. Naming the “Nameless”: Known Slaves in Our Families’ History
  2. Italian-Born Brothers Serve in U.S. Military
  3. An Excess of Entitlement
  4. Famous Faces and Places: Caimi
  5. Are You, Are You Coming to the Tree?
  6. Snow Days and Past Days
  7. Mariner Men
  8. Sláinte to Our Irish & Scots-Irish Ancestors
  9. The Thorns of the Rose and Thistle
  10. The Battle of Kings Mountain
  11. Taylor-Thomas Immigrant Ancestors
  12. ABCs & Our Family Trees: The Letter B
  13. Edmund II “Ironside” of England
  14. Securing Our Country’s Independence
  15. Déja Vu & DNA: How Connected Are We?
  16. Matriarchal Me
  17. Recreating the Past, One Stone at a Time
  18. We the People Have Had Enough
  19. William I “The Lion” of Scotland
  20. The Spangler Progenitor
  21. Henry I “Beauclerc” of England
  22. ‘Tis the Season?
  23. Wealthy Beyond Measure
  24. Mayflower Ancestors
  25. ABCs & Our Family Trees: The Letter A

In contrast, in 2015, my blog was viewed 1,633 times by 696 visitors in 18 countries with the majority of them from America. In 2015, my blog gained 22 likes and 29 comments.

In 2015, my top 25 posts—the ones that received the most views—were:

  1. Naming the “Nameless”: Known Slaves in Our Families’ History
  2. ‘Tis the Season?
  3. Noel-Ardinger Immigrant Ancestors
  4. Wealthy Beyond Measure
  5. Mediocre Mom
  6. Mayflower Ancestors
  7. Securing Our Country’s Independence
  8. Goss Family Helps Forge a New Nation
  9. If You Are Reading This, I Must Be Dead
  10. Watts-Stark Immigrant Ancestors, pt. 1
  11. Watts-Stark Immigrant Ancestors, pt. 2
  12. Tangled Threads in Families’ Tapestries
  13. Phenomenal Women
  14. Civil War Veteran Ancestors
  15. Harwick-Bush Immigrant Ancestors
  16. Williams-Stott Immigrant Ancestors
  17. Four Generations of Francis Ancestors
  18. Italian-Born Brothers Serve in U.S. Military
  19. Cole-Marriner Immigrant Ancestors
  20. The Times, They Are A-Changin’
  21. Spangler-Kenney Immigrant Ancestors, pt. 1
  22. Caimi-Culatina Immigrant Ancestors
  23. Genealogical Guffaw
  24. Taylor-Thomas Immigrant Ancestors
  25. Political Connections

In 2016, the top ten referring sites to my blog—not including search engines, Ancestry.com, FindAGrave, or WordPress—were Tangled Roots and Trees, Facebook, Twisted Limbs and Crooked Branches, Loved in the South, The Genealogy Corner, The Genealogist’s Craft, Just History Posts, Family Tree Girl, Olivia McCabe, and Opening Doors in Brick Walls.

Whereas, in 2015, the top ten referral sites—again, not including search engines, Ancestry.com, FindAGrave, or WordPress itself—were Tangled Roots and Trees, Facebook, Geneabloggers, Feedly.com, Loved in the South, Emerging Civil War, Forgotten History, Finding Merle, The Genealogy Corner, and An American Family.

Finally, in 2016, my top five most prolific commenters were Aquila, samanthaandmy5, lisakunk, Cyndy Mack, and iiamthatgirli. Thank you all so much for stopping by my blog and caring enough to comment.

In 2015, my top five most frequent commenters were samanthaandmy5, Cyndy Mack, kfernraelwake, Kate Cowie Riley, and sallymwf. Again, my thanks to you all!

But something that statistics cannot document are the many family members, friends, amateur genealogists, and other bloggers with whom I have corresponded thanks to this site. Those interactions have proven invaluable. Thank you all for your encouragement and insights!

So, with the old year behind me and the new year ahead, I will strive to improve on last year’s stats and share more of our ancestors’ stories, as well my own. Thank you for joining me and mine on this journey!

#annualreport     #wordpress     #yearinreview

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

More Alike Than Unalike


Human Family
~by Maya Angelou

…I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man…

…I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike…

As you might already be aware (from the fact that I have devoted an entire blog to it), I am committed to telling my story by sharing the stories of my predecessors—the people who made me ME.

In a world of 7.4 billion people, it seems we are all trying to identify our own uniqueness. However, instead of highlighting our differences, perhaps we should discover how we are similar to others.

Recently, Ancestry.com posed that very question. Collaborating with Momondo, an international travel company, they surveyed 67 people from around the world, representing a variety of cultures and backgrounds, on how much they know about themselves and from where they descend, as well as how that viewpoint influences the way they perceive others.

These participants were taken on a journey into who they are based on their DNA. What these participants discovered is that they have much more in common with other nationalities and cultures than they might have expected.  (Highlights of those findings were captured in this thought-provoking  video.)

In the end, they discovered that “we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”  Maybe we ALL should take that journey and learn that lesson.

#ancestry     #dna     #humanfamily

Categories: Miscellaneous Musings | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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