Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas now and in the past

I have had a very hectic few weeks with baking, shopping, wrapping, Christmas letters, cards and decorating. I don’t know about you but I did not get it all done. We have made Christmas much more complicated and commercialized than it ought to be. It is such a shame really. Everywhere you look you see Santa, Frosty and reindeer. 

Let’s take a step back and look at what Christmas was like 100 years ago. I am sure that it was so much simpler. Gifts were handmade, not bought. They might have been food, hand made shirt, a simple doll, or a peppermint stick. I remember my mother saying that they always got an orange and a peppermint stick in their Christmas stocking. She said that they only had oranges around the Holidays because they were just not available. I eat an orange almost every day. Sometimes she would get a new comb or a toothbrush. I change mine as often as I need to. So many items that we take for granted today, were gifts at Christmas time 100 years ago. A new pair of shoes or boots would be a likely gift 100 years ago. It would take many months of saving money so that the shoes could be bought in time to place under the Christmas tree. A new coat, scarf or mittens were also likely gifts.

Christmas was about singing songs like Silent Night and We Three Kings and Children’s Christmas Nativity programs at church. Christmas trees came from the woods in the back not a Christmas tree lot at Home Depot. A Turkey was shot in the field and prepared for dinner not bought at the Dominick store down the street and thawed in the sink. The best potatoes were saved from the garden in the fall and a few squash and mom opened that special jar of strawberry jam that she made this summer. Several generations of a families would gather together for a special meal remembering the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas is the celebration of God’s Love for us. He loved us so much that he gave us the birth of his son, Jesus, on Christmas day.

Remember the simpler days and the real reason for this season.....Merry Christmas !

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - December 22, 2009

Remembering Mom...

Last year at this time we experienced a heart wrenching ordeal watching my mother battle the last stages of Cancer. She was so sick that it was difficult for her to leave the nursing home at Christmas but she went to my brothers on Christmas Day. My Inlaws were celebrating their 74th Wedding Anniversary in Illinois on Christmas Eve so I was in Illinois.  It was hard because my heart was with my Mother, knowing that this was her last Christmas.  I was really torn.  We left for Michigan right after Christmas.  By New Years she could not leave the nursing home.  We did our best to bring the spirit of the season to her.  We tried to have someone with her most of the time that she was awake. She could not eat much so she was not interested in food. She just wanted our company. She has 6 kids and a hoard of Grandkids, so she had lots of company. It was the only good thing about being laid off last year for me, it meant that I could spend as much time with her as I wanted to.

We had her small Christmas tree decorated and took it to her. She had at times during her illness been known to wander and she had fallen while getting out of bed so the nursing home had installed an alarm on her bed so they knew when she got up. When we visited, there was always was a group of us it seemed and not enough chairs for us all to sit. She would always invite one of us to sit on the bed with her as we visited often not remembering about the alarm. Eventually you would want to get up and your movement would sound the alarm and the duty nurse would stick her head in the door to see what was going on. Sheepishly we would smile and tell her we were sorry… again…

She received a lot of Christmas cards and lots of attention from us which seemed to make her happy. If she knew that it was her last Christmas she never let on. She was bound and determined that she was going to get better. She took her last breath on January 4, 2009. We miss her dearly but she gets to spend Christmas with Dad and Jesus this year! Love you Mom and Dad!

Blogging time.....

Computer issues and Christmas have kept me very occupied so I have had very little Blog time lately but that will soon end here and I will Blog again

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - December 15 , 2009

Andrew Anderson was born in Tonsburg, Norway on September 16,1883. His Norse name was Andres Andersen. He was the first son born to Hans Henrik Andersen and Ingeborg Helene Lansrudatter. They would have two more sons, Hagbart (not known) and Haakon(1891). Until about the time of Andrew’s death, we really did not know much about our family in Norway. The year after his death we received a phone call from a man in Minnesota. He indicated that he was related to the wife of my mother’s cousin and that her cousin was planning to visit Minnesota the following year. “Your cousin and his wife would like to visit you in Michigan while they are here if that would be OK.” he stated. He gave Mom contact information and she wrote them a letter inviting them to Michigan for a visit.

As a child I remember that my Grandpa Anderson spent a lot of time with us.  Grandma died the year I was born, before I was born so with Grandpa retired he had a lot of time on his hands.  We lived 45 minutes to an hour away from him so regularly he would visit.  Every Birthday and every holiday that I can remember Grandpa would come and stay a day or two.  He slept on the rollaway in the living room or family room once we built it on the house.

When Grandpa came to visit, he always brought treats with him. He brought some sweet bread from the Marine City Bakery. The loaves were round like tubes instead of square and the bread was more yellow than white. I believe it may have been egg bread but I do not know for sure but we loved it. It was my favorite toast with cinnamon sugar on it.

Every afternoon in the summer at 3 in the afternoon, Grandpa would come out of the house and sit on the porch with a pocket full of 5 stick packs of fruit striped gum. The kids from all over the neighborhood would come running and he would give everyone a piece of gum. All the kids in the neighborhood called him Grandpa. He would remind us all not to swallow it, “Make sure you spit it out in the waste basket cause I don’t want to get in trouble from your Mom” he would tell us with a wink of his left eye. We would go off to play and he would sit on the porch and watch us!

I remember one time while on vacation to the Upper Peninsula we visited the Soo Locks. While we were walking along the locks and looking at the ships, Grandpa noticed a Norwegian ship. The ship had sailors on the deck, so my Grandfather yelled something to them. My Grandfather was very gentle and soft spoken. I had never heard him raise his voice. It scared me at first but I knew he was not angry but just talking loud. I could not understand him either but the sailors on the ship sure did! As we walked, he and the sailors yelled back and forth, laughing and musing. Grandpa smiled and seemed to come alive. It seemed that he was somehow a bit different but I did not understand how or why. Grandpa and I walked the full length of the lock and he conversed with his countrymen. It was so exciting to hear him speak a different language; I had never heard any one who spoke anything other than English. I was so proud walking along with him. Eventually we reached the end of the walkway, Grandpa yelled a couple more things to the sailor and wave his hand. I saw the twinkle begin to fade and he was my Grandpa again.

I asked him who that was, and he said that the man is a sailor from Norway. I asked him “well what did he say Grandpa , what did he say? “ Grandpa said, “Oh nothing….” I was so disappointed. I thought for sure that he would tell me something exciting but he didn’t. Grandpa was a sailor on the Great Lakes for many years as a young man. It could be that this was a sailor’s conversation not meant for my small ears like mine, as I think about it now. Grandpa never seemed to talk about it again.

More about Andres Andersen and how and why he came to America in a future blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - December 8, 2009

Addie Mae (Densmore) Anderson - Andrew Anderson
Born: 10/12/1890  Died: April 1955   -   Born: 12/16/1883 Died : 12/10/1970

These are my Anderson Grandparents. My mother’s parents, Grandma Addie died before I was born so unfortunately I never knew her. She had breast cancer. The cancer was in its advanced stages by the time saw a doctor about it. My mother told me that I was quite a bit like her. She quilted and loved to sew and so do I. Her favorite beverage was tea, green tea. So is mine. For years I tried to learn to drink coffee because that was what “everyone” drank but my stomach really did not like the acid it produced so eventually I gave up and started to carry tea bags with me. I was thrilled to discover that it is good for you! And on a not so good note, Mom always told me that “you have the Anderson tummy”. The larger than it should be waistline… She said “the Anderson woman, the Densmore woman and the Hayner woman, they all had it” and mom did too. So do I! It was hard to get rid of in my 40’s and seems impossible in my 50’s. I wish I had known my Grandmother.

I have a feeling that I was more like her than Mom would ever admit. I have the old family photos and in them I have found my Grandmother was not always the conventional “lady” of the 1920’s. I have several pictures of Grandma Addie with Grandpa and with her friends and she is smoking a pipe. I tend to think that my Grandmother did not necessarily “follow the rules”. You know the standard norms of society in 1920. Women did not smoke pipes in the 1920’s but Grandma did.

Well, like my Grandma, I did not exactly follow the rules of society 50 years later. I got pregnant at sixteen and got married. The last few weeks of my junior year, (and before I was married) the school confronted me about the rumors which were circulating around the school, the rumor that I was pregnant. I very defiantly stood my ground. They tried to throw me out of school. I told them that I would finish my school year I told them that I would come to school everyday and they would give me the credits for my classes. And I did finish my junior year. I told the school officials that I would follow their “rule” for the fall semester when I was big and pregnant but I warned them that I would be back for the winter semester. I did go back to school after my son was born. I finished school and graduated with my original senior class in the spring. It was the first time that a teen mother came back after giving birth and finished her senior year. It was one of the hardest things I have every done…Take care of a newborn and do home work but I had told the school I was going do it and I was going to do it. As it turned out, my younger sister was in Jr High school  and due to over crowding, the school implemented a split school schedule so the High school building could be used for Jr High and High School. She went in the afternoon and I went in the morning so she watch my son (with the assistance of Grandma), while I went to school. I could never have done it with out her. Let’s just say quite a few of my Mother and Dad’s gray hairs came from me…

I never took the easy path. I tested every rule and followed the path least traveled. I have come to believe that it was the way my Grandma did it too. My Grandpa sailed the Great Lakes and was gone for weeks on end. That meant that Grandma was left at home to raise 8 children and run a household by herself. It meant that she made many decisions because she could not wait until Grandpa came home to help her. That is no small feat for a lady in the 1920’s and 1930’s. So I think that we were very much alike, my Grandma and me. She gave me my “spunk” that I am very proud of. Thank–you Grandma!  We'll talk about Grandpa Anderson next time!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Kisiah, Kesiah, Kiziah, Kaziah......

Sometimes when you are looking for your ancestors, a unique given name can help you track a family with a common surname like Smith. Early in my search, I found a clue that James and Susannah may have come from Darke County because of a unique given name. Her name was Kisiah Smith and she married Daniel Overly in Darke County. Daniel is Susannah’s brother. Kisiah was not married to Daniel very long. I made an assumption that she died (maybe in child birth which was more common then) but I couldn’t be sure of that. I had first found James and Susannah in Allen County Indiana and I knew that they were the parents to James W, who was the father of Alvin, who was the father of Everett, my Grandfather. I knew they were from Ohio which lead me to search for a Marriage record for James Smith and Susannah whose last name was unknown. With that search I found the marriage record for James Smith and Susannah Overly. It was the only marriage record for a James Smith and Susannah. So with that information I decided to take a close look at the Overly family. As luck would have it they had been well researched and there was quite a lot of data on them.

When I searched on the Overly name, I found the marriage record for Daniel Overly and Kisiah Smith on October 12, 1824. The name Kisiah jumped off the page at me. James and Susannah had a daughter named Kisiah and it made me wonder if they were related. Did James have a sister Kisiah? Daniel Overly had two sons in the 1830 Federal Census, one under 3 and one between 5<10 and there are two women in the household between 20 <30. I assumed that this was Kisiah and maybe a sister of hers or of Daniel’s. Later I would find a marriage record which would indicate that Daniel had married Mary Ann Glasgow by 1840. They would have Samuel, their first son in 1840. They settled in Miami County, Indiana by the 1860 Federal Census. Mary Ann has died by the 1870 Census.

I would later find a Kesiah Overly living with Henry Smith in Darke County, Ohio in the 1870 Federal Census. Are Henry and Kesiah are siblings? Is the spelling different because the census taker wrote it wrong? Could this be the first wife of Daniel Overly? Kesiah is ten years older than Henry; she is listed as 70 in the census. If this is her, where has she been for the 1850 and 1860 census? What happened to the children listed in the 1830 Census? I find a William Overly living in Pleasant township, Allen County, Indiana near the other Overly families in the Nine Mile area. He was born in 1825. This could be Kisiah and Daniel’s child? My Smith family traveled in family groups when they moved from Ohio to Indiana. Siblings and their families moved together settling in close proximity of each other and in some cases on the same plot of land which they would develp together. Nephews are found working with Uncles.

I have spent many nights trying to answer these questions. So far I do not know. Hopefully with continued research someday I’ll find this “needle in the haystack”. So much for thinking a unique given name would help me with a common surname.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Tombstone Tuesday - December 1, 2009

Rock Fall Cemetery, Harbor Beach Michigan

 Leah M Smith    Harold A Smith

 1928-2009       1928 - 1996

And a cute little cemetery story......

When my Grandkids were small I took them for a ride one day. I had planned to visit the cemetery where my Grandparents were buried. I wanted pictures of their tombstones and ride. I could always find a cemetery to visit. I wanted a photo of their tombstone and that of several other relatives. The Grandkids seemed to enjoy themselves because of the wide open space a Cemetery presents. A game of tag ensued, while Grandma snapped a few photos. It did not take too long before they were wondering what I was doing. Then they wanted to be in photos too. As the photo above shows and I did not have the heart to tell “Biscuit” that I really had not planned on her being in the photo. I explained to them that I was taking pictures of tombstones of family members who had died. Death was not an easy concept to understand so before long I quit trying to explain. Once they realized that I was taking photos of these “rocks” which had names on them, they were curious about these people we should know. In their mind each tombstone represented “someone we should know”.

After trying to explain that we did not know everyone who was buried in the cemetery, I decided to give up and take them to McDonalds! Nothing like a Chicken McNuggets and a French fries to take their mind off of something they did not understand and an hour of playing in the play yard helped too!