Blog

History, Musings

Connectedness

After having discovered my top five strengths through Gallup CliftonStrengths, which I’ve written about here, curiosity got the better of me and I purchased my full 34-strengths profile from Gallup so that I could see what came next. To my delight, I learned that Connectedness is my number six theme. No surprise there, really, as people with high Connectedness have faith in the links between all things. They believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason. From Gallup:

Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. Yes, we are individuals, responsible for our own judgments and in possession of our own free will, but nonetheless we are part of something larger.
Some may call it the collective unconscious. Others may label it spirit or life force. But whatever your word of choice, you gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another or from the earth and the life on it. This feeling of Connectedness implies certain responsibilities.
If we are all part of a larger picture, then we must not harm others because we will be harming ourselves. We must not exploit because we will be exploiting ourselves. Your awareness of these responsibilities creates your value system. You are considerate, caring, and accepting.
Certain of the unity of humankind, you are a bridge builder for people of different cultures. Sensitive to the invisible hand, you can give others comfort that there is a purpose beyond our humdrum lives. The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries1.

My favorite contemporary singer/songwriter, Laura Marling, has a song on her latest album, Semper Femina, that I could play on repeat, and quite frequently do, titled, Always This Way. The line: “Like to think that we’re all a link, In what makes the world go round” speaks to something deep within my soul, quite obvious now that that something is Connectedness.

Because while I enjoy the history I uncover, what I love most about researching my family tree is revealing the unknown and discovering the connections of ancestors from different branches of my tree. I have chills whenever I find two seemingly unrelated people from two different parts of my tree in the same geographical area as one another. For example, my father’s 2x great-grandparents and my mother’s 2x great-grandparents lived within thirty miles of one another in the 1850s-1870s. And while I may never know for certain if they crossed paths, or if they knew one another by name, or if they felt shocked or saddened by events to come, I feel a little thrill at the idea of their closeness.

Connectedness, for me, feels as though everything that’s happened, everything that IS happening, was and is meant to happen in order for future events yet to unfold. That even if my 3x great-grandparents didn’t know each other in their time, their very closeness to one another was hinting at the destiny of my parents meeting. And thus, the destiny of my arrival to begin the journey to rediscover my roots. For me, the past, the present and the future are connected, inexplicably, intrinsically linked.   Continue reading “Connectedness”

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History

Ellis Island and the Search for Freedom

For the past ten days, my neighborhood has sounded like a war zone. One that smells of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and sulfur. There is no doubt in my mind, we as a nation love celebrating our Independence Day. Continue reading “Ellis Island and the Search for Freedom”

History, Musings

Have We Learned Nothing From History?

I find it difficult to watch the news these days. And visiting social media sites like Facebook for more than a few minutes at a time leaves me feeling anxious and overwhelmed, and often, on the verge of tears by what I read.

Because I’m deeply disturbed by the chasm dividing us so that no one is willing to have an open discussion. I’m deeply disturbed that, rather than try to span this divide by compromise and bridge-building, we only cling tightly to the precarious dangling ropes within our narrow-minded grasp. I’m deeply disturbed by the finger-pointing and the blame-shifting. I’m deeply disturbed by the name-calling, especially, when, I would’ve sworn that we were all taught in preschool or kindergarten to respect one another no matter our disagreements. I’m deeply disturbed that it seems one side must lose for the other to win. But above all, I’m deeply disturbed and ashamed of what my country is becoming with an evident lack of compassion in her people.

Have we learned nothing from history? It certainly feels that way as we, yet again, repeat the mistakes from our past.

Continue reading “Have We Learned Nothing From History?”

History, Musings

Is Our Fear of Death Destroying Cemeteries?

As I made my annual Memorial Day pilgrimage to clean and decorate my ancestors graves, I noticed several that were in need of a good maintenance. Wandering around the cemetery in the town my parents live, trying desperately to read the utterly confusing cemetery map to find certain plots where several of my ancestors were buried, we came across an old sage who asked us who we were searching for. When we said the name, he replied, “Oh, sure. Lefty’ll be in the German section.” He turned and moments later we were standing before our ancestral plot. Yet I was surprised to see several of the individual stones depressed and sunken. With nary a decoration in sight upon their tombs, it made me pause and wonder. Has the cultural significance of honoring our dead vanished?

It’s happening everywhere, cemeteries falling into disrepair and thus, being destroyed. In my own family research, two cases immediately come to mind. My West Coast Wildrick relations buried in Los Angeles’ Evergreen Cemetery as well as the removal and demolition of my 3x great-grandfather’s tombstone in St. Patrick’s cemetery in Bernard, Iowa, destroyed by the very entities that are put in place to protect them. Not to mention the countless graves I’ve discovered that are lacking a marker. Without a marker, or upkeep of any kind to either the cemetery or its records, who’s to say for certain our ancestors are indeed in that plot?

Continue reading “Is Our Fear of Death Destroying Cemeteries?”

Family History

Celebrating Father’s Day

In honor of Father’s Day, I wanted to share some of my writings and research on the men of my family tree. So often my focus is upon the mothers and grandmothers, the women of my family tree, that I’m thankful for the reminder to take time to honor my paternal heritage .

I’m reminded of a something my father once said of his favorite actor, John Wayne. That, having filmed, “Rooster Cogburn” his costar, Katharine Hepburn stated that standing beside John Wayne was like standing beside a great oak tree. That statement certainly rings true of my father and my grandfathers, the men that I’ve been lucky to have known in my life, as I’m sure it does to those I know only by the names upon the branches of my family tree. True, I feel connected to the women in my life, as a woman I empathize and feel compassion for the trials of their lives, but that connection is not more or less important than that of the men.

Our paternal ancestors often sacrificed and worked back-breaking jobs to support their families. To protect their families, they fled persecution, often traveling for hundreds and thousands of miles, across oceans, to provide a new and better life for their descendants. Yet, like the oak tree, our family trees stand great against elements, strong and supported, protected and loved, by the paternal elements that are found within us all.

Continue reading “Celebrating Father’s Day”

Family History, Wildrick

Fowl Play

It’s been awhile since I’ve last visited my 4th great-uncle, James Albert Wildrick, and his family, the West Coast Wildrick’s in Los Angeles. You can read more of their story here, here and here. They’ve provided me with several laughs over the years, especially as their exploits were so often shared within the pages of several Los Angeles area newspapers.

Today I’m sharing one of the earliest mentions of the Wildrick’s living in the Los Angeles area. This article is from the Los Angeles Herald, Volume 34, Number 123, dated 16 August 1890, where my 4th great-aunt, Louisa Wildrick took her neighbor to court over his chickens. Yes, you read that right. His chickens.

Take heed, all you chicken fanciers, lest you find yourself in court one day over your poor measures to contain your loves!   Continue reading “Fowl Play”

Family History, Morton

Wymore, Nebraska

A few weekends ago, I managed to talk my life buddy into a mini adventure to Wymore, Gage county Nebraska. Wymore is a small town of around 1000 inhabitants, twenty minutes south of Beatrice. Not, perhaps, appearing on most people’s bucket lists as the most exciting of adventures, but it was one that I’ve been wanting to take for some time. A few years ago, as I was in the midst of research and writing the story of my 3x great-grandmother’s life, the story that became my novel, The Gritty Ones, I discovered one of her long-lost siblings, an elder brother, Lorenzo Morton, was buried in a cemetery near Wymore along with his wife1. I was curious, and optimistically hopeful that they would have a marker from which I could glean useful information and so the pair of us set off on a windy, rainy Saturday.

The excitement bloomed within me, as we turned down a forsaken gravel road leading toward the cemetery, and as we entered the gate, I spied a caretaker’s building and directed us there, with hopes of finding a directory. While there wasn’t one there, I got out and wandered around, eventually spying an arbor near a gate and made my way to it. It was then I learned that the cemetery was actually several cemeteries in one. Lorenzo and his wife weren’t listed in the booklet I discovered, but my life buddy found an additional booklet where he found a list of Mortons. Continue reading “Wymore, Nebraska”

Family History

Memorial Day

As one who lives with one foot firmly in the past, Memorial Day holds special meaning to me. This year, I decided to finally check one off the old bucket list and visit Prospect Hill Cemetery in Omaha. It’s one of the oldest pioneer cemeteries in the city and is the final resting place of many Omaha founders. Continue reading “Memorial Day”

History, Wright

Arlington Cemetery and Horatio Governeur Wright

Of all the places I’ve traveled, Washington DC ranks high upon my list of favorites. There’s a unique blend of hustle and slow with people either hurrying to catch trains or relaxing under the sun upon the green space of the mall. There’s something for everything and always something to do. With so much history to be found, I could happily explore for hours, drinking it all in. Recently,  I had the fortunate opportunity to travel there with one of my best friends and though I’ve been there before, I always leave with a new experience and understanding. Continue reading “Arlington Cemetery and Horatio Governeur Wright”

Family History, Musings

What Makes a Mother?

When I began my ancestral journey, many years ago, it was because I wanted to better understand myself. How did I come to be, here, in this time and place? Who came before me, these people who lived and loved down and down throughout time that brought me into existence? Although I’ve always held a deep love for history, by the time the questions started percolating in my mind about my own personal history, I had lost many of my natural resources. So I began my journey alone, turning to my parents and to the matriarchs of my families for guidance.

While it takes two, I’ve been drawn most to the women who reside among the branches of my family tree. Perhaps it’s an intrinsic link that binds my spirit to theirs as their blood continues to flow through me. Perhaps it’s because without them, I would cease to exist. Or, perhaps it’s because the histories of these women have been systematically dismantled and forgotten due to the times they lived, the circumstances surrounding their choices, and the society which required them to forgo an identity and accept that of their husbands.

Yet, recently upon my journey of self discovery, I realized that my desire to know and understand the feminine part part of my tree went much, much deeper than my own roots. My desire sprang from something deep and internal, some hidden part of myself that had been locked away, existing for time immemorial, but ready to be freed.

Continue reading “What Makes a Mother?”