The Visit

March 17, 2009


Ahhhhhhh.  What fun!  I spent Sunday afternoon at my relative Ann’s assisted living residence.  While she could not answer my very finite questions about the family tree I reveled in 3 hours worth of family stories some about people I had never met and didn’t know existed until I began my snooping into the family history! 

Let me give you a rundown.  First, she remembered seeing me last at my great aunt (her aunts) funeral.  My eldest daughter was about 6 months old and I took her along with me since I did not have a babysitter.  She was a delightful baby…didn’t cry ever (because I would stand on my head to prevent hearing it if necessary)…and was thrilled to be in my lap on any occasion.  We sat in the room off the primary room and toward the back…banished there because my father had mentioned the baby better not disturb anybody.    Kristin was on my lap, smiling and cooing…but she had little bells on her shoelace coveres and they would jingle if she kicked her feet.  Now these were teeny, tiny baby bells mind you, not sleigh bells.  And my great aunt was not a head of state or royalty or anything.  Ann recalls (and I well recalled) that I was banished from even the back room…the not family room…because the baby might be disturbing others.  She said the rest of the family was furious with him because she was being a perfectly delightful child and disturbing nobody.  But that was my dad.  That baby is now 35 in just a few days…so it has been a long time!

I learned that my great grandmother (Ann’s grandmother) was the stern woman I remembered.  I was afraid of her and so was she.  I learned that she was a fantastic cook andevery Monday the kitchen was filled withbaked goods of every kind, made on the coal stove that was as pristine when she died as the day it was installed.  She was an immaculate housekeeper and that was passed on to my Nana as well.  My 2nd great grandmother was a seamstress when she came here.  Quite a good one I gather.  However, in 19th century Wales she was an innkeeper’s wife.  I wonder if that is where the cooking ability came in and was passed on to her daughter?  I learned of the very weird great uncle who I never knew existed because he died long before I was born.  Weird was precisely Ann’s word for him and oddly enough my mom tells me it was my dad’s word for him too.  I learned that my great grandfather had small pox and she remembered the house being under quarantine and a sheriff standing outside until it had passed.  As a result he had pox scars…which were not visible if he used Lifebuoy soap…so the whole family in Lansford, Pa always used Lifebuoy.  Andhere I thought it was just for soap in the mouth for kids ala Ralphie’s Christmas!  So many stories that day I could barely recall all the detail when I got home to write them down!  Too bad I hadn’t seen Bonnie’s comments on my Today’s the Day post here before I went.  If I had, camera AND tape recorder would have gone with me. 

I had taken a few photographs along with me for Ann to look at.  She smiled as she recalled the person and told me this or that story about them.  I received so many insights into their personality and the period of time.  I had one picture of her as a girl and she was quite surprised to learn it was her…she didn’t recall ever wearing her hair that way.  Then she shared something with me that just blew me away! 

She walked to her dresser andpulled out a little metal spiral bound book.  The cover was like a hard paperboard and the pages were heavier than an oaktag.    The cover had a vintage picture of a family consisting of parents and two children from the 30’s.  It was a cookbook.  But not just any cookbook.  She explained.  The cover was her mother and father as a young married couple and she and her brother as kids.  The preface, handwritten in somebody’s very neat penmanship, was introducing it as the family recipes, loved for years andnow kind of immortalized.  And the following pages were the (apparently) scanned, handwritten recipes of Aunt Elizabeth who was Ann’s mother.  What a wonderful idea!  Ann’s brother Morgan married a woman whose family was in the publishing business.  She had these cookbooks made for Ann and the various granddaughters.  What a wonderful idea!  I am in hot pursuit of my Nana’s recipes as well as my great grandmothers.  I was recently checking out the book publishing online andknow I could produce these books there, however, recently I found this Heritage Maker’s product through a blog on WordPress and I am going to price shop to see which is better.   I am seeing cookbooks under Christmas trees too.     

When I got home I was newly determined to sort out my Welsh Shinton and Evans ancestors.  I had been stuck for 3 years andknew I had garbage data in there that made no sense picked up from other trees.  Armed with the knowledge from Ann that the skeleton of family members I had pared it down to made sense I attacked it again.  I got the US relatives squared away Sunday night andtried the Welsh census on Monday.  I thought I had it nailed across the pond andback one more generation but found some Ancestry tree data that just confused me.  I turned to google.  (Do I sound like an ad manager for google already?  I’m not.)  I was looking for OPC (onlineparish clerks) for Wales.  I couldn’t find them.  But.  I knew the ancestors came from Llantrisant in Glamorgan Wales.  I located the Glamorgan FHS and for a very few dollars joined online and sent off an email asking for an explanation of parishes and counties in Wales since it seemed a bit different than Englands.  Within hours I had my membership materials and my email had been passed on to their lookup historians who had already checked into the details I had included.  I received a lovely (andhelpful) email back.  I had indeed found my father’s mother’s grandfather in Wales as well as her father and brothers and sister in Wales.  GFHS provided the 2nd great grandmother’s name and provided the data on the great grandfather, his father andsiblings as well that let me confirm what I had found.  Unfortunately there was not a lot of identifying information which makes them wonder if the family were “nonconformists” (that would explain so much…) in which case there won’t be a lot of information around.  I sent off for a birth certificate from GROfor the one child whose birth record they were able to verify andwe will see if we can find out my 2nd great grandmother’s maiden name and then any more about her husband’s side.  Bottom line, the folks at GFHS are wonderful…money well spent and I will sustain that membership! I put a link on the side bar in case your family is from Glamorgan and you are up against a wall in your research. 

Finally, I foundout from Ann who is buried where.  Seems our people are pretty much all buried in the Grand Army of the Republic cemetery in Summit Hill Pa.  I’m in hot pursuit of the records for the cemetery…and if they aren’t available online or for hard copy research am prepared to walk that cemetery if necessary to get the dates I am looking for!  Once I get these Shinton’s and Evan’s cleaned up only the Tonkin’s remain to sanity check and I ‘m home free toward creating my DVD’s.  And you know what?  If I get it done, I won’t need to feel guilty about not making quilts for Christmas this year…I can defer until next year on that!

PHEW!  A huge amount of information.  Time for the morning coffee…I encourage you.  If you are stuck in your research turn to google and turn to the local family history societies.  There is so much help there you cannot believe it.



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