Tag Archives: Find A Grave

Chasing Rabbit Trails

I checked my email before tackling revisions of my mystery novel in progress. I received a request from a genealogy group to be a speaker about identifying family photos from the mid-to-late 1800s. Before I chose an optional date, I checked to see if my PowerPoint file survived the transfer to my new computer last fall. I watched the full presentation. All there, but the majority of the photos were from a later period. Mysterious Mary, a name I had dubbed Mary Dragoo years before when I learned that she was buried in Alamo Cemetery, would be a perfect example of a working woman in the Antebellum and Victorian time periods.  I scrolled through my family photos. “No results” proved to be a minor sidetrack—the first rabbit trail of the day.

I left my computer long enough to review my handwritten notes from my visit to find her unmarked gravesite in Alamo Cemetery. Gone missing. Mysterious Mary continues to be elusive. Back at my computer, I looked for the article I wrote when I first discovered that she lived in Contra Costa County in the nineteenth century. No file. Sidetrack #2.

I emailed my twin, our family history researcher, about the missing photo.  I added more information. Sidetrack #3.

She sent me the picture jpg and my original Word article from 2007. I read it to refresh my memories of my original search for Mysterious Mary and her family. I stopped at the paragraph where I mentioned that Mary’s grandson and his spouse are buried in Roselawn Cemetery a couple of miles from me. I hadn’t visited either cemetery recently. Back online for a Find A Grave search. The Roselawn posting mentioned that the memorial manager, a direct descendant, has no information on the man’s wife. An easy challenge for me from memories of visiting her gravesite. I clicked the link to share that information with the manager. Sidetrack #4.

I received an error code. The memorial manager can’t be reached. I contacted Find A Grave with the details and requested webmaster intervention. Sidetrack #5.

Next step: Update my speaker bio to include previous presentations on U.S. Civil War and Victorian period costumes. My empty stomach growls—a signal for a timeout for lunch. Sidetrack #6.

From the table into the open living room, Green yarn of a hat I’m knitting beckons me to my easy chair for a break from research. Sidetrack #7.

Ah, seven, often referred to as the perfect number. The stately oak trees from my framed print of Oak Alley Plantation, first named Bon Séjour (pleasant sojourn), remind me that no journey is wasted. I hurry back to my computer to accept the invitation from the genealogy group. This time, I’ll stay away from rabbit trails.

 

 

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Day of the Dead (Diá del Muerto)

flagsMy family chose the traditional May Memorial Day to visit the cemetery, but November 1 and 2, the Day of the Dead, are recognized by many Californians with memorials to those who have passed through this life.

My father died on the third day of November, “a day late, and a dollar short,” an idiom he often used with his personal twist on humor. On this eve of Diá del Muerto, I chose “Faded Blues,” a revised excerpt from Double Take, to share my memories from more than half-century ago with a twist my father would have appreciated.

Faded Blues – in Memory of John Ewing Carr, 1889 – 1953

ironing-board-pixabayMama was well respected for her excellent ironing skills. She did laundry for the most difficult to please customers in our neighborhood. Our home was not air conditioned but Mama made do. She set up the ironing board in the dining room where a breeze whispered through the screen door now and then. After she finished ironing for her customers, she sprinkled and ironed our starched church clothes—a dress for herself, dresses for the twins, and a white shirt for Papa.

Papa had a favorite faded blue shirt long before it was trendy. The old shirt sported the drop shoulder look. Cuffs of sleeves much too long were kept in place at the wrists by masculine black garters below his elbows. The soft shirt bloused over his belt, and dark pants made his slight frame appear taller than his 5 feet, 7-inch height. Mama disliked, perhaps hated, that blue shirt because it did not reflect her reputation of starched and ironed clothing. No matter how much she ironed that shirt, it was too supple to hold its shape.

Papa sometimes wore a white shirt to our local church on Sunday mornings if Mama insisted. Other times, he donned his favorite shirt no matter what church we visited or how ministers were expected to dress. Each time Papa wore that faded blue shirt, Mama frowned and mentioned the white dress shirt. He pretended not to hear. Mama never argued with Papa’s decisions about other things, but that soft blue shirt became her enemy. She pouted quietly each time he wore it.

gold-leavesOne November afternoon, Mama chose the stiff, freshly ironed white shirt hanging next to the limp, faded blue. One of her grandson’s standing near the closet said, “Oh, Grandma, let Grandpa wear his favorite blue shirt.”

Mama refused. She insisted that Papa must wear his dress shirt for this special event. She removed his aging black suit and the crisp white shirt from the closet. She placed a rolled blue tie, folded black dress socks, and undergarments in a small paper bag.

Tears cascaded from Mama’s dark brown eyes. She turned to her oldest son. “Be careful not to wrinkle the shirt on the way to the undertaker.”

 

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