About My Days

Whiteley Creek, Greene County, Pennsylvania

My mother and father were children of the Depression, growing up on family farms in Greene County, Pennsylvania and Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  Both sets of grandparents started married life in town, supporting growing families with jobs that were consumed by the economic crisis, and both families retreated to a “home farm.” How did they come to have this choice?  Who first owned those fields and how was it that my grandparents came to hold them?  This site seeks to answer these questions, and succeeds in mostly generating new, more complicated ones.

Nonetheless I fill my days with the research and wondering that comes with following these ancestors:

  • DODSON family of Mecklenburg County, Virginia
  • SAYLES family of Allegany County, New York/Mecklenburg County, Virginia
  • STRICKLAND family of Wake/Nash Counties, North Carolina
  • MINOR family of Greene County, Pennsylvania
  • BRADFORD family of Coshocton/Muskingum County, Ohio

The investigations don’t stop at genealogical connect-the-dots reports.  Family relationships, occupations and land transactions are interpreted in their larger context; in particular I am interested in the choices and decisions of my mid-nineteenth century folks.

  • How did the escalating conflict over slavery affect family dynamics?
  • What roles were women allowed to create during and after the Civil War?  Were these opportunities different for women in different regions?
  • How were the families touched by the conscription/enlistment of their men?
  • What positions did my ancestors hold regarding racial equality and how did they perceive reconstruction?
  • How did the families respond to the changing role of the federal government?

If you have family history to share or questions to ponder, I’d love to hear from you!  Please feel free to contact me at dkaysdays (at symbol) gmail (dot symbol) com. ;)

Recent Posts

A Raise in the South: Vintage Postcards

A road winding through the hilly farms of 1910 Greene County, Pennsylvania was likely to be pitted and ice pocked in late February.  Nevertheless, birthdays, particularly of beloved grandpas, required festive acknowledgements.  The Ruse family decided to let the mail do the travelling for Christopher’s seventy-third birthday, and, via USPS, invited young and old to shower the elderly carpenter with celebratory wishes.  Seven-year-old Donald Minor, my grandfather, received an invitation from Chris Ruse’s granddaughter, Helen E.

Dear Donald, We are having a surprise Postcard shower for Grandpa Ruse on March 13.  We want all of you to send a card and to tell everyone you see that knows him.

The adult who formed each cursive letter for Helen conveyed more than a mere request. On the front of the postcard greeting was a reproduction of an early twentieth century print, A Raise in the South.  In the scene, nine southern black men are gathered in a smoky, windowless room around a large table, mid-way through a hand of poker.  I suppose the cartoonish characters were meant to be child-appropriate and the title a clever play on the word “raise,” but a larger lesson was truly being dealt.

The Lost Cause interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction had become firmly lodged in the national psyche by 1910, guiding the country’s sectional reunion.  According to this historiography, the war was fought by valiant white men, Yankee and Rebel, for the cause of liberty.  Emancipation of slaves had not been a wise move; African-Americans needed –and desired–the paternal governance of the superior white race.  Tossed from memory were tales of black heroism and self-efficacy. What lingered were caricatures of idleness and incompetence, portraits of black men seeing raises within the context of a game, not within  the framework of gainful employment.

The birthday invitation from one child to another was an early lesson in the state of race relations within the country Don and Helen would inherit.  Insidiously, cartoon postcards planted doubt and fear, which in turn sprouted justifications for the South’s use of murder, segregation, and disenfranchisement of black Americans in the effort to re-establish a country of white men, governed by white men.

Far from comic,  A Raise in the South, is a chilling reminder of mass media’s influence on public memory.

Postcard. "A Raise in the South," From Helen E. Ruse to Donald C. Minor, 27 February 1910. Donald Minor Postcard Collection, D. Kay Strickland Family History Library.

Postcard. “A Raise in the South,” From Helen E. Ruse to Donald C. Minor, 27 February 1910. Donald Minor Postcard Collection, D. Kay Strickland Family History Library.

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