About Kay Strickland

I am a keeper of my family's lore, chasing after my ancestors' tales in south central New York, southwestern Pennsylvania and Southside Virginia. The stories and photographs that I share on this blog are my intellectual property. While I do my very best to provide well researched posts, I do not pretend to have reached genealogical proof standards. Therefore, much of this work is to generate conversation among interested parties. If you would like to share my work or my records, please contact me: dkaysdays (at) gmail (dot) com.

A Family Tree Can Provide More Than Shade

wood-nature-leaves-tree.jpgI think most of us who succumb to the genealogical fever scramble to collect names and dates, and align them in some order.  Bits and bobs of family history hang from stout lines of inquiry, like leaves on a June sugar maple.

I want to spread a blanket over its roots, and linger in the shade of these ancestors, telling stories of prosperity and perseverance.  But when I look up into the Dodson-Rowlett-Green branches, I see what those leaves are blocking, what is providing the shadowed comfort of family tales.

The light of ingenuity and survival contains the stolen humanity of enslaved people.

I can feel their presence, though I may never know more than an age, sex, or first name.  And I feel impelled to reframe my family’s progress and reputation, to fully account for their choices and the impact that those choices had on their children, neighbors, community, and on the very ideals of a developing democracy.

I am climbing my family tree, again, adding leaves and uncovering roots that go well beyond my known kin.  I wonder what I will learn when I step out of its shade.

 

 

this week in Gratitudes

My nights have been punctuated with bad dreams and periods of wakefulness this week.  I am puzzled about how/why anxiety has crept back under my covers.  I thought I had figured out a way to banish it from the dark, and keep it contained by rituals and healthy habits during the day.

The mind is a strange place, in constant need of tending, like a garden.

*sigh*

I think I will plant some gratitudes into the morning and move on.

  1. Several newcomers have appeared at my bird feeders this morning, including a Purple Finch pair, a Brown-headed Cowbird trio, a Red-wing Blackbird, and a Common Grackle.  The American Goldfinch flock continues to enlarge, with about 2 dozen beauties in various stages of spring molt.
  2. Yesterday’s snow has completely melted.
  3. A Snapping Turtle remains on the edge of a rock outcrop, ready for my continued scrutiny this morning.
  4. I had an email this week from a reader asking for help with our common Samuel S White ancestor, a request I unfortunately can’t fill.  Record gaps are so daunting, but new connections are refreshing!
  5. I had another email from a long-time reader and cousin with kind words of encouragement to continue writing about the Dodson family, a timely nudge because my research has become such a tangle of intertwined Rowlett, Dodson, and Green stories that I have written nothing instead of something.
  6. Which leads me to my last gratitude of the morning.  I am thankful for all those writers before me, who have taken time to commit their thoughts to paper–wood pulp or gigabytes.
    1. J. Russell Rowlett, who built a web page in 2003 to share his documentation of the Peter Rowlett [Chesterfield County, Virginia] family.
    2. Audre Lorde, whose words lift my lethargy.

“Silence will not protect you.”

Research. Review. Connect. Speak out. Stand up.

Write on.

 

Sunday morning musing

I have been getting acquainted with my 19th century grandmothers during the last few weeks, creating more questions than stories at the end of each day, which is frustrating at many levels.

I catch myself re-centering the family account around the men, specifically the white men, who populate the records.  It is a habit.  A learned way of processing the world that I resist, unsuccessfully, as I try to bring womenfolk out of the past’s shadows.

So I end up tossing the paper into the bin, or cutting whole paragraphs of text, or moving the whole post to trash.

And I begin again.

This week I will (re)focus my attention on Mary Green Dodson, 1787-1858, daughter of William Wills and Martha [Archer Rowlette] Green; wife of Edward Dodson, Junior; mother of James H, my 2nd great-grandfather; and cousin to Sarah Jane [Rowlett] Dodson, my 2nd great-grandmother.

Mary grew from girl to woman, wife to widow, mother to elder, in the watersheds of  Allen’s and Butcher’s Creeks, Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  I have looked out on those woods, walked those hills, with red clay, that Mary saw every day, clinging to my shoes.  Childhood treks from Chase City to the country that had held generations of ancestors made little impression on me until I strolled up cow-worn paths with my father, his drawl spreading stories of his childhood on my children.

I have lots of records for many branches of my families, but I return to those from Mecklenburg County time and again, because of this connection to the white feldspar-studded land.  And this genealogical homecoming has prodded my reckoning with the unspoken family lore.

The land and its tobacco guaranteed food security, housing security, community esteem.  And none of that was possible without the work of black people-enslaved, sharecroppers, tenant farmers.

When I reconstruct pieces of Mary Green Dodson’s life, I also feel those African Americans emerging from shadows.

I hope I do all of these folks justice with my story-telling.

Their hopes, dreams–and nightmares–built this country.

 

Library Love

Going to take a moment here this Friday morning to give a shout out to all the genealogical communities scattered in counties and municipalities across the country, and around the world.

Yesterday I traveled down Route 11, crossing the Susquehanna River at Plymouth, and dodged potholes on the San Souci Highway.  A right turn at the Hanover Area High School light took me up the hill to the Hanover Green Cemetery, and the building that houses both cemetery maintenance and the Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society, Inc.  

Mind you, I am researching roots in southWESTERN Pennsylvania and southside VIRGINIA. Yet I make near-weekly treks to this site and am warmly received as the “Document Lady.”

NEPGS is a certified member of the Family History Library network, and when I sit at their computers I can access ALL the digital records within Family Search’s database. Plus, this local library can receive any microfilm records that I request because they have yet to be digitized.

Over the years I have been able to accumulate dozens of wills, deeds, tax records, and court documents from Mecklenburg County, Virginia because of the generosity and kind spirit of these dedicated folks.

A hearty thank you to my local genealogical society board of directors and staff.  I couldn’t chase my ancestors without you.

 

 

 

Snow days

DSC_3656Today was the day that Quinn was supposed to rage through the trees, whipping lightweight flakes into road-obscuring drifts.  But the winds never came, and the system showered my neighborhood with snow that sits in heavy lumps on branches and gathers between dog toes like tiny snow melons.

DSC_3659