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Random Thoughts Ruminations

Keeper of Family Lore or Family Historian?

I listened to a fascinating CAFE live conversation between historians Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman the other day. At minute 8 or so they begin to discuss the difference between journalists and historians.

Journalists, they point out, follow the story; they look for facts and find sources to deliver the story. Historians look for facts in primary sources–art, documents, records, newspapers–to find patterns in the past that created change, tracking a story but not always knowing what that story is going to turn out to be.

Journalists tell us what happened. Historians ask “who cares?” and “so what?”

it’s a case of both/and

When my dad declared me “Keeper of the Family Lore” I had no idea how deeply I would travel into the past. The facts led to questions and the questions led to course work and books, which led to more course work and more books. Some 15 years later, I am a citizen archivist and genealogical antiquarian; a history enthusiast and translator of the family lore.

I am drawn to historian folks like Drs. Richardson Cox and Freeman because they have been instrumental in helping me see patterns in the present BECAUSE of their study of patterns in the past. And they motivate me to apply the techniques and processing skills of the historian to find patterns in my genealogical stories.

This blog gives me a platform to connect with other history loving folks. Sometimes I am simply an antiquarian, posting names and dates and timelines for the sheer love of detail. But the posts I most enjoy writing are those with a rich narrative around the facts that answer the “who cares” and “so whats” about my family’s relationships and events.

In this moment I am striving to be a part of a larger conversation that historians are having about our Civil War and Reconstruction era, and how we can use what the nation learned then during this current backlash against expansive democracy. It is a process that is both intriguing and humbling, leading to an ever more liberating understanding of the history behind my family’s lore.

Categories
Random Thoughts Strickland The Geek Within: Tips, Tricks and Techniques

Diagram Your Family Tree with Gutenberg Block

I played around with this Gutenberg Block editor in hopes of sharing genealogy basics in a more visually appealing, less overwhelming format.

‘Cause, let’s face it, when you’re trying to engage with kin that lie somewhere out there beneath your family tree’s shade, the typical checklists of names and dates of birth, death, marriage, and the (seemingly endless) enumeration of siblings and kids can be so tedious that a mind wanders and, before you know it, perusing leads to closing the tab rather than clicking a contact button.

What if the data was shared in a more graphic form? Can the Gutenblock editor help me create a family diagram?

My grandfather Strickland was an orphan who inherited the Mecklenburg County (VA) farm from the three, single Dodson siblings who adopted him. Their sister, married to a Sayles, was my grandmother Strickland’s mother. When my dad narrated our hikes around Oakview with stories of his childhood, I only saw my Virginia roots so deeply embedded in that rich red soil, worked by generations of Dodsons, the people they enslaved and the people they hired to sharecrop.

But my last set of posts about Ira Sayles and George Parker got me to thinking about where little boy George Strickland played until his parents died of the flu in 1897. Let’s dip into his family tree.

In my mind I’m going to Carolina

George Ricks “Ricky” Strickland

Born in Franklin County NC; Died in Richmond VA

1893-1960

Children
  • Cleora
  • Luther
  • Norman
  • Polly
  • Laura Maud
  • George Ricks “Ricky”
  • Eugene
Sydney Nicholas Strickland

Born and died in Franklin County NC

1850-1897

married in 1879
Virginia Elizabeth Coppedge

Born and died in Franklin County NC

1859-1897

Anderson Perry Strickland

Born in Wake County NC; Died in Petersburg VA

1820-1864

Married in 1843
Julia M. Stone

Born and died in Franklin County NC

1825-1919

Children
  • Laura
  • William
  • Robert
  • Sydney Nicholas
  • Jane E.
  • George Augustus
  • Lucien
  • DeWitt Clinton
  • Daniel H.
  • Joseph A.

William B. Coppedge

Born and died in Franklin County NC

1829-1896

Married in 1857
Laura Ann May

Born and died in Franklin County NC

1839-1918

Children
  • Virginia Elizabeth
  • Geneva
  • William J.
  • Alverrada
  • Charles
  • Robert S.
  • Ida M.
  • Anna L
  • Minnie L
  • Oliver J.

Look at all those North Carolina folks! I could keep going back, tracking down the Stallings and Bowdens, the Dents and the Boons of Franklin, Nash, and Wake County. But four blocks of vital statistics hit me as a just enough information to whet someone’s curiosity.

My original idea was to end with a diagram, with connections, branches, shoots. And though this attempt is far more basic, I feel satisfied. My goal was to discover another way to share basic data, and I think I stumbled on a satisfying format. Only time will tell if such posts promote more reader engagement. For now…I’d say family historians have a friend in the WordPress editor.

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Family Lore Random Thoughts

write with intention

When I began my genealogy blog ten years ago, the ‘sphere was fresh, unknown territory. The prospect of reaching an audience, even unidentified, was exhilarating. The possibility of attracting lost relatives and exchanging family records was intoxicating.

Blog posts flowed out regularly.

Comments and followers multiplied.

Cousins-many-times-removed shared stories, tips, maps, and letters.

Until one day I realized that my story cache, specifically Ira Sayles’ tales, didn’t fit a blog post format. And blogging was a chore, not a joy.

Time to reassess. How can Shoots, Roots, and Leaves function as a space of curiosity and joy, that complements the deeper dive I will be doing offline?

Not sure. Yet.

Leave your ideas and requests for future posts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!

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Random Thoughts Stevenson

Thankful Thursday: Sing A Song

SpringStream.1.EH
The impeded stream is the one that sings.  ~~Wendell Barry

I have not written much on this blog since my mother died.  The daily exercise failed to distract my grieving brain.

Instead I hopped into a genealogical burrow and nosed around through its labyrinth of story lines, tumbling out in previously unknown family territory and time.  The research begged for more than a cursory post.  I drifted for a while, before I befriended a deadline, and realized how important these “time to stop writing” moments are in the process of developing a story, of finishing thoughts, of discovering what emotional responses to ancestral tales actually mean–to me, today.  An article has been published in my local genealogical society’s newsletter.  I drafted a 3000 word essay, that still sucks, but is the transformative story before the story, the first baby step in confronting my family’s legacy of enslaving.

Now I return to the blogger community, to embrace daily prompts, tiny deadlines.  This community is my channel, the place where my stream of words can bounce up against the research rocks, and rush over and under branches of “what ifs” and “whys”, to sing the past into the present.

Thank you for listening to my songs.

Categories
Random Thoughts

Wisdom Wednesday: 100>99

Within the last week I read an article about commitment, or rather keeping a commitment.  In sum, the author stated that it is easier to practice your craft or hone your skill, develop new habits and deepen your spiritual practice if you commit 100%.  No creeping “well, just this once I won’t take my binoculars” or “I’ll get to the writing tomorrow.”

So I am committed to this experiment.  If I write every day on this blog or on my work-in-progress Shared Legacy narrative (more on that later), no excuses, will the writer’s block melt?  If I take my binoculars or camera everywhere I go, will I  spend at least a few minutes mindfully every day?  And if I write and deeply look at my world, will I find myself energized and engaged?

What have you, dear reader, decided to commit 100% to?  What tricks did you develop to hold yourself accountable?

 

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Birding by kayak, with camera AND binoculars. Not seen in this shot, the Great Blue Heron fishing off to my right.  Later on I watched a Green Heron play hopscotch on bank-roots.