Reclaiming all the past

These thoughts are for all you white family historians out there.  Particularly the ones who are, like me, struggling to tell the unmentionable, the dishonorable chapters of our ancestors’ lives.  The plot lines of which extend into our own days, leaving us uncomfortable with our race.  Our whiteness.

I have been silent on this blog space, for what seems like a long time.  Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because what I have to say is so disconcerting to me.  I have hung out with my research for months, letting it rattle my bones.  Letting the names and the implications of the unnamed disturb my imagination, and disrupt my nostalgia of my southern past.

And humbled I return to this segregated space to confront the taboo against mixing race and family.  The taboo against talking straight up about how I can trace my status, my education, my opportunities right back to those of my Dodson forebears in 1772.

I want to reclaim all the past.  I want to braid stories of the Dodsons with the connections of the Crutes and dozens of unnamed African Americans who contributed to the Dodson legacy, yet seldom profited from it.

I hope you will return to learn how my dad’s scribbled note prompted my memory of something Norman said, which together led to the documentation of the Dodson Crute Connection.

Next up:  The Dodson Crute Connection

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Memory Scraps

James A. Corrigan, spring 1912My “decluttering for the holidays” was stymied today by the discovery of scan-able scraps that directly pertain to my previous post.  And so, as is often the case with my reorganization efforts, I am at the keyboard rather than behind the vacuum.

The photograph of James A. Corrigan was dated in the upper left corner–1912.  During this morning’s work, I found his medical school year book, Jefferson’s The Clinician, among the boxes I was sorting.  Inside the black leather cover were a few scraps of paper.

Dead stop.  Flip Pal out.

James A Corrigan at Jefferson

What a hoot!! No letter of “Congratulations! You have been admitted to the class of 1915!”  Just a notice of matriculation, number 386, confirming that James Corrigan had satisfactorily completed preparatory classes in 1911.  His family certainly counted it as an important document, and carefully preserved the scrap as proof that Jim had been admitted to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia beginning with the 1911-1912 session.

Another valuable piece of paper was this stationary, remarkable for its header.James A Corrigan at JeffersonBeing asked to serve as President of the school’s pathology society as a second year student (1912-1913) must have been quite an honor.

The scraps add dimension to the image in front of the flowering shrub.  It is  more than a photo of a thirty-something Jim Corrigan.  It is a snapshot of the Hazleton native’s transition from scholar to doctor and community leader.

 

 

 

 

Photo Friday: James Aloysius Corrigan

Aunt “Sissy” Rattigan saved the Treasury Department envelope, “Important: Contains U.S. Savings Bonds” recycled to store important photographs and newspaper clippings.  My husband identified this 1912 candid as his grandfather, James Aloysius Corrigan.

 

James A. Corrigan, spring 1912

After graduating high school, Jim worked as a clerk in a Hazleton (PA) clothing store, and held offices in the Clerk’s Union and St. Gabriel’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus. In his late twenties, Jim attended Bloomsbury State Normal School before following his brothers’ footsteps to Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1911. The thirty-one year old medical student posed for someone’s camera the following summer, nattily dressed in a wool suit, hat in hand.

I wonder what stories floated through that open window.

 

 

 

Tip of the Day: Details Matter

I took another box of mixed media from the house, the house my father last lived in.  Most of the holiday cards I threw out, their messages meaningful only to Norman.  Many of the photographs were ones I had sent him, or copies of pictures he had snapped and sent to me years ago.  Several letters from my uncle I sent on to my cousin, sure that she would appreciate the insight into her father.  Letters from my grandmother, Florette, I saved for a rainy day read.

Methodically I sorted the box’s contents, pausing now and again to hold a memory tight.  And then, just as I thought there was really nothing new here, I came upon an envelope postmarked 1985.  Pearl Freeman had shared a few photographs with my father.  Without annotations or a note of explanation, I don’t know the relationship but apparently this stranger was sharing adolescent memories.

To date the photographs I pulled out a few key details that my father had shared about his high school years.

  • Norman, like his three brothers before him, attended Chase City High School, in Chase City, Virginia.
  • Chase City High School went up through eleventh grade.
  • Norman graduated in 1945.
  • My father began to smoke at the age of 17.
  • Chick, as my father was known by his pals, drove one of his father’s school bus routes.

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Norman is front row, third from left. These teenagers appear posing in their best outfits, in front of a brick building that may be the high school, with adults milling around in the back. I suspect that this is the Class of 1945, posing after Chase City High School’s graduation ceremony.

Norman Strickland and friends

Here Norman sits on what appears to be a bus’ fender, reveling in female attention. His peak bus driving years were the mid-1940s.

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Norman relaxes.  The cigarette dates the photo as around the time he graduated, at 17. 

Norman Strickland, Car unidentified

I am still researching the make and model. Because this capture was included with the other photographs, I am betting that this smile is of teenage-driver Norman.

If Pearl Freeman, or a descendant/friend, is reading this post, I hope you will leave a memory in the comments!!!

 

 

Put Procrastination On A Shelf

Book.Corrigan.Mining.1887.01.EHDeadlines are a writer’s friend, and I desperately needed one if I was to transform an octopus of a research project into a finished story.  Analyzing my mother-in-law’s old book, The Mine Foreman’s Handbook, for heirloom status had proven to be a daunting task.  

The editor of my local genealogical society newsletter reminded me each time I visited their library of my promise to contribute a story.  This past spring  I committed to pressing “send” by the summer solstice.  And the account of Martin Corrigan’s book flowed out, line by line by line.

I urge all you family history lovers to venture out from tree shaping and blog posting.  We all have some big stories to tell.  Find a genealogical or historical society near you and make friends with their newsletter deadline.

Here is an excerpt of  Inside Out: Judging a Book By Its Cover, which begins on page 11 of the summer issue of Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society’s newsletter, The Heritage. 

51-The Heritage Summer 2016, Northeast Pennsylvania Genealogical Society

“In 1887 Martin Corrigan was granted a Certificate of Service by the Pennsylvania Mine Foreman Examining Board, an alternative certification which recognized men who had served as mine foremen for at least one year prior to the 1885 Mine Safety Act9 . Martin Corrigan did not own this book in order to take the Mine Foreman Exam himself. Martin may have originally purchased the book for his own private library, consulting its contents in his role as mine boss for Augustus S. Van Winkle’s Milnesville collieries. But Martin also loaned this book out. The words “Please Return” were found inside the front and back covers, and on one of the first pages someone inscribed the words: Martin Corrigan No. 90 North Wyoming Street Hazleton.”