#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Textile

Tweets like this one inspired the start to my genealogical journey.

This prompt reminded me of what got me hooked on genealogy seven years ago. I saw #TartanDay trending on Twitter and I had an hour to kill, so I thought I’d trace my Scottish ancestry.

Yeah, I’m still looking for those immigrant ancestors!

Over the years of searching, I have realized that my family is woven together like fabric. Instead of nice, straight lines, like a tartan, some of mine are rather tangled and perhaps a bit psychedelic. Someday, I should do that crime-show trick of using different colored strings on a bulletin board, just to see how tangled it gets!

I still have hope that someday I’ll trace all my ancestors back to the old country(ies) and perhaps, finally, I’ll be able to celebrate Tartan Day with my tartan, instead of just marking it as the anniversary of my genealogical journey.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Food & Drink

When I think of my mom, Zenova Cook Hahn, I often remember her as she was when I was growing up, in the 1970s and ’80s. Back then, she almost always kept a glass of tea handy. When I say a glass of tea, of course, I’m talking Southern sweet iced tea.

She made the tea using a metal cup that probably held about two cups of water (without the tea bags). I asked her about that today, and she said it was something my dad, Bill Hahn, brought home from St. Regis. I don’t know what they used those silver cups for in the paper-making process.

Mom would boil water in a kettle on the stove (pre-microwave) and place the tea bags in the silver cup while waiting for it to boil. I don’t know if they made family-size tea bags back then; we only ever had the individual size of an Orange Pekoe variety. When the water boiled, it was poured over the tea bags and left to sit for a few minutes. While the tea steeped, she added the sugar to the pitcher, and then she poured in the steeped tea and added tap water to fill.

The pitcher I remember most was a round green nubby one, for which she had matching glasses. I asked her today whatever happened to that pitcher. She said, “The handles would break off. They all did, everybody who had one.” She’s not sure if her handle broke off or if it just cracked. She says it’s probably in the attic now. She kept it figuring it could be used as a vase or for a flower arrangement.

Mom did make good tea, although I preferred Kool-Aid or soda. Now, I drink mostly water and an occasional Cheer Wine or Ale-8-One. Coke and Pepsi and the others don’t taste the same anymore.

Mom also drinks mostly water, although she will sometimes add a little Dr. Thunder for a bit of flavor. I can’t stand the idea of watered-down soda!

When I drink tea, it’s hot tea, typically Earl Grey, with a lot of sugar and a little milk or half-and-half. When we went to London in 2008 for our long-delayed honeymoon, everywhere we went, I ordered hot tea, and Tim would laugh and remind me that I didn’t have to specify hot tea because over there, it all is!

Sweet tea is a Southern tradition, and it’s one I saw carried out over and over again growing up.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Social

Today, many of us use social media to share details about our lives – celebrations, announcements, tragedies, or even just a good joke.

A hundred years ago, newspapers provided social media. I must admit, I never thought I’d find my relatives regularly mentioned in newspaper columns. I thought I’d find obituaries, wedding announcements, and birth announcements. I was flabbergasted to see some of the things that got printed in the paper “in the olden days.”

This tiny snippet tells that my Pap-pa, Hoyt Cook, had a dinner date with fellow teacher Homer Lambert and two young ladies. This was part of a column on happenings in the Bay Springs community in the northern part of Escambia County, Florida, published in the Sunday paper on January 24, 1932. That was nearly a year and a half before Hoyt married my Mam-ma.

Hattie and Louise Hahn were my great-grandaunts. Hattie was born in 1875, Louisa in around 1877. Somehow they both ended up in the fourth grade at the same time. I wonder if they competed to see who could get the best grades. It seems all the students in Miss Clubbs’ class did very well.

It’s definitely worth finding out where the local papers for your relatives’ communities are archived online. Several Pensacola, Florida, and Baldwin County, Alabama, papers are available at newspapers.com, so my subscription there has been well worth it. I’m fortunate that my mother has been paying for it as Christmas and birthday gifts for the past several years.

Sometimes, you may even get lucky and find a photo:

My Uncle Steve, aka Charles Hahn, was in a high school play. (Pensacola News Journal, 3 February 1957)

I feel bad for the genealogists of the future, because I don’t know what’s going to happen to the online-only ways we share community and personal events nowadays. Some people are even foregoing published obituaries in favor of online notices at the funeral home; I sure hope those will be preserved for future generations of family historians.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Document

I envy people whose ancestors saved pages and pages of letters and diaries documenting their lives and their associations with others. As my mom and I go through old papers and scrapbooks, I find that I do have a few items like that. I find I don’t have the hours in the day to properly scan and preserve everything, and I don’t have room in my house to keep it all. Now that I have a smartphone, I can at least take photos of letters and other ephemera.

Annie Oakley coloring book that belonged to my mom, Zenova Cook Hahn.

On a recent visit to my mom’s house, she handed me a coloring book that must have belonged to her when she was a girl. From some research online, I can see that it’s missing a lot of pages and the edges are torn. Still, it’s a wonderful piece of history.

I think of Annie Oakley as being from the old west, but her legend lived on. Oakley’s life spanned 1860-1926. My mom wasn’t born until 1937, but that was two years after a movie came out starring Barbara Stanwyck as Annie. Another movie, the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” came out in 1950, when my mom was just finishing eighth grade. I see some listings for this coloring book online dating it to 1957 and linking it to a mid-fifties TV series, but I think it must have been reprinted many times.

At the same time that my mom gave me that coloring book, she also handed me a couple of letters. One is from her mother Willie Stevens cook to her, the other is from her mother, who I called Mam-ma, to me.

The letters were not in an envelope, and there is no date noted. I can narrow it down to around 1977 or 1978. My cousin Wendy, who is mentioned in both letters, was born in December, 1970. The letter to me describes her as being in first or second grade, so I’m thinking it was the summer between those school years. I think the big gathering mentioned in Mam-ma’s letter to my mom was a Cook-Allison family reunion.

Excerpt from letter sent by Willie Stevens Cook to Zenova Cook Hahn. I sure wish she’d noted the date in the corner!

That’s also the era when my dog Snoopy lived with Mam-ma and Pap-pa because we couldn’t have him where we living in Charleston, South Carolina. Mam-ma’s letter to me told me he was fat and happy. I remember them telling me that he got really sick one time and they took extra good care of him, because they didn’t want to have to give me bad news.

These letters don’t contain anything earth-shattering. They are just a few thoughts and experiences, but it’s wonderful to see my grandmother’s handwriting again and to know what she was thinking about for a few minutes.

A look inside the Annie Oakley Coloring Book.
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The Tough-As-Nails Regency Heroine Returns

Fortunately for me, I was able to start reading book two of the Olivia Featherstone Regency Adventures series right after I finished reading book one. “A Perilous Liaison” picks up right where “An Intriguing Deception” left off, and that was quite a cliffhanger.

In the second novel by Terry Ann Taylor, Olivia finds herself caught up in an international crisis. I will be honest; I knew nothing about the situation involving England, Greece, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire in those early days of the 19th century. Ms. Taylor explains as she goes, but I’m sure I did not grasp all the nuances, and really that’s fine. I quite enjoyed the action and romance without fully understanding the politics.

On this outing, we are treated to more of Olivia’s finesse with various weapons, her skill driving various conveyances, and her cleverness at getting out of deadly situations. Craven remains an enigma during his occasional appearances (he has good reason for being absent part of the time). Ms. Taylor has a way with words, as well, that make reading her novels extra enjoyable.

I highly advise reading book one in this series first, if you have not, because – as I said – book two does follow immediately after, and you’ll get all the proper introductions to the regular characters. Book two ends on a slight cliffhanger (in comparison to the last book’s shocking conclusion), and I am eagerly awaiting book three.

I received a complimentary copy of this book. That had no influence on my enjoyment and positive recommendation.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Negatives

I’m sure that tucked into photo envelopes here and there throughout my house and my mom’s, we have negatives that need to be scanned and preserved before they’re any more scratched and damaged than they probably already are.

That’s not the negative that I’m going to talk about today.

The current negatives in my life are mostly to do with my health.

I know I’m blessed to be recovering well from my thyroid cancer surgery and radioactive iodine treatment. I don’t know if the lack of energy I have sometimes is fallout from those things or the fact that, most weekdays I spend fully half the day getting ready for work, driving to work, working, and driving home (and the commute is under 15 minutes one way). At least I have the overtime to help pay the medical bills.

Something weird, though, happened the other day, and it really has me down. Here’s the sequence of events. on Sunday, April 24th, I worked noon to 10:45 p.m. I ate cereal for breakfast around 8:30 a.m., followed by lunch at 11:00 a.m., and a salad for dinner at work about 6:30 p.m. When I got home at nearly 11:00 p.m., I wasn’t hungry, so I didn’t think about having a snack or dessert. About midnight, as I was winding down, I suddenly found myself ravenously hungry, but I didn’t want to eat and lie down, so I didn’t eat.

This is not my head. It’s from Wikimedia. © Nevit Dilmen

I would guess it was about 2:15 a.m. when I awoke feeling like I was going to throw up. I hurried to the bathroom and stood in front of the sink, where I coughed a couple of times, but I didn’t vomit. Then I felt faint, so I sat down on the toilet and pulled the trash can over in front of me. I realized the garbage needed to go out, because it stank, so I pushed it away. I sat for a few minutes until I felt better, then I stepped over to the sink and washed my face. I remember catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror and thinking, “Wow, I look really pale.” Next thing I knew, I was waking up on the floor.

The crash woke up my husband, who came in as I was coming to.

“What happened?” He asked as I lay on the floor.

I blinked up at him and said, “I guess I passed out.”

He helped me get up and I could already feel the aches and pains. I’m 56 years old, and the fall crunched my 5-foot length into a 3-foot space. My bones were not happy. Tim helped me into the bedroom, brought me water, fed me a few Jelly Babies and -at my insistence- a slice of bread. He kept asking if I wanted to go to the E.R., but I didn’t. I wanted to go back to sleep and feel better in the morning.

I hurt in the morning, and I already had an appointment for bloodwork for the thyroid thing. I said what I really wanted was to go to the chiropractor, but I kept thinking about this news item I’d seen years ago, about this lady’s parents suing her chiropractor because she went for an adjustment after an accident and what she didn’t know (according to the lawsuit) was that her neck was fractured, and the chiropractor adjusted her neck and she died. So, I didn’t want to die on the off chance I had injured myself worse than I thought, so I called my chiropractor to ask if they could arrange for an x-ray, which they did, so I had the x-ray, and I had the blood drawn, and we went to Culver’s and ordered food, and while I was waiting for Tim to come out with the brown bag so we could go to the park and eat, the chiropractor’s office called and said the radiologist said I had an unstable fracture in my neck and I should go to the E.R.

So, we drove to the nearest hospital, and I thought we’d eat before we walked in, but Tim dropped me off at the door with my food, and I got inside and the sign said, “Don’t eat or drink until you see the doctor” so that was that. I checked in and they put a brace around my neck and laid me out on a gurney.

They never would order a copy of the x-rays, though; they like to charge you for their own tests, so the doctor ordered a CT scan, and I got wheeled over for that (watching the ceiling tiles roll by like I was in a horror movie) and if my neck was broken, it would have been broken worse by the time I maneuvered myself from the gurney to the CT scan table and back.

They never put me in a room; I guess April 24th was a big day for E.R. visits, so I lay on my gurney in the hall and waited. Tim went to a doctor’s appointment that he had scheduled (he said he’d cancel and stay with me, but I told him to go). He ate his food (and part of mine, because it was just going to go bad), and returned in time for the doctor to say – basically – “Nothing’s broken. Go home and take some Tylenol.”

The thing is, I’d’ve felt a lot better if the doctor could have taken five minutes to get my x-rays and compare them to the CT scan so he could tell me why the x-ray looked like an “unstable fracture” and the CT scan was all clear. What was it the radiologist saw? I’ll never know, and of course, the chiropractor still won’t see me, because the x-ray showed my neck was fractured. (I did send over the CT scan, but like me, they have their doubts).

The E.R. doctor didn’t say not to go to work, so I did on Tuesday. I was allowed to work from home but after 10 hours and 15 minutes plus a 30 minute lunch break, I thought I was going to die. I got permission to work half days the rest of the week, and that helped. I was able to leave early on Monday (8 hours) and Tuesday (6.5 hours), and my schedule was different Wednesday through Friday anyway, so that I didn’t have to put in more than 8 hours. Sure, I probably could have called in sick all the time, I have plenty of vacation time if I used up my sick days, but for a number of reasons, I felt a responsibility to be there. (I’ve always been like that; for years I barely used any sick days at all, because I feel guilty when I call in.)

Just sitting here typing this up is putting an ache on me, so I’m going to wrap up.

I have been lucky with my health most of my life, so I think that makes the past six months that much more frustrating. I suppose if these are the worst health negatives I have, then it’s not really so bad. The doctors told me the kind of cancer I had was the “best” kind, so to speak, because it’s so easily treated. I could have broken my neck when I fell and ended up paralyzed or even dead. Hopefully, this is the worst I’ll have to deal with for a long time.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: How Do You Spell That?

This prompt (from Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors Challenge) immediately conjured up several thoughts.

Typing it, I remembered the old riddle: Railroad crossing, look out for the cars. Can you spell that without any Rs?*

I’m also reminded of people chuckling at me because saying my name and then immediately spelling it comes naturally when you grow up with a name like Auriette Hahn. Even my married surname has to be spelled, because Lindsey can also be Lindsay or Linzey.

My maternal grandmother’s maiden name is Stevens. The death record for James William “Billie” Stevens says his parents were Bill Stevens and Mollie Reed. The marriage record for her grandparents names them as William A. Stephens and Mary Reid.

As I was growing up, Mary Reid was always referred to as Grandma Muterspaugh, her married name from her third husband. That one took me a long time to learn how it was spelled, and I don’t think I ever really understood how she fit into the family until I began this hobby of genealogy.

Billie’s wife, Mary Elizabeth “Mollie” Pittman, was the daughter of Isaac Pittman, sometimes spelled Pitman.

My paternal grandmother was born Malzie Elizabeth Silcox, which in the records of her ancestors is sometimes spelled Sylcox or Silcocks or Silkcox or Silcock or Sillcock.

I have a Stephens or Stevens on my dad’s side as well. John Jordan (or Jurdan) Cooper married Arminta (or Armenta) Stephens in 1857. A doctor wrote about Arminta’s family in a medical journal, spelling the name sometimes with a V and sometimes with a PH in the same article.

And then there’s the Rainey clan. Or Raney. Or Rainy. Or Rayney. Or Raynie. I have them on my mother’s side, and my husband has them on his mother’s side. I tend to think this is why his mother and my mother are DNA cousins (19 cM), although I haven’t found the connection yet.

It occurs to me that looking up ancestors – whether you’re using a genealogy website or Google – is rather like the popular internet game of Wordle. It’s a logic game of remixing the letters until you find the records that can help you fill in the blanks in your family tree.

*For those who never heard that railroad crossing riddle before, the answer is T-H-A-T.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Check It Out

Faithful readers, I’ve told you before that my mother instilled in me a love of books and reading. It’s one of the best gifts a parent can give a child, I think. This week’s #52Ancestors prompt got me thinking about books and libraries – and that reminded me of a dark moment from my childhood.

We couldn’t always afford to buy books, certainly not new. That’s not to say that I never got new books, I did – I have a whole set of Ladybird classics for children that mom bought me weekly in Scotland, and I think most, if not all my Little Golden Books were new, because they were inexpensive. We also picked up books at yard sales and library sales as well. When I was in middle school we lived right down the street from a used bookstore where I got some of my first science fiction books, as well as my first historical romance novel – “The Pretty Horse-Breakers” by Barbara Cartland. I selected it because it had a horse on the cover and the word horse in the title, and I found that I really enjoyed them, partly for the horses, but also because of the descriptions of the fancy dresses they wore to balls.

As many books as we owned, though, we read many more on loan from the library. When we lived in Kirkland, while my dad was stationed in Seattle, I think we lived within walking distance of the library, and we went regularly. As I grew up, I read many Black Stallion novels and Marguerite Henry horse books and Robert Heinlein’s juveniles because I could get them from the library. I think I checked out “Brave New World” (now on some banned lists!) from the school library; that may have been in high school, but I’m not sure.

When we came back to Pensacola, when I was going into 10th grade, we got library cards and mom and I would come home with stacks of books to read. And here’s where things get disturbing.

My mother checked out a craft book on her library card. It was about wood appliques. I don’t remember much about it except that the author-artist had decorated her own coffin (planning ahead) with little wooden cutouts. My mom was fascinated by this book. When time was up, she checked it out again on my library card.

And she decided she wanted to keep it. On MY library card!

She didn’t steal it, per se. She told the library it was lost, and she paid for it. For decades I lived in fear that I’d be turned away next time I tried to renew my card. “You can’t be trusted with our books,” they’d say. Fortunately, they didn’t take my library card away, and the next time I applied for a new one, I guess they had left all those old records behind when they computerized, and they never questioned me.

I mean, if she’d only “lost” it on HER library card, that wouldn’t be so bad, I guess. I’m only writing about this now because she did pay for it, and even if she had stolen it, I think the statue of limitations would keep me from getting arrested.

Or, rather, keep her from getting arrested, because even though she’s turning 85 this week, I would roll over her in a heartbeat.

I turn my library books back in.

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Book Review: The Physician’s Dilemma

K. Lyn Smith became one of my favorite authors when I read the first book in this series, “The Astronomer’s Obsession.” Smith’s newest tale, “The Physician’s Dilemma” is similar in all the best ways. The heroine, Charlotte Grace, has worked for years alongside her father, a doctor. It’s a career for which she has passion and commitment. When her father retires, she quickly realizes she will have to give up her dream, because in Regency England, the idea of a woman doctor is unfathomable.

Enter Dr. Julian Grey, a physician who once studied with Charlotte’s father. He knows how talented and knowledgeable Charlotte is, but he also knows he’ll be a laughingstock if he suggests a woman can practice medicine. The two end up butting heads more often than not, but he and his friend Alexander Marchand (from the second novel in the series, “The Artist’s Redemption”) are willing to give Charlotte a rare opportunity to practice her craft.

The main thing I love about this book is how Charlotte Grace doesn’t care what others think – about her appearance, her choice to work, or her decision not to get married. She’s confident and comfortable with who she is. She has an abundance of care for others and a thirst for knowledge about how best to treat ailments.

I also appreciate the reasons why Charlotte and Dr. Grey don’t think they can ever be together – personally or professionally. I like how Smith develops the supporting cast by giving them quirks, personality traits, and little characteristics like the descriptions of their hair. She also delivers a few small callbacks to the previous books without being heavy-handed. If you haven’t read the previous books, you’ll be fine here, although I heartily recommend reading them in order.

I am grateful that I received a free review copy of this book, giving me the chance to read it before publication. I am leaving this review voluntarily and all opinions are genuine reflections of my enjoyment of the book and the series.

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#52Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Sisters

When I read this prompt from Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, I thought of a few ancestors who had sisters, but my mind kept going back to a cousin I doubt that I ever met. I have a first cousin once removed on my dad’s side who is a nun.

Jenny McClarin is the daughter of Margaret Silcox McClarin, my paternal grandmother’s sister. She was born in Texas and lived up north while my family was moving around with the Navy. That’s why I say I probably never met her. We missed so many family gatherings when I was growing up and traveling with the Navy.

My mom talks to her mother, and that’s how I found out that Jenny is a nun. My mom didn’t find out many details, though; all she could tell me is that Jenny is in a convent or something like that up north somewhere. They grow and sell vegetables, my mom thought, and the sisters have very little contact with the outside world, just the occasional phone call home.

Now, yes, I could have called my Aunt Margaret and started grilling her, but I thought I’d try a Google search to see if I could find out more, and I was very pleased to find a whole page devoted to Jenny’s investiture.

We are close in age, Jenny and I, and reading over her biography, we would have had some things to talk about. She loved horses, as I did, although she actually got to have not one horse but two. She traveled the world because of her father’s job, as did I. She also loved music and took piano lessons. After college she worked as the editor of “Builder News Magazine” and reviewed mystery novels for “Booklist Magazine.” She worked in public relations for a time. I, too, am a journalist who has occasionally crossed over to work in public relations. I’ve reviewed books – including a few mystery novels – for several websites.

The article on Jenny’s investiture goes on to say that she converted to Catholicism in 2006 and entered the Abbey of Regina Laudis as a postulant in 2013. In December 2016, the Abbey celebrated her Monastic Investiture as Sister Christopher.

Detail of Window at Abbey of Regina Laudis

The Abbey is located in Bethlehem, Connecticut. According to their website, they have workshops for wood turning, candle making, soap making, pottery, and blacksmithing. They raise Belted Galloway cattle for beef and leather, and sheep for wool and sheepskins. They have dairy cows as well, and use the milk for making cheese, as featured in the Netflix series “Cooked.” They also, as my mother said, tend to vegetable gardens and fruit plots but from what I can tell that seems to be more a source for their own meals rather than something they sell.

They have a theatre, though it appears to be closed now because of the pandemic; the last production listed is “Godspell” performed in 2019, and in non-pandemic years, they display an 18th-century carved nativity scene featuring 68 figures.

It sounds like a peaceful life filled with hard work, prayer, and artistic creations. My Google search also turned up a blog post with a photo of my cousin feeding a wild bird out of her hand. I don’t know what drew my cousin – now Sister Christopher – to that life, but in this fast-paced, stressful modern world, I can certainly see its appeal.

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