Sunday, June 28, 2015

52 Ancestors #26: Writing a Family History

Ancestor: Robert Muir (c1800-1869)

As many of you know, I've been writing a book about the descendants of Robert and Henrietta (Brown) Muir, my three times great grandparents, since October 2014, including their 13 children, 78 grandchildren and as many other generations as I can trace. I promised my father I would write it because it was his only line he couldn't research as they originated from Scotland. Since Dad did much of his research pre-Internet, that made it hard. As a result he didn't know much about his maternal grandfather's side of the family.

Early on, I decided not to copyright or charge for my Muir book because my research has been so enriched by collaboration with cousins or descendants of "by marriage" families from many different countries -- Scotland, Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, and New Zealand. I also knew I wanted it to be an electronic book people could download as they found it on the Internet. But how to go about it?

After several false starts -- me fighting with and swearing at several different publishing software packages -- I decided to write the book using a publishing platform I knew well, a blog: The Robert Muir Family.

Home page of the Robert Muir Family blog; the pages changes day-to-day
as I publish one or two posts per day

The Sources page includes a bibliography of the general sources I used in my research. At the end of each post, I include a list of sources specific to each person. At the end of each volume is a Sources post. I copy-and-paste all the sources from the individual people posts to that page. It is published as a post at the end of each volume. The People page includes links to indexes of people contained in each volume and a list of people (and links) to people in the volume I am currently writing. As I complete each volume, I include an Index post at the end and copy-and-paste the index I've been maintaining on the People page to that post. Then I delete the completed people links from this page, and add a link to the post under the appropriate volume number heading. The Family Tree page includes links to my trees on and The Books page includes links to completed electronic book volumes, downloadable genealogy reports, and an errata listing of things I've learned since I published the electronic book. The blog is updated to include all of the information contained in the errata so I can republish any volume whenever I would like to do so and it is up to date. If I republish a volume, I'll delete the errata information.

The errata information for Volume I; all of that information has been
included in new or updated blog posts dated on the appropriate date so
the newly discovered information appears in the correct order on blog and
in any electronic volume I choose to republish

A blog as a publishing platform has pros and cons:

I tag each post with only one category. Doing so enables me to create "mini" volumes in the future about specific topics, such as ancestral military service. These are the categories on which I've settled:

Categories used to tag posts on the Robert Muir Family blog

I've numbered each ancestor (direct and collateral) by generation and by birth order in the family, using a simple outline format. Spouses have the same number as the ancestor to which they married. For example, my great great grandfather, James Muir, has the number 2.12 as he is the second generation and 12th in the birth order. His children become 2.12.1 through 2.12.11 and so on. After writing about my ancestor and their spouse(s), I write a "Children of" post and list all their known children in birth order. If they lived to adulthood, I simply write their stories will be detailed in future posts. If they did not, I write about them on the "Children of" post. Here's an example:

Narrative for a person who did not live to adulthood

As I write about a family group, I add them to my tree on Here I maintain only birth, death, and marriage dates, along with the source citations for each. I keep my full tree on, but wanted anyone who was interested to be able to access the tree without paying. I include a link to each person on that tree. The downside to this, as I recently discovered, is someone may come along later and delete or change your information. It's what I hate about the "one-tree" concept.

As I write about each person and publish the post, I add a link to the blog Index page and to the person on my and pages. I hope others researching the same people will click on the link and discover the blog/books.

Originally, I intended to publish one electronic book but after writing about Robert and Henrietta's oldest daughter, her husband and known descendants, I realized one book would run to a few thousand pages and be too large for "blog-to-print" applications to handle well. So I decided to publish in volumes. One for each child of Robert and Henrietta Muir who lived to adulthood and had known descendants. That means eight volumes. I have completed two volumes and am currently writing and posting the third volume. I wish I was halfway through! Maybe by the end of this year...

Cover of Descendants of Robert Muir: Volume II; this
volume took 4 months to write, included 263 posts about
231 people

As I complete each volume, I donate an electronic copy to the Library of Congress and to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. I also send electronic books to the appropriate local history or genealogical society, depending on where people covered in that volume lived.

I think research is only half of what a family historian does. If we don't share our work in a blog or book, we're leaving the job, avocation, or obsession half complete. We must share what we know for future generations. Who knows? Someone who may not even yet be born may find your work and carry it forward.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Halfway.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

An American's Experience During World War I

Alexander Hutchison was my first cousin twice removed and served as a private with the 314th Engineers Regiment, which was attached to the 89th Division during World War I. Among the Missouri State Archives holdings is a pamphlet entitled, From Camp Funston to the Rhineland with the 314 Engineers, 89th Division, Army of the United States, 1917-1918.

After reading this pamphlet, I learned the 89th Division was organized in 1917 and most of the men were drawn from Kansas, Missouri, Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota, Arizona, and New Mexico. Specifically, the men of the 314th Regiment came principally from Missouri. Alexander was inducted into the Army on 2 April 1918, left camp and traveled to Europe via Hoboken, New Jersey, and Halifax, Nova Scotia, for England aboard the S/S Carpathia. They arrived in Liverpool on 24 June and went by train the same day to Winchester Rest Camp. Four days later they entrained for Cherbourg, disembarking on 29 June and marched to an American rest camp in the vicinity of Cherbourg. On 30 June they entrained for the Training Area, arriving 2 July at Humberville and marched to quarters.

A vigorous course of training was undertaken. The 89th Division was the first American division to move up to the line by truck transportation. They relieved the 82nd American Division in the Lucey Sector northwest of Toul. During their relief of the 82nd, central parts of the sector were subjected to a severe bombardment of mustard gas by the Germans. It was the 89th's baptism of fire.

The Engineers regiment was stationed at Lagney, near division headquarters, and spent most of its time working on construction of a second position, or main line of resistance, constructing strong points, building concrete pillboxes, dugouts, putting up entanglements and in gas-proofing dugouts and doing other engineer work in the front line position.

On the morning of 12 September 1918, the 89th Division commenced its first offensive, in company with three other divisions, they began the St. Mihiel Offensive. The division captured all of its objectives and established its record as a reliable fighting division. The Engineers were assigned to each infantry brigade for wire cutting, demolition, forward road work.

314th Engineers Regiment stringing barbed wire during the St. Mihiel
Offensive; photograph courtesy of (original source unknown)

The general situation on 1 November 1918 was the the enemy was endeavoring to withdraw from France and Belgium and was using desperate efforts to stop the pressure coming up from the south and applied by the American Army. If the Americans were permitted to get to the Meuse, it was clear they could cut important southern railways the Germans needed for their retreat. The 89th Division jumped over the top of the trenches that morning; by afternoon the Heights of Barricourt were in their possession. It is said that Marshall Foch stated, when he received this news, "the war is over." The fighting continued day and night but the Germans were pushed across the Meuse.

During the battle the Engineers were on road construction and maintenance, doing emergency work necessary to ensure the advance of artillery and ammunition and rationing of the troops. Bridges were rebuilt, old roads repaired, new ones made and information secured in regard to Meuse river crossings. Foot bridges for the passage of the infantry were built at Stenay and near Pouilly, two pontoon rafts were constructed, ferrying two infantry regiments across the the Meuse the night of November 10-11. A floating balk and chess bridge was also built.

After Armistice Day, the 89th Division entered Germany on 4 December and became an occupation army stationed neard Kyllburg. The Engineers' work involved building construction, supervision of public utilities and repair and maintenance of roads.


From Camp Funston to the Rhineland with the 314th ENgineers,: 89th Division, Army of the United States, 1917-1919, (Trier, Germany, 89th Division, 1919), 8 pages

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Sibling Problem

My grandfather was Gustav "Gust" Lange. He immigrated to Canada in 1911 after working for five years in Essen, Germany, to save money for his passage and send money back to his widowed mother and younger siblings. Gust was born 12 February 1888 (using the Gregorian calendar) in what is today known as Zamosty, Volyn', Ukraine, but at the time of his birth was in the Volhynia region of Russia.

This photograph was taken circa 1906 before Gust left home for German;
he is the oldest boy in a three-piece suit, holding a book in his left hand;
photograph from my personal collection

As you can see, the photo includes Gust, his mother, three sisters and three brothers. And that is the problem. The information from my Mom is that he had two sisters and four brothers.

Carl and Caroline (Ludwig) Lange

Frankly, none of the sons look to be only two years younger than Gust. And perhaps the infant, Fred, is not in the photograph, but that still doesn't explain the extra sister. Where to go from here?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

52 Ancestors #25: Working with Land Patents and Plat Maps

Ancestors: Herbert Bartist Beck (1889-1981) and Jane (Muir) Beck (1894-1990)

My great grand aunt, Jane (Muir) Beck, was the youngest child of James and Margaret (Semple) Muir. My grandmother always called her Aunt Janie. Janie's grandfather, father, and most of her brothers were coal miners but Janie married a farmer, Herbert Bartist Beck on 20 June 1912 at Lebanon, Illinois. Herbert had been living and working on his brother, John's, farm. They had two children in Illinois, Thelma Christena and John Wesley Beck.

Herbert's brother had been out west with his uncle. He and his wife decided to move to Montana and homestead land in 1918. Herbert and Janie followed them a few years later. They took a train from Illinois and arrived in Roy, Montana, on 7 April 1923.

Roy, Montana, circa 1916; photograph courtesy of the Bureau of Land

In two separate transactions with the General Land Office, Herbert Beck acquired nearly 425 acres of land in two counties.
  • 17 October 1928: 
    • Southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 27 in Township 20 north, Range 24 east
  • 26 September 1928: 
    • South half of the northeast quarter of section 34 in Township 20 north, Range 24 east
    • Southeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 31 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • West half of the southeast quarter of section 32 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • East half of the southwest quarter of section 32 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • Southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of section 32 in Township 20 north, Range 25 east
    • Lot 4 of section 5 in Township 19 north, Range 25 east
    • Lot 1 of section 6 in Township 19 north, Range 25 east
These are the legal descriptions found on a land patent of parcels of land identified using the cadastral survey system, which was used by the United States federal government when Montana was surveyed and is still in use today. A township was 6 square miles and contained 36 one-square mile sections, or 640 acres. A quarter of a quarter section was 40 acres.

Map of lands surveyed by the government using the cadastral system;
courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management

Townships were arranged north and south along the principal meridian and ranges, east and west along the baseline. Once you know the section, township, and range numbers, there are several apps that enable you to view the land as it is today to gain a better understanding of where your ancestors lived. Plat maps have become favorites of mine and I collect them for the places my ancestors lived.

Township/Range map of Fergus County, Montana, c1916.
Township 20N/Range 24E is the square with Crooked and Antelope creeks
on the upper left. Township 20N/Range 25E is to the right. Below them are
Township 19N/Range 25E is on the lower right. Map courtesy of the Montana
Memory Project.

Township/Range maps can be found on the Bureau of Land Management's General Land Records website. Click the Survey Plats and Field Notes link and enter the legal description of the land. From the search results page, I click the Plat image icon and scroll down to the bottom of the page and generate a PDF document.

Original survey of Township 20N/Range 24E, dated 1914. Herbert Beck
owned the south half of the northeast quarter of Section 34. Image courtesy
of the Bureau of Land Management

I've drawn the south half of Section 34 on the image so you can better understand how the subdividing of sections work.

The northeast quarter of Section 34 divided into quarters and a south half

Here is what the south half of the northeast quarter of Section 34 in Township 20N/Range 24E looks like today from a satellite:

Satellite view from Google Earth

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Old Homestead.

A first-hand account of what life was like on a homestead in Montana may be found here. It was written my great grand aunt and uncle, Herbert and Jane (Muir) Beck's daughter.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

An Homage to Mom

Today would have been Mom's 85th birthday. We lost her on 9 September 2014. About the time she decided to no longer fight her illness, I started thinking about how to decorate one of our guest rooms. I found myself drawn to a style and colors that were so not me. Why?

Mom had an innate sense of style and, though was never formally trained, was one of the best people I'd ever met when making a house into a beautiful home. Mom's style was more formal and more French than my own and she would, on occasion, sacrifice comfort for pretty, which I try very hard not to do. But I definitely got the gene she had to want to create beautiful spaces. I still know she was better at it than me.

Mom loved blues and lavenders. I love green. She loved traditional furniture styles. I'm a transitional, eclectic kind of person. So when I finished putting my inspiration board together for the guest room, I could only shake my head. What was I doing? Channeling Mom?

My inspiration board, something I do for every decorating project. It's
not a literal plan for the room but more about the mood I want to create.

The foyer, living room and dining room in Mom and Dad's first home was lilac. I remember because I sat on the paint can in my best Sunday dress (with Mom's hand stitched smocking on the bodice) just after Dad put the lid back on the can. Mom was NOT happy. Is that the memory from where the wall color came?

The wall color is Benjamin Moore Affinity Inspired, not exactly lilac but
the millwork isn't quite Mom either

But she did love millwork. She and Dad installed it in their home in Vienna, Virginia, and in North Carolina. She even papered the dining room panels in the Vienna home with green moire silk. I'd like to think mine wasn't so French. Recently, though Pete and I had dinner in a swanky French restaurant, and the walls in our dining enclave looked like our guest room. So who knows.

My family before a wedding in a Mom-designed living room in Vienna,
Virginia, in 1974

Mom would have enjoyed selecting all the fabrics for our middle bedroom. But I had to do it alone because Mom died before the room was finished.

Fabric for Roman shades, drapes, duvet cover, pillow shams, and chair pad

I walk past the almost finished room -- the shades need to go back and be reworked and the chair pad is remains on order -- and I am still confused why it turned out to be a room that is so not me. So formal and no green. My only answer it was an unconscious homage to my mother. It is the favorite room in my home.

Almost completed guest room

So if you are ever an overnight guest in our home, ask for Mom's room, I'll know what you mean.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Cousins' Reunion

After meeting at three funerals in less than a year, my first cousins and I decided we had to stop meeting like that and have a Cousins' Reunion. My Mom was one of nine children. In addition to my two brothers, I have 13 first cousins on the Lange side of the family -- two are double first cousins as my Mom and her sister married brothers. At lunch after Uncle Philip's funeral, we planned a June reunion at my home. Sadly we had another funeral reunion on June 7 after losing Aunt Iva.

We got together the following weekend on June 13 with several cousins, spouses and their children.  The winner for the longest trip was my cousin Joann, who flew in from Montana! I hope we've started a tradition.

Here are some of my favorite photographs of the day.

Lange first cousins

Most of the  reunion attendees (four generations); we had some escapees
between photographs!

Looking through old photographs

Sharing a laugh


Getting reacquainted


Oldest attendee

Youngest attendee

Sunday, June 14, 2015

52 Ancestors #24: Memories Are My Favorite Heirlooms

Ancestor Name: Charles Theodore JENNINGS (1931- ) and Dorothy Ailein (LANGE) Jennings (1930-2014)

I've never been much of an heirloom keeper. I love beautiful things, don't get me wrong; but I like things to have a purpose or enrich my interior surroundings in some way. When my parents decided to move to an assisted living facility, they asked my brothers and me to sell their home. Mom was extremely practical and for years had been asking us to identify what we wanted. So when the time came, the few things each of us desired were easy to divide. But what my brothers and I treasure most are the memories.

Of weekend drives on the Skyline Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My middle brother, me and my Mom at an overlook somewhere along
the Skyline Drive

Of vacations visiting family.

Mom and my middle brother visiting my aunt and uncle in Florida

Of Easter Sundays paying our respects to our deceased grandparents.

My family (before our young brother was born) on
Easter Sunday visiting the graves of my maternal
grandparents at Trinity Memorial Cemetery in
Waldorf, Maryland

Easter Sunday visiting the grave of my paternal Grandfather at National
Memorial Park in Falls Church, Virginia

Of Christmas dinners.

Christmas dinner (the children's table); photograph taken at my parents'
home in North Carolina in 1983

Of family reunions.

Lange first cousins; photograph taken on Christmas Eve at the home of my
maternal grandparents

Lange family reunion; photograph taken at my parents home in 1970

Of our baby brother joining the family.

From left to right: my middle brother, me, my Mom, and our new brother

Of our parents unswerving love for each of us. Those memories are my most treasured heirlooms and will live in my heart forever.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Heirloom.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Unraveling Henry's Children: Mary Inez Muir (1922-2002)

I've written about my grand uncle, Henry Muir before. He has been an enigma wrapped inside a riddle for a long time. Slowly, much more than I would like, a bit more becomes revealed...a record discovered, a connection made, a grandchild reaches out on this blog or my Facebook page asking questions or providing a snippet of new information.

Henry Muir was my paternal grandmother's oldest brother. He was born in 1903 and died in 1986. I think she would have liked to have loved him more but she really didn't know him very well. My grandmother and Henry went to live with their paternal grandmother, Margaret (Semple) Muir, after their mother died in 1909. Henry was 6 and Grandma was 3 years old.

Margaret (Semple) Muir died in 1920, leaving Henry and my grandmother to make their own way in the world. Henry must have gone to his father in West Virginia, and Grandma bounced around between some of her Muir aunts and uncles before going to War, West Virginia. I believe it was not far from where her father and his second family lived as one of her half-sisters was born in Tralee, West Virginia, that same year. But where exactly the family was, or Henry, my grandmother's brother, in 1920, I have no idea. They remain resolutely hidden in the 1920 census.

On 29 June 1921 Henry Muir and Mary Canterbury received a marriage license, permitting them to marry. They were married on 3 July in Walls Creek, West Virginia, deep in the heart of coal mining country in McDowell County. He was 18 years old and she was 16; neither had been married before.

Their only known child, Mary Inez Muir was born on 8 November 1922 in Buchanan County, Virginia. Her parents divorced before 1926 as her mother had married or was living with Lee Collins in Sandy River, West Virginia. They had two daughters of their own, born in 1926 and 1930.

Mary Inez Muir as a child on the left and her mother holding
an infant named Bill. The photograph was shared by Ancestry
member IndianaJanne. I have no idea how Bill fits into the
family tree.

Henry, meanwhile, migrated or fled (depending one which family story you believe) to Louisiana where he married to Armitar Alleman in 1930 and lived in East Baton Rouge. Henry worked as an electrician.

So Mary Inez, while not abandoned by her parents, was perhaps made to feel a bit less important than her half siblings, who happened to be the children of the spouse, who turned out not to be a lasting wife either as Armitar and Henry divorced sometime after 1944.

When Mary Inez was 16 years old she and George Bruster or Brewster applied for a marriage license in McDowell County, West Virginia. I don't think we can really appreciate what this area was like back then. In 1940, it was a boomtown. Now it is a depressed, has-been sort of place with a population of less than 2,500 -- a one-industry town when coal isn't politically in favor with the current crop of politicians because it is a dirty kind of energy.

Welch, West Virginia on a Sunday afternoon in 1946; photograph courtesy
of Wikipedia

I do not believe Mary Inez and George actually married, however, as the minister's return portion of the form was not completed. Mary went on to marry Miles Henry Blankenship and had four sons. When she left him, she split up her children, taking the two oldest, leaving one with her mother, and the youngest with her husband. That child was raised by his paternal grandparents and an aunt. In 1947 Mary Inez applied for the Social Security insurance program and did not list the names of her parents on the form. Did she remember them? She also used the Muir surname. Had she already left Miles Blankenship just a year after their youngest child was born?

I have recently been in contact with a granddaughter who loved her very much...and may I say thank goodness someone did. Her granddaughter credits Mary Inez with helping her survive the death of her older brother at the age of 21...something you must admit is in no way a normal event and must have been very tragic.

Her granddaughter believed, Mary Inez Muir married as many as nine times...and that's taught me a couple of other lessons: 1) If she was married that many times, I may not be the one that finds all the records; someone in the future will sort it out as more records become available. 2) The number of marriages a person may enter into is in no way a reflection of their innate character; it may just be a comfortable escape mechanism and 3) Perhaps a new husband is just plain fun for some period of time!

I admit I might be a tad jealous. I'm not sure I could have ever convinced nine men to propose during my life time! So my hat is off to Mary Inez. But especially for earning the love of her granddaughter. Hearing and being able to share her stories made me proud to be a family historian.

However, I believe at this time Mary Inez Muir was married five times:
  1. Miles H. Blankenship, born 1914, married abt 1940; four children. Miles served in the U.S. Navy during World War II; never remarried; and died in 1983. 
  2. Hubert C. Lemaster, divorced in 1971. I have no information on his birth or death dates or anything about him other than a divorce index record.
  3. Eugene Guy Gribble, born 1914, married 1972, died 1993; served as a Private First Class in the U.S. Army during World War II. At the time they married both said they had been married twice before.
  4. Coy Franklin Hicks, married in 1994. I have no information on his birth or death dates or anything about him other than a marriage index record.
  5. William Moore and Mary Inez were married in 1997; she died in 2002. Mary indicated she had been married four times previously.
I believe five marriages because of the marriage record to William T. Moore indicated four previous marriages. But a woman has been known to fib about her age, so it's possible there are another four marriages to chase. What do you think?

27 July 2015 Update: Thanks to the release of the US, Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, I have learned about two additional husbands:

  • In July 1966, a name change form was submitted to the Social Security Administration (SSA) changing her name to Mary Inez Stacy
  • In May 1967, a name change form was submitted to SSA changing her name to Mary Inez Carlisle
Name changes were also submitted for her marry Hubert Lemaster, Eugene Gribble, and Coy Hicks.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Guest Blog: Leber’s Optic Atrophy

By Sarah Semple

My dad came from good working class stock.  He was the fourth child of five and there was nearly a six year gap between him and his next older sibling. His mother decided to hold him back from going to school until his younger brother was old enough, so that the two siblings could keep each other company.  Dad had very little in common with his youngest sibling who was always getting into strife.  But being dad, he just went with the flow and didn’t question the decision.

Dad was a good sportsman, an average performer at school and had decided to become a teacher. He was 19 years of age, in his second year of teacher training when something extraordinary happened to him.  He lost his eye-sight.  He lost the sight in one eye in January 1954 and then the other in May 1954.  The medical system couldn’t explain it.  He could see nothing in front of him, and just shapes in his peripheral vision.  He spent 10 weeks in hospital and was told that his eyesight was bad but it wouldn’t get any worse.

Life was turned on its head.  He had to withdraw from teacher training and his beloved sport.  He lay in the hospital bed feeling very sorry for himself.  To cut a long story short, he heard a girl come in to his ward and tell people to breathe in and out.  He thought that this sounded like an easy job and enquired about it.  She was a physiotherapist, and he found out that there was a School for the Blind for Physiotherapy in London.  He got sponsorship from the New Zealand Foundation for the Blind and off he went -- alone on a six week boat trip, first time out of New Zealand with minimal eyesight. He had a fabulous three years training in London, establishing friendships with other blind physiotherapists that lasted a life time.

John "Jack" Alexander Semple in England, 1958; photograph courtesy of
Sarah Semple

So how does this relate to genealogy? Well, it all comes back to the rare eye disease called Leber’s Optic Atrophy.  When researching this disease, I found out that it is genetic, but that it is only passed on from the female.  So a male can inherit it (like my dad), but his children can never get it.  His sister however could both inherit the gene and develop the disease, as could her children.

So with this information, I approached a renowned Opthamologist who confirmed that as far as he knew there were only two families in New Zealand with this disease.  He had studied the other family to understand the heredity patterns of the disease.  

Jack Semple playing bowls; photograph courtesy of
Sarah Semple

I found that one of my dad’s aunts had also inherited the disease and had died after accidentally drinking a bottle of poison that she thought was a soft drink.  I also found women in dad’s family with poor eyesight that people had attributed to old age, however may well have been the same eye condition.

So when I come across or hear about people (especially young men) who lose their eyesight at an early age to Leber’s, I always ask the question… what was their mother and grandmother’s maiden names?  Chances are, we could be related.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

52 Ancestors #23: My Wedding

When my husband proposed, he thought I would want a wedding ceremony; he just hoped it would be small. His first surprise was learning I thought our parents would join us at the courthouse, witness our marriage, and we'd all go out and have a nice lunch! He couldn't believe it. I was an only daughter, surely we needed a wedding ceremony.

We compromised with a very small wedding. We mailed 16 invitations. There were 31 guests, including five children under the age of five. We were married in the historic district of New Bern, North Carolina, by my parents long-time minister. Our wedding lunch was at the historic Henderson House (which is no longer in business), and our overnight guests filled up the bed-and-breakfast across the street. My double-first cousin and best friend forever flew in from Luxembourg to be my maid of honor and Pete's Dad was his best man.

I'm on the left and my double first cousin, Joyce, is on the right

I carried a single white silk rose (Mom's idea) and wore that ivory silk suit on special occasions for several years.

Pete and his Dad, who was his best man

I did not walk down the aisle, something that terrified me. Instead, the wedding party sat on the first pew and at noon we stood up and were united in marriage. It took about 10 minutes!

Pete and I at our wedding lunch

We celebrated our 27th wedding anniversary last month. We've both changed a bit. Pete is better looking now and I, well, I went a different direction. :)

Pete's immediate family

My family

"Immediate" is a relative term for my family. My father and his brother married sisters! And we all grew up in the same town or next door. Then there was my grandmother and a beloved widowed aunt and a few other dearly loved family and friends.

This is my entry for Amy Johnson Crow's 52 ancestors in 52 weeks challenge optional theme Wedding.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Last of the Covered Wagons: Meeting a Rattlesnake

My AncestryDNA test results have led to many interesting discoveries but one of the earliest connections I figured out was with a fifth cousin once removed. Her tree included many wonderful old photographs of her mother's Beard family, the line we share, and stories they wrote. Perhaps, the most treasured outcome of this cousin connection was the gift of friendship. My "new" cousin has shared many things about her life, including a book her uncle, Clarence Mern Beard, wrote about his family's trip west in a covered wagon at the turn of the century. Railroads already linked east and west so the trip was unusual in that the family was still traveling by covered wagon in the late 1890s. She has graciously allowed me to share portions of the book on my blog.

At the time of this section of the book the family of William Adam and Emma Elizabeth (Ellison) Beard are traveling through southern Colorado headed to Pueblo.

"A gray haze blotted out the mountains; and not a tree, cliff or even a sizeable hill stood to break the monotonous expanse of the desert like plain; and only the dim outline of a trail was there to indicate our wandering course.  Near midday, as we trundled wearily along in the sizzling heat, mother suddenly grasped the left line and gave a surge which turned the horses sharply out of the road.  Quite reflexively, father recovered control of the reins; but as he did so mother cried, “Snake!” We looked and there, lying coiled on the center ridge, only two steps ahead of the team, was a monster rattlesnake.  Disturbed by the commotion, he raised his head and as he swayed from side to side, we could hear the sickening buzz of his beaded tail.

Conestoga wagon on the trail in Colorado; image courtesy
of Wikipedia

There are few sounds on earth which can so effectively send chills up and down one’s spines as the rasping whine of this warning signal; and once heard, it cannot be mistaken.  The early Americans put this hostile challenge into words and used it as a slogan which they traced on their flag: “Don’t tread on me.”  Instinctively a horse will not step on one of these creatures but in our case, since we were so close upon the reptile, the horses would have shied apart in order to straddle the spot where he lay.

Now a rattlesnake can strike half of his length repeatedly, without coiling; and the horses’ prancing feet would have been and easy target for this deadly fangs.

The monster was by that time thoroughly aroused, and began to glide toward our team ready for a fight.  But father backed the wagon into the clear and drove in a wide arc around its position.  Then armed with my snake-killing ax, he advanced upon the angry beast. But mother screamed a warning to him and he glanced down at the insignificant weapon and nodded ascent when she cried, “Take the shot gun!”  The roar of that firing piece rolled out across the prairie seeking for some object, which might hurl back an echo, but we heard only one blast.  Yet it was a loud roar for father admitted later, “I got excited and gave him both barrels!”  The snake’s head was almost completely torn away; but we stretched his writhing coils out full length and he measured over eight feet!

Great Basin Rattlesnake; photograph courtesy of the National Park Service

The great snake’s musical appendage consisted of eleven rattles and a button.  We were told that each of these beads represented a year of the serpent’s growth.  Later, father cut off these rattles and tied this chain securely to one strand of a ten-inch loop of string.  He showed me how to rotate my hands with this cord stretched tightly over my thumbs, which had been liberally sprinkled with rosin.  This vibration made the rattles sing like the old serpent himself.  However I made the mistake of testing out this device near my unsuspecting mother and she angrily tossed it into the campfire. 

As we drove on, we had the feeling that we had just awakened from a nightmare.  When we speculated upon our possible predicament, had this reptile bitten one or both of our horses, we realized how dependent we were upon our faithful team.  When we stopped later, Raleigh patted old Nance affectionately and said, “We won’t let any bad snakes bite you, no Ma’am!” Father then explained that the pioneers placed great value upon their horses since they were literally stranded when deprived of their livestock.  For that reason they hanged horse thieves with brief trials and little ceremony.

To settle our nerves after this adventure, we paused for our midday camp in the midst of a sea of flaming red and yellow cactus blossoms."

Last of the Covered Wagons: Duck and Cover

Monday, June 1, 2015

I'm Retired!

The official last day of my work career was Friday, 22 May 2015. I still remember my first-day of full-time employment began on 6 June 1977. That's 38 years! It seemed to go by in a blink of an eye and last forever at the same time.

I learned early I like working for small start-ups that had successfully negotiated the associated perils of being new and were experiencing a period of growth which was close to paralyzing them. More specialization of job functions, well-defined processes (but not too much), and strong leadership were required. I felt like I excelled when I found those types of jobs. I was lucky to do so three times in my career and they were my absolute favorite experiences.

Successfully working through that phase of a company's existence does not last forever, though. At some point the founder wants to reap his or her just reward for the sacrifices they and their family have made. So the next step is typically an acquisition. Acquisitions are leap into the unknown. A good leader needs to have change management skills to ensure their teams make positive first impressions on the new owners. They must also be an educator and advocate for their part of the business. New and different skills are frequently required of a leaders -- something you find out as you go.

The company for which I worked was acquired in 2010 by a well-led, growing, global company staffed with talented people up and down the organization chart. It was the best acquisition I ever experienced in every way. It just wasn't for me and the types of challenges I enjoy.

My team, their family and friends  at one of annual summer
get  togethers at our home; personal collection

The most important skill a leader must have is willingness to do succession planning. Those of us who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to lead people should always be working to make ourselves irrelevant to our organization. It's the only way I know to advance the careers of your staff and make your team stronger.

We were in the middle of executing a major new expansion of our product, something important to the entire company. During all the excitement, I woke up one day, looked at my calendar over coffee, and realized there wasn't one meeting I absolutely needed to attend. My team could handle every issue. I knew then it was time to begin the next chapter of my life. The team, my managers and I built over the last several years, is passionate, ambitious, and hard-charging. I've loved every minute of watching them grow and succeed. But it's time to let them take over the reins and achieve their own rewards and recognition.

My husband and I on a 2010 Chairman's Club trip to Jamaica;
photograph taken by Charles Tsui

I'm excited for them and for me!