Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New....

And Happy New Year to All of You!

Have you ever thought about the significance of something as simple as a bell? Not only were church bells of old used to announce the time to anyone within hearing distance, bells in general have been used since the earliest of times as a type of alarm, warning those nearby of things that were about to happen, things that were both "good" and some things that were "not so good." The tolling of a bell, even today, may serve as an announcement that a child has been born, a couple has just been married, or that a death has occurred. During medieval times, the simple ringing of a bell was believed to have kept evil spirits away, and it was a common practice to ring a bell at the bedside of the deceased prior to burial. In modern times, bells of all sizes, types and sounds have been used in churches, schools, and other public places. Even our doorbells and the bell that ding-dings in our cars when we don't buckle up have evolved from these early uses of bells as warning or announcement devices.

Today, bells are almost always used in even the simplest of our holiday traditions, both religious and secular. But neither Christmas nor a New Year's wish would be the same without bells.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Attala County Memories Receives Proximidade Award

Yesterday, Terry Thornton, of Hill Country of Monroe County, awarded Attala County Memories the Proximidade Award. I feel honored. Thank you, Terry!

Receipt of the Proximidade Award requires the recipient to pass the award on to eight bloggers who exemplify the language stated in the award itself. Each blogger to whom I am passing along the award is the author of a well-written blog that is charming indeed and shows the blogger's investment and true belief in proximity! A list of writers receiving the award is listed below, and I encourage you to visit their blogs and get to know the individuals who write them.

  1. Judy at Genealogy Traces
  2. Laura McQueen at The McQueen Family
  3. Amy at We Tree
  4. Elyse at Elyse's Genealogy Blog
  5. Lisa at 100 Years in America
  6. Julie at Gen Blog
  7. Elizabeth at Little Bytes of Life
  8. Tim at Walking the Berkshires

Monday, December 29, 2008

Attala County Roots Are Spread Worldwide

The year 2008 has been a fantastic year for bloggers worldwide. Not only did our country endure an election, complete with all the subject matter that makes political bloggers think they have died and gone to heaven, but we saw the election of a new President of the United States.

Political bloggers, however, were not the only ones who had an abundance of material to blog about. The year 2008 saw the beginning of an organization for geneabloggers like me, with the inception of a group named "Genea-bloggers on Facebook." Just this past October, Terry Thornton, a native Mississippian, along with another geneablogger known as footnoteMaven, established an organization known as "The Association of Graveyard Rabbits." Members of that organization are geneabloggers who write about all things cemetery-related, including the preservation of cemeteries, unique and different gravestones, the symbols on gravestones, burying traditions, and funeral customs. I am a Charter Member of that organization, as well, and I write three graveyard rabbit blogs, The Graveyard Rabbit of Attala County, The Graveyard Rabbit of Holmes County, and The Graveyard Rabbit of Madison County, sister blogs to Attala County Memories. For me, 2008 has been "The Year of the Blog."

The year 2008 must have been a good year for researching one's family roots. I base this in part on traffic to the Attala County Memories blog. Since I began posting here on July 24, 2008, I have had over 3400 visitors. Some of these visitors were likely just curious, but I believe many of them were seriously searching for information about their ancestors. As I expected, a majority of the blog's readers have come from the eastern portion of the United States, since early residents of Mississippi migrated from the northeast and the southeast. But many other readers are still arriving from all over the United States, and a fair number of readers even live outside the U. S. Our international economy has caused so many people to live in places far distant from their native county, state, or even country, but the common thread remains: they want to know about their roots. Those who continue to search for ancestors who lived in Attala County, Mississippi, prove that Attala County, like so many other early counties in the state, was only one of many places these pioneers called home as they traveled the path we call life.

Today, I thought it might be interesting for those of you who read this blog to see some of the locations of others who read it, as well. This is not an inclusive list, but it is still amazing to me that some locations are so far removed from the State of Mississippi and Attala County. And I continue to be amazed every day.

Readers of this blog are located in: Birmingham, AL, Richmond, VA, Mountain View, CA, Delhi, India, Meridian, MS, Hudson, NC, Albany, NY, Memphis, TN, Nashville, TN, Rome, GA, Cedartown, GA, Tillatoba, MS, Marietta, GA, Doddridge, AR, Bentonville, AR, Rochester, NY, Sunset Beach, CA, Jackson, MS, Tokyo, Japan, San Antonio, TX, Las Cruces, NM, Milton, FL, Gulfport, MS, Miami, FL, Wheeling, WVA, Milwaukee, WI, Humble, TX, Fredericksburg, VA, Louisville, KY, Hawaii, HI, Bogalusa, LA, Sheffield, UK, Austin, TX, Greenville, NC, Houston, TX, Biloxi, MS, Lambert, MS, Montreal, Canada, Des Moines, IA, Loire, France, Portland, OR, Seattle, WA, Bremerton, WA, Ogden, UT, Provo, UT, Palatine, IL, Josplin, MO, Cincinnati, OH, Aberdeen, MS, Louisville, KY, Itta Bena, MS, Charleston, SC, Bangkok,Thailand, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Jakarta, Micronesia, Brandon, MS, New Orleans, LA, College Station, TX, Bryan, TX, Natchez, MS, Doddridge, AR, Fort Rucker, AL, Vaughn, MS, Falls Church, VA, Lexington, MS, Burlington, NJ, Kansas City, MO, Philadelphia, MS, Bryan, TX, Bellafontaine, MS, Belleville, NJ, Rotherham, UK, Evansville, IN, Bremen, Germany, Sunnyvale, CA, Wasilla, AK, Madison, MS, Honolulu, HI, Surrey, British Columbia, Papua, New Guinea, Falkville, AL, Mobile, AL, Sarasota, FL, Flagstaff, AZ, Albuquerque, NM, Denver, CO, Melbourne, Australia, Romulus, MI, St. Paul, MN, El Paso, TX, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Paris, France.

Thank you, Readers, wherever you are, for stopping here for a while. Thank you for your comments, and thanks to several of you who sent Christmas cards. I wish for you all a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year in 2009, and I do hope you will stop by again next year.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas From Our House to Yours

Welcome to our home and Merry Christmas to you all. Take off your coat, and let's visit a while! While 2008 has not been a good year, in general, for the economy of our country, it has been a wonderful year in so many ways for us. We are happy, and we have our health. What more can we ask?

Although we admit to having missed most sunrises (sleeping in is allowed for us retirees), we have enjoyed so many beautiful sunsets, either from our patio in the early evening, or from the golf course during a round of "twilight golf." Also, we have enjoyed some wonderful visits with our families and close friends. We have each continued our other hobbies of buying and selling books and records, doing family research, and taking an occasional road trip to see something new and different.

But late this summer, I began a new hobby - blogging. And life has not been the same since! I began this blog to have a place for writing about my own family history and our ancestors who have lived in Attala County since the 1800's. Around mid-October of this year, I was invited to join The Association of Graveyard Rabbits, and before long, I had become a Graveyard Rabbit for three counties, Attala, Holmes, and Madison. Writing all four blogs has been both interesting and rewarding. I do hope that you like reading the posts as much as I like writing them. If you are already reading my blogs, thank you for doing so. I not only challenge you to continue reading, but I encourage you to send me your pictures and stories for posting here in 2009.

Since this blog is primarily about Memories, today I would like to share with you a few memories of ours, using ornaments on our Christmas tree that remind us of Christmases past.

This was a covert shot of me and the Christmas tree, taken by my HoneyBunny as I placed the last package under the tree before the first of our family gatherings took place over the weekend. Our family is no different from most these days in that we usually have more than one gathering to work around celebrations our children have planned with their spouses' families.

Terry Thornton, Founder of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits refers to his tree as one that grew in a polyester forest somewhere in China. Like Terry's, our tree "grew" in that same forest. It is a tree of convenience - that pretty much sums it up. The tree is pre-lit, it needs no water, doesn't shed needles, and it lies dormant in a box in the garage between Christmases. The only problem is that if the three sections of the tree are not plugged together in the right places, the lights won't light up. So it usually takes more time to make the lights work than it does to decorate the tree. This year we hit a bit of luck, and all the lights came on at one time. But we love the way it looks after the decorating is complete, and the lights are all twinkling.

One of my favorite things to do at Christmas is to decorate the tree. I absolutely love placing each ornament on the tree, reserving the best places for the ornaments that hold a special meaning. Two of those ornaments are the ones pictured below. The heart is symbolic of love - love that we have of God, for each other, and for our family and friends. Christmas is not Christmas without love. The other ornament is a tiny bell, decorated with shamrocks, a Belleek treasure my HoneyBunny brought back from Ireland some years ago, when he added Ballybunion to his "played list" of well-known golf courses. For him, the Ballybunion course is second only to St. Andrews, the mecca of all courses for most golfers. For me, the bell's tiny tinkle reminds me of the Bell Choir in the church where my children grew up that performs such beautiful music before Midnight Mass each year.

The two ornaments shown here each have unique meanings as well as special memories. The twin angels with bugles are one ornament given to me by my children when they were still young. They always knew the gifts that would pull my heartstrings, and this was one of those gifts that still does just that. The tiny pair of golf shoes, decorated in red and green, are special to my HoneyBunny. Not only does it remind him of his best golf score each year (this year a 74 last month on our home course, a par 72), but it also reminds him that weather before and after the Christmas season prevents him from playing as many rounds as he would like. The pair of shoes remind me of just how many pairs of real golf shoes he owns. And he told me earlier this month that he thinks he needs another pair, adding that most of his golf shoes fit him just fine, unless he is walking the course!

The picture of this beaded Christmas Nativity star does not do it justice. Just like the stars that shone over the manger in Bethlehem that Christmas so very long ago, it seems to twinkle each evening during Christmas. Every year, I add a special ornament to our collection, and I added this one about ten years ago.
The ornament here is one of my two favorite birds. But what makes it memorable is that it is the only Christmas ornament that I ever made, a product of an unsuccessful ceramic class, like the ones many of us took during the 1970's. With no chips and with its color still unfaded, the cardinal appears to be in flight and occupies a place near the top of the tree.

Our ornament collection would not be complete without the moose. This fun and unique Christmas moose, made of delicate mercury glass, was given to us by one of our daughters. Needless to say, she has a slightly wicked sense of humor, and it shows in her selection of this ornament! We've had somewhat of a problem with keeping the moose's rear end from facing outward into the room.

The gingerbread man here is an original work of art made by our youngest daughter when she was about ten years old. That year for her was the year of crewel work, counted cross-stitch, and needlework of any type. It started with a Christmas gift of a "beginner's kit," and by the next Christmas, we had all been gifted with at least one hand-made treasure, including this one. I was so proud of her!

Without a doubt, the ornaments that are the most sentimental for me are those made by my children, and two of them are pictured here. Each ornament is a reindeer made of old-fashioned clothespins, a tuft of cotton for a tail, and a red dot for a nose. The result of a family project during Christmas of 1982, each ornament bears the name of the child who made it. There is even one made by someone named "Mama."

No tree in our household would be complete without the Christmas angel gracing its top. This particular angel holds a candle in each hand and lights the way, hopefully, for many more Christmases to be celebrated and enjoyed.

I hope each of you have a Merry Christmas and a Healthy and Happy New Year. Please stop by to visit again.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Priceless Piece of Heirloom Art

Last Wednesday, I wrote a post that included a poem written by Laura McQueen and Emily Stringer, granddaughters of Anne Hughes Porter. The poem had originally appeared on the McQueen Family blog as a tribute to Mrs. Porter on her 75th birthday. Gracious southern lady that she is, Mrs. Porter thanked me for posting the poem and her picture and followed up with a Christmas card, sent as an email, that included a picture of a lovely piece of handmade art.
This piece of artwork is actually a jeweled Christmas tree, handmade by Cadman and Anne Porter, designed primarily from pieces of costume jewelry that once belonged to family members. Some other sentimental items were used, as well, including the button from the hat that was part of the "going-away" outfit worn by Mrs. Porter when she and Cadman Porter were married over 50 years ago.

A picture of this sentimental Christmas tree, compliments of Anne Hughes Porter, is included below.

The jeweled Christmas tree was created on a completely black background and was then framed. The result is a beautiful piece of original artwork, a collage of sparkling jewels, but it represents more than what the eye beholds - it represents a labor of love by two people who have preserved precious memories of those who wore the jewelry used in its creation.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

She is......Ganne.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon a family blog wonderfully developed and written by Laura McQueen, aptly entitled The McQueen Family. Laura's blog contains beautiful pictures documenting the activities of her husband and children, other family members, and her friends. As I read through Laura's well-written and entertaining blog, I found a post about her grandmother, "Ganne," as she is known to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The post contained birthday wishes to Ganne on the occasion of her 75th birthday that had occurred earlier this year. Included in the post was a poignant poem written by Laura and her sister, Emily Stringer, as a loving tribute to Ganne. Reading that poem immediately brought tears to my eyes. I felt as if I already knew and liked Laura's "Ganne" simply by reading the poem. A link to Laura's post that contains the poem and a picture of Ganne can be found at

A mention in Laura's poem that Ganne was a member of the Attala County Historical Society also caught my attention. I knew now that she lived in Attala County and was a member of the historical society there. And I still did not know Ganne's "real" name. But reading the poem had made me want to know more about Ganne and to share Laura's thoughts and feelings contained in the poem with those of you who read Attala County Memories and The Graveyard Rabbit of Attala County.

So, I didn't waste a minute in contacting Laura at the email address shown on her blog, told her how very much I had enjoyed reading her blog, including the poem, and asked if she would grant me permission to re-print the poetic and pictorial tribute to her grandmother on the Attala County Memories blog here. Laura promptly emailed me and graciously granted permission to do so. She even supplied me with another very nice picture of her lovely grandmother.

It was only in Laura's email this morning that I found out that "Ganne," is actually Anne Hughes Porter, pictured below, the author of a well-known publication about a place in Attala County, Mississippi, a book entitled "A Place called Sallis."

Anne Hughes Porter
Kosciusko, MS

Anne is also known well in Attala County, Mississippi, and elsewhere, as the individual who compiled a listing of those who are buried in Attala County's many cemeteries. I first heard about Anne's books about ten years ago, when I initially began my genealogy journey at our local LDS Family History Center. I feel fortunate that I have "chanced upon" Anne once again, this time through her granddaughter, Laura, who certainly shares "Ganne's" genes!

Below you will find a re-print of Laura McQueen's poem honoring her grandmother, Anne Hughes Porter, on the occasion of her 75th birthday:

She Is…

She is a collector.
Of Hummels and postcards and books.
Of toothpick holders and L.V.’s folk art.
She is a teacher, and although retired, you are sure to learn something when in her presence.
She is a saver. She is a pack rat, an eater-of-leftovers, a coupon-clipper, and one who freely accepts (and often requests) the senior discount.
She knows how to create her own parking space.
She says things like, “Woo Ooh!” and, “I love you a bushel and a peck,” and, “Wonder who lives here.”
Her yard is colorful with its day lilies and yard art.
She cheers for the Whippets, the Bulldogs, and sometimes, to our dismay, even the Rebels.
She is proud to be an American and flies her flag with honor.
She is true Mississippian with her magnolia tree and syrupy sweet tea.
She has a sweet tooth. You won’t find her without chocolates or mints in her purse. Her candy dish is full of M&Ms or gumdrops and there’s Neapolitan ice cream in her freezer.
She is a member, and often a leader, of groups like DAR, Cameo Society, Attala County Historical Society, Twenty-first Century Club, Little Garden Club, and Colonial Dames.
She likes things from south of the border – from chalupas and chimichangas to her favorite game, Mexican Train.
She is a “cook who cares.” She makes special treats like cocoons and "goop". She leaves the cherries out of Emily’s fruit salad; Laura’s chicken spaghetti is topped with extra cheese; and Andrew knows he can have fresh blueberries or sweet potato casserole on request.
She is up-to-date with the latest technology (if you don’t include the cell phone). Our email in-boxes are always full of interesting forwards and “personal notes”.
Her hometown is "A place called Sallis."
She is at home in Kosciusko and has great memories from Monticello and Indianola.
She is a preserver of history who has researched and written historical accounts of her hometown, her church, and her favorite organization.
She has a new room full of memories.
She has nimble fingers that quickly type, beautifully play piano, and sweetly tell “face stories.”
She is full of energy and her house is always fun. With wind-up tub toys, phone calls to the library for story time (“Hang up the phone now please.”), a yellow bicycle-built-for-two, a tree to climb, and a closet full of toys and books from decades passed.
Her sleepovers bring back sweet memories of the fold-out couch with feather pillows, stories about Duke told in a voice unsurpassed by the most famous storytellers, her silky pajamas, and cold cream good-night kisses.
She decorates for every holiday on the calendar.
She has two Christmas trees: one dedicated to family and one to the state she loves.
She wears brooches and pins, and her necklaces are works of art.
She wears socks with a ball, clip-on earrings, and a ring shaped like a butter tray. (Actually, she hasn’t worn it in quite some time…it’s just sitting in her jewelry box…maybe she should let someone wear it…someone like her second-born granddaughter who has admired it since she was very small.)
She likes a good game. She is a Wheel of Fortune fan, follows high school and college sports on the radio and TV, and has a weakness for entering contests.
She is a traveler who prefers taking the scenic route (i.e., the Natchez Trace).
She has many opinions. Sometimes she doesn’t even have to state them aloud. You can tell what she’s thinking with one look at her face – the higher the eyebrows, the stronger the opinion.
She is a celebrity. She makes regular appearances in the Star Herald.
She believes in the power of prayer and prays for her friends and family by name each day.
Three generations share her name.
She is a friend, a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother.
She is our Ganne.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Burrell Family

I just posted a picture of the gravestone of Mrs. B. J. Burrell, wife of O. R. Burrell, on The Graveyard Rabbit of Attala County blog. I have been unable to locate other information about these individuals. Census records beginning in 1870, show that Burrell family members have consistently lived in the Camden Community, near the Attala and Madison County line, and very close to Good Hope Baptist Church Cemetery where Mrs. Burrell is buried.

If anyone reading this post knows how O. R. Burrell is related to others with this last name, in either Attala County or in Madison County, please leave me a comment here or contact me at the email address shown in my profile here on the blog.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Mid-Mississippi Library in Kosciusko

I have been to the library in Kosciusko a number of times during the past ten years, and I have even written here on one occasion about the quality and amount of reference materials and the personal assistance provided by individuals who work in the library.

Those research materials and that personal assistance provided by library staff are exactly the things that make the Genealogy Reference Room at the Kosciusko library one that tops similar areas in some of the larger libraries that I have visited.

One of the staff members at the library is Ann Breedlove. Because Ann loves genealogy research and therefore enjoys her work, she is a wonderful asset to the Mid-Mississippi Library in Kosciusko and a jewel for those who conduct research there.

Thank you, Ann Breedlove!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas Traditions

This post was written for the Carnival of Genealogy, 61st Edition, which has "Christmas Traditions" as its theme.

Our Christmas-related activities, "after children" were many and varied over the years. They changed somewhat every few years because of the children's ages and where we lived at the time. But the ones I call "traditions" were started when our family was young, and they never changed. Some were influenced by our own upbringings, but the ones that meant the most actually started when the first child was born.

One of the things we always did was to put up a "real" tree, usually a Frazier fir. As we moved, the height of ceilings in our houses changed. And when we finally landed in Texas in 1985 and built a house that had a family room with a very high ceiling, we began purchasing a taller tree, usually something that was about 10-12 feet in height. It became a family event to select the "special" tree from one of the many Christmas tree lots that lined the major streets leading to our surburban neighborhood. But it was a "parent" event to get the large tree home on the top of our vehicle and inside the house when we got home. 

Placing the lights on the tree in the early years was always an "adult" task. And as soon as the lights were in place, the children began clamoring about who would be "next" to climb the step ladder to hang their special ornaments on the tree. When the tree was all decorated and the lights turned on, we started a fire in the fireplace (whether it was cold outside or not!) and sipped on hot chocolate with miniature marshmallows on top, sitting quietly for a few moments to admire in awe the advent of another Christmas season.

Another tradition involved driving around the week before Christmas to see the Christmas lights in our development and others nearby. In Texas, homeowners' associations take displays of Christmas lights very seriously, and some residents try to outdo their neighbors by having their rooflines, trees, and yard displays decorated by lighting professionals. One of these developments continues its lighting tradition, started about 20 years ago now, with red lights outlining the driveways and walkways that are bright enough to make you think you are nearing the East/West runway of DFW airport! Strategically placed throughout the neighborhood are painted and lighted storyboards that tell in pictures and words the story of "The Night Before Texas, that is..." It was great family fun then and now, and the children, even after they became teenagers, never seemed to tire of reading the story of Santa Claus in his "buckboard" and cowboy boots, making his rounds to deliver gifts to all the children in Texas.

One of my own family traditions growing up in Mississippi was a Christmas Eve gathering of our family which ended with eating fruitcake and drinking egg nog. For the adults in the family, the egg nog may have been laced with rum or with some good old Kentucky bourbon. Don't ask me where they bought it back then....liquor was illegal in Mississippi until 1966.

But the fruit cake and eggnog tradition was not one that ever took hold in my own family after I had children. They did not like either eggnog or fruitcake. But we simply replaced those holiday items with ones they did enjoy, such as Christmas cookies, lots of Hot Chocolate, and spicy, mulled apple cider, stirred with a cinnamon stick. More often than not, we enjoyed watching a family Christmas movie together, or when the children were younger, we read Christmas stories and listened to Christmas carols, always ending with the ever popular, "Silent Night."

Until the children were teenagers, we allowed them to open one gift, and one gift only, to settle some of the anticipation that grew increasingly greater with every day leading up to Christmas morning. Christmas morning always came early in a household where five children had been waiting for weeks for this day. After they descended on the gifts, we enjoyed a big, homemade breakfast, that usually consisted of French toast, waffles, or pancakes, with Canadian bacon or little smokie sausages, and juice.

Attending Christmas Mass was always a part of our Christmas tradition, but as the children grew older and could stay up longer, we began going to Midnight Mass, something that became a very special time for all of us. We especially enjoyed the singing of Christmas carols and a performance by the Bell Choir that began thirty minutes before the start of Mass. One of the many memories I have of my children growing up was the first time we attended Midnight Mass, when one of my sons expressed amazement at how few cars were on the streets of our surburban city at 11:30 p.m. I don't think he had ever been up that late in his young life. Little did he know at that moment how many times he and his brothers and their friends would be out at 11:30 p.m. as teenagers driving on those same streets.

As the children have grown older and some now have families of their own, they have started some of their own special traditions that emulate the ones they remember from childhood. Sometimes, when we are lucky, they include us. But what is important is that family traditions continue to overlap the generations and take with them the special memories of Christmas when we were "growing up."