Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Research/Writing Plan For 2011

For the 101st Edition of the Carnival of Genealogy, Jasia, at Creative Gene, has challenged genea-bloggers to write about "My genealogy research/writing plan for 2011."  Let's just say this is something like a list of New Year's Resolutions - genealogy-speaking, that is.  So here is what I have planned for next year.

My first goal is to locate the ancestors of my great-great-great-grandfather, John P. Gibson, who was born in 1799 in South Carolina.  For over ten years now, I have been unsuccessful in determining the names of his parents and his siblings.  Further examination of South Carolina,  Tennessee, and north Mississippi records is warranted, and maybe, just maybe, 2011 will be the year that my research comes together.

Secondly, I plan to load photos of gravestones in of one Holmes County cemetery on to the Find-A-Grave website. Most of the deceased buried in that cemetery are related to me through my mother's side of the family. Although, I have posted about many of these ancestors already, it is time that I share all the photos with other researchers.

Another item on my agenda is to write a follow-up story about the descendants of Robert W. Ragland/Raglin, a brother to my paternal great-great-great-grandmother.  Based on information I recently discovered during a review of the U.S. Census of 1870, Robert fathered at least four mulatto children by an unidentified female after his first wife died about 1855.  Descendants of these four children still live in several counties in Mississippi and in other places throughout the country.

Organizing my multitude of photos is neither research nor writing, but it is something that will make my research and writing much easier in 2011.  It is a task that I plan to accomplish in small segments spread out over the year. Included in the task is scanning actual photos and reorganizing photos already in digital format. Purchasing some new technology currently on my "wish list," such as an upgrade of my current edition of Photoshop, will surely make the task much easier.

Transcribing and writing about some original documents I obtained from the National Archives is a small, but vital part of my plan. Although I have previously posted details from some of these documents, there is still a wealth of information in them that provides leads for additional research on my paternal side of the family.  Additionally, I want to explore and photograph tombstones in several Mississippi cemeteries, including two in Holmes County and another in a remote part of southwest Mississippi. 

Now that I have these tasks in writing, it makes it much easier to decide where to begin.  And as we family researchers all know, there really is no ending.....there is just more research to do.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gingerbread White House

Made of 150 pounds of gingerbread dough and 250 pounds of white chocolate, the Gingerbread White House is truly a culinary work of art.  Just in case you haven't seen it, click here to view this holiday masterpiece. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Wishes to Our Service Men and Women

This photo shows my youngest son near a checkpoint at Bagram Air Strip, now Bagram Air Force Base, in Afghanistan.  Taken on December 3, 2003, the photo brings to mind that 2003 was one of only a handful of times in his entire life that he has not spent Christmas Day with his family. Unlike so many others who served in wars, declared and undeclared, throughout the history of this country, my son made it home safely.  And I am truly thankful for that. During this Holiday Season, my heart goes out to all of our service men and women, and to their families, who will be spending Christmas Day apart.  Merry Christmas, and thank you for what you do.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent Calendar of Memories - Day 21 - Christmas Music

I  absolutely love music. My taste is broad, running from classical to rock, to pop, and even some country. But Christmas music has always been pure magic for my soul. My first memories of Christmas music were from church where traditional Christmas carols were part of the worship service. Since my family regularly attended church, as a child I recall hearing Christmas carols such Silent Night, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, We Three Kings. When I grew older and started school, I remember singing carols that included Jingle Bells, Silver Bells, Frosty the Snowman, Deck the Halls. I don't recall our family listening to or singing Christmas carols at home.We did not own Christmas records.  In fact, we didn't own either a phonograph or records of any kind until I was in junior high. It is possible, however, that my parents and grandparents listened to Christmas music on the radio, but I don't remember it. After we became the proud owners of a 17-inch black and white television in 1951, I do recall that my entire family enjoyed watching performances of Christmas music on television.

When I began junior high school, my love of music caused me to join the school band, where I learned to play the oboe and the bell lyre. By ninth grade, I played the oboe well enough to try out for and to be selected to play in the city's junior symphony orchestra.  And it was through my junior high and high school bands, and and my hometown's Junior Symphony Orchestra that my love of music, all kinds of it, continued to grow and flourish.  Our high school band and the Junior Symphony Orchestra had annual Christmas concerts that included a variety of music, including classical and pop versions of many traditional carols. Practicing for and performing in those concerts were memorable times of my life. My love of music may have influenced two of my children to play musical instruments.  Two began taking piano lessons in elementary school.  My oldest daughter began playing the flute in sixth grade, and she continued playing throughout high school.  Now her own son is learning to play the violin in elementary school.  One of my sons also played trumpet in high school.  One of our favorite experiences at Christmastime was enjoying the hand bell choir at church. I can truthfully say that we all love music, and our tastes are quite broad.

As I grew into an adult, I began collecting record albums and CDs that included many genres of music, performed by a variety of artists. Many of these performances were of Christmas music. Some of my favorites include selections by a number of large symphony orchestras, music by Mannheim Steamroller, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and Elvis Presley's Blue Christmas.  Some of my other favorites include Christmas music by Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli. The list goes on and on, and my love of music does, too.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fredrick's Christmas List - 1973

Source:  Digital Photo Collection privately owned by J. Tracy

Fredrick Jamison Padget
Christmas 1973
This 1973 photo of my son reviewing his Christmas list with Santa causes me to smile. He was barely old enough to write, but he had carefully made that list, and as you can see in the photo, was seriously discussing it with jolly old Santa Claus. The photo also brings tears to my eyes, because Fredrick passed away on September 14th of this year. Only 43 years old, he was much too young to die.  And he left a widow and four children. My heart, and the collective hearts of the rest of Fredrick's immediate and extended family still ache. There were so many things about Fredrick, as a child and as a man, that made him special.  But among those things were the statements of many of those who knew him best, including his wife and children, about what a good husband, father, friend, and employee he was. He was also my oldest child and my parents's oldest grandchild. In addition to his wife and children, Fredrick is survived by two brothers and two sisters, three aunts, three uncles, fifteen cousins, and numerous nieces and nephews. We miss him so much.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday's Poem - "The Winter Heart"

According to one of my favorite poets, William Wordsworth, "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings...." The poem below is a perfect example of that expression and seemed to be "the right one" for posting here today.  

The Winter Heart

Wish but one wish when winter comes,
Dream but one dream of the past.
The light from a fire is in all our homes
But the flames from the hearth won't last.

For faint and few are the embers,
Snuggle up and keep on your gloves;
What the Winter Heart always remembers
Is the warmth of a heart that loves.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 18 - "It's Just the Turkey"

Yesterday's blogging prompt (which I missed) was "Author's Choice."  So here is my contribution, a day late.

Deep-fried turkey became a Thanksgiving sensation, at least in the Deep South, during the late 1980's.  A tradition that began in Louisiana's Cajun country, fried turkey gradually became an alternative in many parts of the country to roast turkey at Thanksgiving and often, the turkey that graced the Christmas table. Since this blogger has never fried a turkey, I cannot begin to describe the process.  I have seen it done, so I do know that frying a turkey is best accomplished outside the house in a special "turkey fryer" that holds several gallons of cooking oil.  But back to the story.  My oldest daughter had just moved out on her own and wanted to have our family's Christmas in her new place of abode.  After years of preparing holiday meals for my own large family, I was more than ready for someone else to assume some of the responsibility.  So I eagerly agreed that we would accept her invitation.  But things didn't go the way I expected - by Christmas Eve, she had "assigned" the usual holiday dishes to her mother. And she "volunteered" to cook the turkey. This turn of events should not have surprised me.  When she was a teenager, I often referred to her as "The Microwave Princess," since her only interest in the kitchen seemed to be heating something in the microwave. 

Christmas Day arrived, and we opened gifts and had our usual Christmas breakfast.  After breakfast, I set about getting my "assigned" dishes prepared and ready to transport to my daughter's house about two miles away.  (No, she didn't move very far from home!)  With all of the turkey's trimmings in the car, we arrived at her house at the appointed time.  But what we saw as we were turning the corner was a total shock - a fire truck and an EMT vehicle were parked in the driveway and smoke was billowing out of two open windows! As I felt a sinking feeling deep in my stomach, I heard my daughter calling out to me, with a big smile on her face, saying, "Don't worry, it's just the turkey."  

You must be wondering what caused all of this drama, so here's the rest of the story. Without telling me what she planned to do, my daughter had decided to fry a turkey breast, not roast the entire turkey.  But she had forgotten to thaw the turkey breast.  Not realizing what would happen to that frozen chunk of turkey, she had attempted to fry the turkey breast in a large pot of hot oil - not outside, but on the top of her almost new kitchen stove.  Well, I don't think I need to go on - you can get the picture - one that involves fire, smoke, and lots and lots of grease! Fortunately, no one was burned or otherwise injured, except the turkey.

Years later, the "turkey fire" is a classic "remember when" Christmas story at our house. But it's one that I hope isn't repeated any time soon.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Who Do You Think You Are?" - Second Season begins February 4, 2011

Today, NBC announced the names of celebrities who will be searching their family trees on the second season of "Who Do You Think You Are?" Names included in the press release were Ashley Judd, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Rosie O'Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Tim McGraw, and Vanessa Williams. Watch for the first show of the season on Friday, February 4, 2011, when it airs at 8-9 p.m. (ET). According to NBC's press release, the television show is "an adaptation of the award-winning hit British television documentary series that leads celebrities on a journey of self-discovery as they unearth their family trees that reveal surprising, inspiring, and even tragic stories that often are linked to crucial events in American history."  To read more about the show, click here, or visit the show's website.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Calendar of Memories - Day 15 - December Events

The December calendar is a busy one for our family. As a young girl, I learned that my paternal grandparents, were married on December 8th.  Since their first and only child, my Dad, made his appearance on December 9th (the next year), my grandparents always jokingly referred to their marriage date and my Dad's birthday as if the two occurred one day apart. And then my Dad married my Mother, and their second child, my oldest brother, was born on my Dad's birthday.  Although none of my oldest brother's children were born in December, his second wife's birthday is in December, ironically the same day (and year) as his own. The two of them joke that neither will ever forget the other's birthday! But the December birthdays certainly did not end there - my oldest brother (born on December 9th) has a granddaughter whose birthday is December 17th, and my youngest brother was born on December 4th.  It was destiny, I suppose, that my youngest brother's first child, a daughter, was born on December 22. Just call December the "Month of Birthdays" for our family. 

The anniversary and the birthdays mentioned here are all happy events, but life is not all happiness and joy, even at Christmastime.  A number of years ago, our family's happiness turned to sorrow, when my oldest brother lost his beloved wife to cancer just before dawn on Christmas morning.  When my young sister-in-law died that morning, Christmas Day stood still and sadness enveloped our entire family.  Not only did she leave a grief-stricken husband, but three young children lost their mother.  Although my brother is now happily remarried and the three children are married with families of their own, I know that memories of that sad Christmas morning will be with all of us for a lifetime.  

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Family Tree Magazine's 40 Best Genealogy Blogs for 2011

Good News! Family Tree Magazine has just announced its nominations for the Top 40 Best Genealogy Blogs contest, and Mississippi Memories is on the list! Nominated in the My Family History category, this blog is included on a list of other blogs authored by some of the genealogy community's most talented family history researchers, writers, and technology experts. I am both humbled and honored that my little blog was among those nominated. Voting for the Top 40 began yesterday and continues through 11:59 P.M. on Monday, December 20, 2010.  If you choose to vote for Mississippi Memories (and I really hope you do!), please go to this link, where you may vote as many times as you choose betweenow and next Monday's deadline.  A big Thank You goes out to all of my readers, and especially to those of you who nominated this blog. And thank you in advance for voting for Mississippi Memories as one of Family Tree Magazine's Top 40 Genealogy Blogs!

Peace on Earth - Can it Be?

A few days ago, footnoteMaven challenged fellow GeneaBloggers to blog their favorite Christmas carols - to participate in "blog-caroling," that is. Choosing a favorite Christmas carol was the difficult part for me, because I love all Christmas music - it's truly magical. Although I must admit that traditional music is my favorite, for this challenge, I decided to go with something more unique, something different ---contemporary with a flair --- a duet with David Bowie and Bing Crosby singing "The Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth."

Everything in life has a story behind it, and this duet has one, too.  It was performed in 1977 on the last Bing Crosby Christmas television special that aired before Crosby's death occurred a short time later.  When I first heard the song on a local radio station while driving home from work in late 2004, I listed to the music and the words with absolute awe.  But I did not have a clue about who the vocalists were.  This does not surprise me now, for in 1977I had three young children, including a 6 month old baby, a full-time job, and little time for television. I am sure that I missed Bing Crosby's Christmas Special.  I still remember how intently I continued to listen to the song on the radio, waiting for the announcer to identify the singers.  When the announcer finally informed his listeners that  David Bowie and Bing Crosby were singing this beautiful, powerful piece of music, I was quite surprised and truly amazed.  Just today, a news article was published in the Los Angeles Times that includes mention of the "iconic duet" performed during that last Bing Crosby Christmas television special.

A video of the special Crosby-Bowie duet can be viewed below, and the words to the song appear at the bottom of this post.  I hope you enjoy this unique version of a well-remembered Christmas carol recorded by two well-known artists and the special Christmas message it holds.

And they told me -- pa-rumph-ah-rum-pum

A new-born king to see -- pa-rumph-ah-rum-pum

Our finest gifts we bring-- pa-rumph-ah-rum-pum

Rumph-ah-rum-pum, pa-rumph-ah-rum-pum, rumph-ah-rum-pum

Peace on Earth, can it be
Years from now, perhaps we'll see
See the day of glory
See the day, when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

Peace on Earth, can it be

Every child must be made aware

Every child must be made to care

Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can
I pray my wish will come true
For my child and your child too
He'll see the day of glory
See the day when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again.

Peace on Earth, can it be....

Can it be.....

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sunday's Poem - Yesterday is History, by Emily Dickinson

   Yesterday is History,
Tis so far away --
Yesterday is Poetry --
Tis Philosophy.

Yesterday is mystery -- 
Where it is Today -
While we shrewdly speculate
Flutter both away.
-  Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Advent Calendar of Memories - Day 8 - Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies - what memories I have of sugar cookies baking in my mother's kitchen!  Throughout the year, we called these cookies "tea cakes."  But at Christmas, the tea cakes took on a different look when their normally round shapes were transformed into "Christmas" shapes.  First, my mother mixed the ingredients, including hand-sifted flour, real butter, and pure vanilla.  Next, she rolled out the cookie dough with her wooden rolling pin until it was somewhat thinner than "tea cake" dough.  When the dough was just right, my mother allowed my brothers and me to cut it into "Christmas shapes" using shiny little cookie cutters with slightly sharp edges.  We chose our favorite shapes - reindeer, star, Santa, and Christmas tree.  After the cookies were all cut, we sprinkled them with colored sugar before my mother delicately placed each cookie into the baking pans. The wonderful aroma of sugar cookies baking in our mother's oven was like no other, for it meant Christmas Day was right around the corner.

When I began making cookies in my own kitchen, I continued my mother's tradition of making Christmas sugar cookies.  And after I had children, I allowed them, too, to help cut out the Christmas shapes.  But my cookie cutters (which I still have) were not shiny metal like my those from my childhood - they were made of a new material called "plastic" that was much safer for little hands and fingers.  Early on, I added a new tradition to the Christmas sugar cookie making process - icing the cookies with a homemade glaze made of confectioners' sugar, something the children thought was really special. We added food coloring to the icing and decorated each of the cookies with sprinkles and colored sugars, turning them into edible ornaments.  (I think the children, when they were really young, thought colored icing was something akin to edible finger paint!) Decorating the cookies was the messy part, but the colorful and unique cookies and my children's happy faces far outweighed a messy kitchen.  

Wordless Wednesday - Reading

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

FOUND: Mary Ann Ragland and Elizabeth Ragland

Just today, I discovered information about two of Robert W. Ragland's daughters.  The discoveries were "almost" accidental.  Over the past several days, I have been corresponding with a Ragland descendant who read my blog posts, and I was attempting to clarify some information we had discussed.  During my research, I stumbled upon a census record  for Elizabeth Ragland, the oldest of Ragland's children, and a marriage record for her younger sister, Mary Ann Ragland.  Since I had no leads whatsoever about who the young women married, I had almost given up on finding either of them. Not surprising, the findings were almost under my nose.  Look for more information about Mary Ann and Elizabeth Ragland here soon.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

There's One in Every Family - The Perfect Aunt

Note:  This post was written for the Carnival of Genealogy, 100th Edition, sponsored by Jasia at Creative Gene.

Every woman I knew in my family growing up was married or widowed. But only one had remained single past 21 years old. In our family, she was known as an "old maid." At the time, this now very much outdated term really meant nothing to me - I simply accepted that it meant "older and still unmarried." The woman in this story is Vertie Porter, my paternal great-aunt and one of my grandmother's two sisters. Vertie was a teacher, a career woman before her time. When she was a young woman, she taught in rural schools in Arkansas, Missouri, and Mississippi. A petite woman, her size defied her strength and determination in dealing with being a woman in a man's world Pre-1960. But possibly it was also that strength and determination that allowed her to overcome the intense grief that she experienced early in life. According to my family's account of the story, Aunt Vertie was engaged to a fine young man who had stolen her heart and presented her with a beautiful platinum diamond engagement ring. But the wedding never occurred - her betrothed died in an automobile accident before they could be married. It was after this tragic incident that Vertie made a choice to never marry -- anyone. She continued to wear the gorgeous engagement ring given to her by her suitor, and she immersed herself in her life's work, teaching. In her later years, she moved to Memphis, Tennessee to work and lived with her widowed sister until her sister's death, when she returned to her native Mississippi.

Throughout her life, my Aunt Vertie was the perfect aunt. Since she had no children of her own, Aunt Vertie always remembered my brothers and me with cards and gifts on our birthdays and at Christmas. I still remember the tiny china tea set that she gave me for my 6th birthday. I thought it was the most precious gift in the world, something beautiful and fragile that she must have purchased in some exotic far-away place. As a young girl, I was fascinated by Aunt Vertie's perfect make-up, jewelry, and the beautiful dresses and hats that she wore when she visited us. And I will never ever forget that beautiful diamond ring! Although she would allow me to look at it and turn it on her tiny finger, she would never ever allow me to try it on - no matter how many times I asked. Oh, how I wanted to see what it would look like on my hand! Since neither my mother nor my grandmothers owned diamond rings at the time, Aunt Vertie's ring was the first diamond that I ever saw.

My Aunt Vertie died of complications of Alzheimer's disease when she was in her late 70's. Without a doubt, her last years were difficult, but she had lived a productive and happy life. No, it did not involve a husband or children, but she always remained close to her family. She may have been known in our family as "an old maid" and my father's "maiden aunt," but I will always remember her as a beautiful, kind woman of strength and character who was unafraid to make her own way in the world.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 4 - Christmas Cards

Christmas cards have always been part of our family's Christmas tradition. My parents and my grandparents  enjoyed writing and receiving cards and displayed them in various ways during the Christmas holidays.  Most often, the Christmas cards were taped around a doorway or displayed on something that resembled a small clothesline.  I still recall the many colorful card designs of nativity scenes, holly, candles, and snow scenes.  As a child growing up in Mississippi, I really didn't understand why anyone would send a Christmas card with a snow scene.  I had seen a snow flurry only once, when I was ten years old, and we certainly had never had a White Christmas! 

My grandparents especially cherished the cards they received from cousins and other relatives who had moved out of state and would not be home for the holidays. Of course, keeping in touch during those years meant writing a card or a letter.  We did not have a phone until I was nine years old, and the age of the Internet was still dozens of years away. Although e-cards and emails have now become part of our culture, for me there is no substitute for the genuine paper Christmas card that I can feel and touch. I am a keeper of cards, and my Box of Memories contains many precious Christmas cards from years past that included handwritten notes from close family and dear friends.

Our family's Christmas card tradition has endured, and my adult children now send cards, too.  I especially like cards that depict religious art, children, and nature scenes. At our house, we always wonder whose Christmas card we will receive first - will it be from old friends who now live a thousand miles away, from one of the grown-up kids, or will it be from a neighbor down the street? I suppose this is just part of our overall anticipation of Christmas and the joy and wonder the season brings.  

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 3 - Ornaments

This post was modified from the original post entitled Merry Christmas From Our House to Yours, published on December 23, 2008.

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 that came from Ireland some years ago. 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 twin angels with bugles is an ornament given to me by my children when they were still young. They always knew the gifts that would pull my heartstrings, and this ornament will always have a special place in my heart and on the Christmas tree. The red ornament here is a cardinal, one of my 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 many of us took during the 70'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. 

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. 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! The ornament hangs in such a way that we have 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, many more ornaments to be hung, and many, many more memories to be made!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Day 2

Special Christmas food is the topic for the second day of Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.  This is a difficult topic for me, since my mother and grandmother prepared so many many wonderful, southern holiday foods.  But I suppose my all-time favorite would be the delicious coconut cake that my mother made, a fluffy white confection, filled and iced with seven-minute frosting and freshly grated coconut.  Even as a young child, I was aware of how much effort it took to make that cake.  When I was growing up, my mother did not own a power mixer of any kind - she beat the egg whites with the old-fashioned hand-cranked mixer and added the moist, white coconut that she had grated by hand - hard to imagine for most contemporary cooks. Standing tall on its crystal cake stand, my mother's masterpiece towered over the other Christmas desserts, beckoning young and old to taste it.