When Your 2nd Cousin Is Also Your Great Grand Uncle

Dear Reader: Do you think you are related to the individuals listed in this post? Please drop me a note! I love hearing from cousins and others researching my family!

I spent yesterday staying out of the way of carpenters doing work in my house while I enjoyed a day off from work. I also took a break from my client projects for a personal genealogy day. I was excited to track down several more distant cousins on my Tennessee side of the family and discovered a branch with multiple connections.

My 3rd great-grandfather Alfred T. Gourley had a granddaughter, Ann Gourley. She married into the McKeehan clan and had a son, Walter, who was my 2nd cousin, 2x removed. He married Sina Hayes, my great grand aunt (her brother, Willam Edmond, was my great-grandfather). This then made Walter McKeehan not only a distant cousin, but my great grand uncle, by marriage!

Alfred Gourley’s daughter was Mary L. Gourley, who married Daniel B. Crow. Their daughter, Della, married William Edmond Hayes.

Way-Back Advent Calendar: Holiday Travel

I don’t really know much about this photo except that my mom and Aunt Joan are the two girls on the right. I don’t think that this is at my grandparent’s house. The tree is uncharacteristically huge compared to trees in other Christmas photos and the tinsel is missing. Maybe by posting this photo here, the mystery girl and location will be identified.

UnknownMomJoanXmas

Way-Back Advent Calendar: Santa Claus

Below may be the strangest Santa Claus photo I’ve ever seen:

My mom’s posture screams “Help me.”

Granted, my mom isn’t screaming or crying in this photo, but she doesn’t look particularly happy to be seated on his lap either. Her posture is really stiff and her expression is a bit vacant. I think she’s in her happy place.

Fortunately (or unfortunately) the above experience didn’t phase her a few year’s later:

What’s in the paper sack, Santa?

In this photo, my mom is very excited to tell Santa what she wants for Christmas. My Aunt Joan is on the right, I guess patiently waiting her turn. I’m a little worried about Santa though. He seems to be losing one of his eyebrows and I can’t quite figure out what’s going on with his shoes. And what’s in that paper sack next to him?

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Way-Back Advent Calendar: The Christmas Tree

My mom was born in 1949 and along with learning to care for their first child, my grandparents also were acquiring camera skills. Therefore, you’ll have to forgive the blurriness of the following photo:

My Mom’s First Christmas, 1949

By the following year, their technique had improved somewhat (you have to admit, my mom was a moving target):

Mom’s 2nd Christmas, 1950

This is a really nice one:

Mom and Grandma Grace, 1950

By 1959, both cameras and skills had improved quite a bit:

Aunt Joan, Aunt Dorrie, Mom and Aunt Teri, 1959

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Way-Back Machine Edition

Mom, Grandma Grace, Baby Aunt Joan

A few years ago, I participated in the Geneabloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories. You can read my posts here.

This year, I’m going to do something a little different. I recently acquired a bunch of photos from my mom’s childhood and a large percentage of the photos are from around the holidays. I’m going to try and post most of the photos following this year’s advent calendar prompts.

Stay tuned for lots of 1950s holiday action. The fun starts tomorrow!

The Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories (ACCM) allows you to share your family’s holiday history 24 different ways during 24 days in December! Learn more at http://adventcalendar.geneabloggers.com.

Calendar Sale to Benefit Cancer Research

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I have republished a calendar featuring photos from my Aunt Teri’s gorgeous garden in Winchester, Va (the photo above was her favorite). Teri passed away earlier this year. Proceeds from the sale of the calendars will go to the American Cancer Society’s lung cancer research fund. You can preview the calendar here (photos are from the 2010 edition).

Order the calendar online from Creative Memories (free login required). These calendars are 30% off during the month of October.

Heaven Has Gained One Hell of a Gardener

Yesterday, my family celebrated the life of my Aunt Teri, whom we lost in May after a long battle with cancer. She planned the event herself, down to the menu, and couldn’t have done so more perfectly. Several folks stood up and said beautiful words about Teri. I didn’t — I knew I would lose it if I tried. I think most folks who’ve met me know I’m more of a writer than a speaker anyhow.

Teri and I had become very close over the past several years. I made it a point to visit her in Winchester at least twice a year. I learned so much from her and I miss her terribly.

Not only was she my aunt, she was my godmother, drinking buddy, “big sister,” gardening/cooking inspiration, shopping pal, fellow daytrip explorer, crossword puzzle clue helper, backgammon instructor, music/movie sharer, family-secret spiller and kindred spirit.

Aunt Teri had a wicked grin and catching laugh that matched her sense of humor. She used to entertain all of us cousins when we were little by flaring her nostrils. She could curse like a sailor and inspired me in that regard too.

Aunt Teri (the Indian princess) and Me

As a youngster, I thought Aunt Teri was an Indian princess. She always tanned so dark and had such long, dark hair. I have so many fond memories of hanging with her on our family beach trips and visiting her out in the mountains of western Virginia.

One of Teri’s favorite photos, taken in her backyard in 2010.

Visiting Aunt Teri was always special — she had the most beautiful and productive garden. In recent years at her house in Winchester, I spent hours with her in the backyard, photographing bees among the lavender, picking raspberries and tomatoes, taunting birds who tried to do the same. We’d grill, drink more beer than probably is advisable, and chat for hours on end.

One of my favorite memories of hanging out with Aunt Teri was shortly after her divorce. She had just bought a house and had a ton of things to hang on the walls, but had never used a drill before. She had my grandfather’s old drill — the thing is entirely made out of metal and weighs about 10 pounds. I was cowed by it too, but I took her out back and had her practice drilling holes in the stump of an old tree. She was giddy with excitement over conquering the intimidating power tool.

The next time I came to visit her, her walls were full of prints, pictures and even a pot rack in her kitchen that she had installed herself.

Aunt Teri was an awe-inspiring cook. Her homemade pickles and brandied peaches couldn’t be beat. I still have one last jar of her canned green beans left. It will be a very special occasion when I decide to serve those.

The last time I saw Aunt Teri was on Mother’s Day. I had spent the weekend with her, helping her out around the house and garden. She was having trouble talking, but we still had a really great visit and I’m so thankful I got to see her then.

She was gone three days later. As is so often the case, we all thought we had more time…

I think of Aunt Teri every time I set foot in my own garden now. I so wish she were still here to quiz on how to take care of this plant and when to harvest that vegetable.

Heaven has gained one hell of a gardener.