Wordy Wednesday: Genealogy Road Trip

As mentioned in this past weekend’s SNGF and yesterday’s Tombstone Tuesday post, my sister and I visited Elizabethton, Tenn., in the state’s northeast corner, during the holidays. Elizabethton is where my great-grandparents William E. HAYES and Della M. CROW raised my maternal grandmother and her siblings. The last time we were in Elizabethton, I was six years old. I have many memories of that trip and I was excited to revisit my great-grandmother’s home (since sold to a distant relation).

After meeting up with our great-uncle, Ben Hayes, he drove us to the old house on Poplar Branch Road. It was nothing like I remembered. First of all, everything seemed a lot smaller — of course, I was small myself the last time I was there. A creek passes through the front yard. Where once there was a wooden bridge (see below), there is now an asphalt walkway. We had always visited in the summer months, when everything was hot, green and thriving. When we visited last week, it was cold, gloomy and barren.

Sadly, the change in season is not the only reason the property seemed so different. It has fallen into disrepair. It desperately needs a new coat of paint and there was an accumulation of junk and vehicles in the back yard. The front porch, on which I remember playing in the shade during my visits to Grandma Hayes’ house, is blocked with a long piece of corrugated metal. The stone steps leading up to the porch appear to be crumbling. The attic window above the porch is busted.

Here is a photo of what the house looked like last week:

And here is photo taken of the house back in the 1980s:

I’m really sad to see the changes time and neglect have wrought on the property because I do have several fond memories from our visits there. I can still smell the aromas of bacon grease, green beans and biscuits that seemed to be ever-present in Grandma Hayes’ kitchen.

Grandma Grace, Me & (Great) Grandma Hayes (1981)

Back when my mom was working in miniatures, she created two tiny room boxes that were replicas of how Grandma Hayes’ kitchen looked, once upon a time. One is pictured below.

Despite the dilapidated state of the house, I was still glad to revisit Elizabethton and especially to catch up with our Uncle Ben. He drove us all over Carter County in search of good BBQ for lunch and filled us in on the history of the area. He drove us into the older section of downtown and showed us a preserved covered bridge and two of the town’s war memorials, including one where he’d purchased bricks to commemorate the service of some of our family members.

I still have more genealogical work to do in that area — I’d like to find the farm originally owned by William Hayes’ parents and also their grave sites. I’m also still trying to confirm the identities of William’s grandparents.

Luckily the FGS 2010 conference is in August in Knoxville, so I intend to turn that into a genealogy trip too.

Holiday Parties

This is blog post #7 for the GeneaBloggers Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

Me & Grandma on New Year's Eve

My mom and dad used to have my aunts and grandma over for New Years Eve when I was real little. I remember trying to stay up with them at the age of 4 or 5. My dad would blow into a little horn (which I still have), resulting in ridiculous sounds at the stroke of midnight. I especially thought it was fun if one of my aunts and/or my grandma was spending the night.

Mom at the Holiday Table, 1985

In the above photo, the plastic Christmas tree I blogged about previously serves as a centerpiece.

Grandma Clearing the Dishes, 1985

I can only imagine my dad took these shots from 1985 because 1) it’s the kind of thing he would do; 2) he’s the only one my grandma would have stood for to take the photo; and 3) my mom and aunts all appear in similar shots from that year.

Surname Saturday: HILL (Pennsylvania, Ireland)

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!

Brown. Smith. Johnson. Somewhere along the way, almost all of us have an ancestor(s) with a name so common, the task of finding just the right people seems next to impossible. In my case, it’s my HILL line.

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My Grandmother, Ida

My father’s mother, Ida, was the daughter of Irish-American grocer William B. Hill (~1841-?) and his wife, Martha (aka Mattie; ~1847-?), who raised their family in Philadelphia. According to census records, William was born in Ireland, and Martha’s parents were born there as well. I have not found Martha’s maiden name yet.

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Anna S. Hill

William and Martha had seven children total, five of whom were still living by 1910, when Martha was listed in the U.S. census of that year as 62 and widowed (still in Philly). Her daughters Anna (1872-?) and Elizabeth (1874-?), both public school teachers, were still living with her, as was her son, Joseph (an inspector at a glass factory). These three siblings were in their 30s at that time. Interesting side note: on the back of Anna’s photo, her name is written along with a street address that now appears to be part of the campus of Temple University — I will need to investigate if she was a student there or if perhaps the university has acquired the property since.

I have not been able to trace William B. Hill back any further from his time in Philadelphia with his wife and children. I don’t know when or where he arrived from Ireland. I have not found his exact death date yet. I haven’t figured out who the fifth surviving Hill sibling was or when the other two siblings passed away and why. It’s not that I’ve tried and failed to find this information. Since Hill is such a common name though, I’ve been putting off delving into this line. It just seems so daunting to me. Writing today’s post, however, caused me to jump on in and I hope to report back that I’ve found some good leads in the coming weeks.

Touchdown Tales

Football has been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of me in my John “Riggo” Riggins jersey nightgown. Yes, even in this miserable season for D.C. football, I can admit that I’m a born-and-raised ‘Skins fan. (Incidentally, it was several years before I learned that not every team had transvestite fans who wear pig snouts to every game. We’re special — that’s just for us.)

I must admit too that I didn’t quite *get* football at first. Touchdowns were irrelevant to me. The players on the field simply weren’t doing their job if there wasn’t a huge pile of players on top of each other when the whistle blew. That’s when I cheered. The bigger the pile-up, the better. Hence, I was usually rooting for fumbles/recoveries, no matter which team had dropped or recovered the ball.

I was 5 years old when I learned the true meaning of football. We were visiting my grandmother, who lived in a sixth-floor condo in Alexandria, Va. It was a gorgeous day and my cousin Lee (also 5) and I were not content to enjoy it from her balcony, so my uncle Rick agreed to take us to a grassy area on the grounds of the complex for a game of football.

The teams we fielded were small: two-man… no, actually one team had one and a half men (Rick and Lee) and the other team was me and Rick’s Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Jackson.

I don’t remember how the defining play began, but somehow I had the ball (Jackson passed it to me?) and I was careening towards the edge of the patch of grass that had been indicated as an end zone. Lee was only 7 months younger than me, but he was also seven inches shorter for quite awhile. He was firmly clamped around my waist (Jackson was probably sniffing something really interesting).

And so, my cousin dragging along beside me and my uncle hooting at the site of it all, I scored my first touchdown.

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Big props to Denise Levenick at The Family Curator for her Genealogy and Family History Bloggers Alamanac, which proposed “Touchdown Tales” as today’s writing prompt.

Treasure Chest Thursday — Begotten Begonia

Customs officials, take note that this post is based on legend and not necessarily fact.

100_3828My maternal grandfather was an Army officer and was twice stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, with his young family. On one of these tours of duty, family lore has it that my grandmother, Grace, became besotted with a begonia of such beauty, she simply had to have one of her own. And when it came time to make the journey back to the United States, that begonia was coming with her, come hell or high water.

Her solution: to smuggle cuttings of that begonia in her suitcase — amidst her unmentionables — during the journey (by boat, no less) back across the Atlantic.

100_3829To this day, nearly every female member of my family has at least one descendant of that immigrant begonia potted on a windowsill or taking root in in a jar. One of my aunts is rumored to be coddling no less than 32 cuttings at any given time, to ensure the line doesn’t die off.

begoniaThis particular begonia plant produces tiny, delicate pink flowers on a rather irregular basis (at least according to  my own experience). Here is a picture of buds my plant boasted earlier this summer.

100_3831After my mom died, I found one tiny begonia bud preserved in a flower press among her possessions. I included it in a scrapbook I just completed about her (pictured here with what I think is a Gerber daisy flower — these were her favorite).

Treasure-Chest Thursday

Some of my most treasured possessions are the hand-written recipes my mom and grandma left behind. I miss them both terribly, but can bring back wonderful memories of them by cooking their recipes. I recently started scanning many of these recipes into Creative Memories Memory Manager software, to make sure I’ll always have a copy. This has allowed me to start a digital cookbook in CM’s Storybook Creator software as well. I’ll be able to share this cookbook both online and in print form with friends and family when I’m done. If you’re interested in seeing my cookbook or learning how to create your own, please contact me!

Flank Steak Marinade