Challenges and Frustrations

August 15, 2013
Challenging and frustrating are two words that describe my experiences with genealogical research.
I’m grateful that much research has already been completed and is readily available on the internet at places like Rootsweb.com. The History Room at the local library also has wonderful resources that have added to my information gathering.
I can, in fact, trace my family’s history back for at least 12 generations. It’s thrilling to read of a branch that traveled from England to Bermuda in its earliest days of settlement before immigrating to the brand-new city of Philadelphia.
But it is frustrating to try to reconcile the recorded birth dates and dates of death for all the ancestors and their descendants. The birth and death dates of the founding father of this particular family vary by 54 years. That’s a lifetime. Is a generation missing?
Some expert genealogists do not include the Bermuda group in the lineage.
SomersmapofBermuda1609to1610[1]
The families seemed to be so large. So many names were repeated in successive generations, and siblings often repeated the same names when naming their own children.
One thing that has been reaffirmed for me is that family has always been very important. When migrating to the south and then to the west, the family traveled together in groups and settled together. When a brother or sister died, the family head would bring the orphaned nieces and nephews into their own family. Sometimes cousins married cousins.
What frustrates me the most is that, although I can find my paternal grandparents’ names and the names of my aunts and uncles in the pedigree charts, I cannot find my father’s name: Henry Manuel Eugene Todd. Maybe that is because he was the youngest and is the one listed as Living Todd. Or because he was born May 16, 1930, possibly after the census was taken that year.
Then I realize I have something to add to this great body of research: I know the correct name and the correct birth date and, unfortunately, the death date of the last Living child of this family. And just maybe I can add an interesting family story or two about him!

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“Widow” Todd

July 3, 2013

Recently I’ve been searching Rootsweb and other websites for genealogical information for my ancestors.  My father, Henry Manuel Eugene Todd, was born in Buffalo, Dallas Co., MO, on May 16, 1930.

Several researchers have posted a ton of information for at least a dozen generations of Todds. I have marveled at the family’s tendency to travel: from England to Bermuda to Philadelphia to North Carolina to Tennessee to Missouri. I’ve also marveled at how large some of the families were and how the same names keep repeating in successive generations.

Some information seems to be conflicting, confusing, and possibly incorrect. It is difficult to determine which information is the most accurate, especially after staring at a computer terminal, scrolling down long lists, looking for that elusive name “TODD” to leap out, shining light on a missing link.

Yesterday I found an interesting entry on tax lists for Solebury Township, Bucks Co., PA. “Widow” TODD is listed from 1779 to 1784 as owning 10-18 acres of land, one dwelling with 3 inhabitants, one horse and one cow.

My writer’s imagination immediately began to wonder. Who was her husband? Did he fight in the American Revolutionary War? Was he killed in battle or by Indians? How would a widow survive on a farm with two or three small children? Were there neighboring families who assisted her?

Her farm seemed to increase in size from the first listing to the last, so someone was working to improve her land.

And I pondered how I could discover her given name.

Or should I simply let my writer’s imagination take flight–and write my own story about “Widow” TODD.

Any suggestions?

 

 

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A Writer’s Inspiration

What inspires a writer to write?

Recently I attended the Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival  held  on the beautiful campus of Francis Marion University in Florence, SC with Kim Blum-Hyclak and Betty Wilson Beamguard. Amy Bloom, novelist; Patricia Smith, poet; Michael Chitwood, poet; and Daniel Woodrell, novelist fielded questions from faculty and students. One of the first questions was where did the inspiration for the story/poem/novel come from?

For Patricia Smith, author of the award winning poetry collection, Blood Dazzler, poems about Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans, and the aftermath, news reports were essential. Her husband worked with Associated Press and read news reports and saw astonishing photos that did not appear on the evening news. The inspiration for one of the poems in the collection was her own experiences visiting an aunt who was in a nursing home.

Amy Bloom, author of several novels and a collection of short stories entitled Where the God of Love Hangs Out, said news articles also inspire her. She read about a prep school where a swatzika was carved into a locker. A 13-year-old girl was discovered to be the culprit. Amy’s daughter also attended the same school.

Michael Chitwood, award winning poet of The Weave Room, said his father worked in a textile mill. He talked about the how loud it was inside the mill. Listening to people’s colorful language also inspired his work. He heard someone say, “Boy, I’ll smack a fart out of you that’ll make you hum like a jar fly.”

Daniel Woodrell, author of several novels, including Winter’s Bone, which was made into a movie and won at the Sundance Film Festival in 2010, told how he saw a teenager in the grocery store with two younger siblings. It was obvious the teenager was acting as a mother-figure to the children. This observation led Woodrell to create the main character Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone.

As the writers fielded the questions, I considered how I would answer. Here’s my personal list of things that inspire me:

1. Walking through an art gallery or museum, or viewing art work online. A picture entitled The Singing Butler sparked an idea for a short story.

2. Looking at photographs or family albums and listening to family stories can spark the imagination. My friend Kim Blum-Hyclak writes poems about people in photographs she finds in flea markets.

3. A road trip down country lanes exploring new territory or traveling old roads to forgotten places can spark the imagination as well. My friend Betty Wilson Beamguard wrote a novel entitled Weej and Johnnie Hit Florida about a fictional road trip.

Weej and Johnnie Hit Florida

4. Walking through a cemetery, just glancing at headstones, led the three of us to conjure up stories about the deceased. None of us have come up with a suitable story yet, but the ideas are percolating.

How about you? What inspires you to write?

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“A Sunday Night Service”

Several friends have asked where they can find my poetry to read. At the present time, I only have one poem on line. It’s posted on WordChimes.com. Click on Visitor at the bottom of the first page, and then click on Poet Chimers, and then look for my name, and click on it, you will find my poem, titled, “A Sunday Night Service at the All Nations Church”. Let me know what you think.  Or try this: http://www.wordchimes.com/poetry/Index.php?viewpoem=5401.

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Good Old Summertime Reading

Ah, the long, lazy days of summer! I picture shade trees, cool ocean breezes, a hammock, a tall glass of iced tea or maybe tart lemonade, but definitely with lots of ice, fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky, and a good book to read. Who could ask for anything more?

This summer I decided to participate in the Adult Summer Reading Program at our local library. How many books could I read in 8 weeks? I discovered my reading rate has seriously slowed down, but I did manage to read 9 books during the alloted time. I did start several other books that I didn’t finish. And I read sections of several books on the craft of writing that are not included in the count.   

When I reviewed the list of completed books, I realized several had a war theme. A Good Son by Michael Gruber is not a book I would normally pick up, but I read an excerpt at dearreader.com and became intrigued enough to check the book out of the library. An American soldier, a mother who is a psychoanalyist, and the war in Pakistan all were threads in this amazing novel. I highly recommend it!

Miss Dimple Disappears, by Mignon Ballard, is set in the time period of World War II. The reader is right there with the citizens trying to do their part as civilians to support the war effort and, of course, there is a mystery to solve. Every word is absolutely perfect. I highly recommend this book as well.

Brave Enemies, by Robert Morgan, is a novel about the American Revolutionary War and the Battle at Cowpens, in particular. I heard Professor Morgan speak a few weeks ago, and I just had to read the book. What a compelling read! I had to keep turning the pages to find out what would happen to Josie/Joseph and John.

A Duty to the Dead, by Charles Todd, is set during World War I. The main character, Bess Crawford, is a nurse to British soldiers. What a compellingly strong character she is! This book is also a wonderfully crafted mystery, the first in a new series by the Charles Todd writing team.

While Prayers for Sale, by Sandra Dallas, is not a book about war, it was definitely set in a different time period. Hennie Comfort tells stories to her young friend of the early days of mining for gold and silver in Colorado. The reader catches a glimpse of a hard way of life and learns about quilts as well.

Okay. How many books have you read this summer? Are there any you would recommend?

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Poems Accepted for Publication

Congratulations to Martha T. Robinson who has had three poems accepted for inclusion in the 2011 edition of The Petigru Review. Way to go, Martha! Congratulations go out to Kim Blum-Hyclaks as well who also had three poems accepted and to Grace Looper who had one poem accepted. Way to go, Kim and Grace!

The Petigru Review is an annual publication of South Carolina Writers Workshop and is available for sale at Amazon.com.

Product Details

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South Carolina Book Festival

I have had several literary weekends recently that have inspired me tremendously. In May several friends and I went to the South Carolina Book Festival in Columbia, South Carolina. What an inspiration to hear so many authors talk about their work and offer advice and encouragement to new or struggling authors.

C. J.  Box told of his writing journey from his days as a young reader to becoming a bestselling author of the Joe Pickett series, beginning with Open Season and continuing to his latest Cold Wind, his thirteenth novel.

Cathy Pickens, (author of Can’t Never Tell), Lisa Patton  (author of Whistlin’ Dixie in a Nor’easter), and Celia Rivenbark (author of   You Can’t Drink All Day if You Don’t Start in the Mornin’ and Bless Your Heart, Tramp)told hilarious stories about their writing journeys as Southern women writing mysteries, contemporary women’s fiction and newspaper columns. The room was packed for the panel discussion which was laugh-out-loud side-splitting funny!  

Mignon Ballard, Katheryn Wall, and Carla Damron told of their latest mysteries. Miss Dimple Disappears, Ballard’s latest, is a delightful Southern mystery set in World War II. Every character, every mannerism, every word is perfect! Jericho Kay, Wall’s latest, was well-written and explosive at times. I loved the setting. Death in Zooville, Damron’s latest, is the next book I plan to read.

Beth Webb Hart, author of Love, Charleston, and River Jordan, author of Praying for Strangers, talked about writing for the inspirational market. Two more books found their way into my shopping bag.

Faith Hunter, author of Mercy Blade,  and Mario Acevedo , author of The Nymphos at Rocky Flats, told of the fun of writing urban fantasy. While I do not normally knowingly read vampire stories, Hunter’s books are always fast-passed and suspenseful. Acevedo’s book proved to be a little too bloody for my taste, but it was entertaining and funny.  

Several panels described and discussed “Great Summer Reads”. Among them were: Nicole Seitz, author of The Inheritance of Beauty, and Eleanor Brown, author of The Weird Sisters. Two more titles were added to my list of books to read this summer.

At the end of the second day of the Festival, I had purchased nine books, and had started a list of authors to look for on my next trip to the library and/or bookstore. And I won a door prize, a beach towel, the perfect accessory for reading in a chaise lounge beside the pool.

If you have read any of these titles, let me know what you think.

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