Friday, January 16, 2009

Article #38 Cousin's Reunion

While in Texas recently, my husband’s family had a cousin’s reunion. He was able to reconnect with many of his kinfolk––some he had not seen since his childhood. Cousins are children of your aunts and uncles. They may be older or younger but they do share the same grandparents, and memories of attending common family celebrations. If you were an only child like me, cousins filled in for the sibling companionship that was missing in my life. Our extended family lived in the same area and gathered together for most holidays. The cousins saw each other quite a bit. (Photo above of my cousin Jody who just turned 75, and her parents my uncle Les and aunt Esther.)

My husband’s cousins range in age from those in his generation to others who are younger and older. Some are even cousins of his parents. A unique situation has brought my husband’s family together. One of their older cousins married, had no children then divorced, and moved away. When this man died in Oregon recently, the state found he’d left no will or heirs so they determined that his estate should go to his cousins. They became his next of kin since both his parents were deceased.

Well, that makes for an interesting genealogical problem of finding these cousins. Tracing his family roots back to Texas, a lawyer was able to locate a relative still living in the same area. Fortunately, she happened to be an avid family historian and was able to contact all the living cousins and descendents of those who had died. A reunion was called to gather more information on this long lost relative who broke all contact with the family after he moved away. I think he would be surprised to know all his earthly possessions will now go to these cousins that he left behind in Texas.

I had this same situation in my family with a widowed great aunt in Ohio who had no children and left a will leaving her estate to her nieces and nephews. All counted, she ended up with 43 living nieces and nephews plus 134 descendents or grand nieces and nephews plus a few step nieces and nephews. It got to be quite a process to contact them all. Each person received a very small inheritance after it was divided. I guess the moral of this story is to have a clearly defined will defining who your heirs are and/or stay in contact with your cousins! (Photo above of my cousin Ruth and her parents my uncle Norman and aunt Gladys.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Article #37 A Memorable Museum

As a means of discovering the history of a community, a local museum can’t be beat. We recently visited my husband hometown in central Texas. After graduation from college, he moved away to pursue a career with the Forest Service. Returning periodically to visit his parents (see photo at left of them as newly-weds) who resided in Gatesville, com-ing home now everything seemed different. New structures had replaced many familiar landmarks including his junior high school, and his dad’s drugstore is now a realtor’s office. Forty-five years after graduating from high school, few of my husband’s schoolmates still live there. Most have moved away.

It was in the local museum that we were able to discover the essence of the small town he remembers. Surrounding the colorful stately Coryell County courthouse are many old abandoned stores. In one of them, several prominent residents have established a historical museum to display local artifacts including a photo exhibit of the town when the business district was in its prime. A partial soda fountain bar with stools from my father-in-law’s drugstore where my husband worked during his youth brought back fond memories. A photo of his uncle who was one of the founders of the local medical center, and early equipment from a local doctor’s office documented the progress of the Gatesville community. A military section with uniforms from foreign wars sadly included a photo of a schoolmate who was killed in the Vietnam War.

Because Texas is cowboy country, there was an extensive spur collection donated by a former teacher. An antique wagon that delivered ice blocks to families before they had frigs was a contrast to newer inventions that were displayed: an electric refrigerator, a telephone keyboard, a small rural post office with individualized mailboxes, early black and white televisions, and a mangler ironing machine used to press sheets, pillowcases and table cloths. A Singer treadle sewing machine, a spinning wheel, loom, and a large butter churn helped recall earlier times. An old country store just like the one his grandparents had in a nearby rural community was complete with a gasoline dispensing pump, farm implements, an old cash register, glass milk bottles, and a Coke machine to chill bottled pop.

How interesting to look in the old yearbooks for photos of his family members as both his grandmother and parents had attended local schools. (Photo at right of my husband's great grandparents Winfield's home in Gatesville.) A fun trip down memory lane preserved by some thoughtful citizens of his hometown.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Writing Ideas

Heading for a goal of $1000 earned from writing articles which means I have to submit more articles and run the risk of rejection but as they say no pain, no gain in anything you try. Safety or comfort zone living leads to no progress.

I love these photos of my grandmother Johnson and her sisters-Ada and Carrie. What fun hats! GMJ is in the middle in the top photo. She looks young and carefree but she would marry become a mother of five then be widowed when her husband died of stomach cancer. I've written lots about her life because she was part of my life until her death in 1967.

When my mom was widowed, we moved in with GMJ. I remember her as always positive, fun and outgoing. Loved to drive and would head out for California or Wyoming to visit family at the drop of a hat. She had health and family concerns but overall she remained positive. Always there to listen to and encourage you, she's still there as our family's guardian angel. I've written much about her. See my article on A Skinny Grandma. I love her.