Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Coming up next...The Family History Writing Challenge 2014!

Amazing! Where did 2013 go? It seems like we finished up last year's writing challenge just a few months ago...but no, the 2014 challenge is right around the corner!

Following last year's challenge, I got caught up in estate files, deeds & plats...in late May I started on the clock with Board for Certification of Geneaologists (BCG), and in November I began working on the Forgotten Patriots of North Harlowe, NC Project, researching for the North Carolina Sons of the American Revolution (NCSAR).

In all it's been a very busy and productive year...except for my family history memoir.

Guess that means it's time to clean up the piles on my desk and locate the records and journals I need to take off on another year's adventure!

I hope you'll stop by periodically as February will be here before you know it!

P.S. While my merchandiser at "the j-o-b" doesn't like my desk clutter (she should see my home office! YIKES!), here's a little tidbit from the American Psychological Association (APA) that might amuse you Messy Desk People like myself!
A Messy Desk Encourages a Creative Mind

Or...as Einstein said,
Yeah. I think I like that one! <smiles>

Monday, March 4, 2013

Fearless Females: Cousin Hattie Carter Becton

Hattie Carter Becton
Have you ever felt an overwhelmingly close bond to someone you've only just met and you can not tell why? Perhaps you've corresponded a few times...or spoken on the phone a time or two...and then, when they die unexpectedly, you feel a deep sense of loss?

This is how I felt about my husband's first cousin once removed, Cousin Hattie Carter Becton. We had only communicated several times in our lives, but the bond was as if we had know each other forever.

As I was preparing the images for this post, I suddenly realized why this might be so.

Hattie Carter Becton, the daughter of the late William H. and Josephine Dove Carter, was born on May 27, 1918.
May 27th...we shared the same birthday...forth-three years apart!

And now I wonder if what we shared was not a soul tie.
Two are better than one because they have a good [more satisfying] reward for their labor; For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecclesiastes 4: 9-10, AMP)
We were both family historians for the Carters and Georges of North Harlowe, North Carolina. In addition to this bond, a covenant had been struck: a promise made to her on our last day together that I would indeed write my personal memoir in relation to the death of our youngest daughter, even as I was already preparing to write the memoir of the Carters of Craven County.

I have researched the origins of the family church, Piney Grove African Methodist Episcopal Zion where Hattie accepted Christ as her personal Savior...I have seen the second William Henry home place, situated next to the second Hezekiah home place in North Harlowe, North Carolina...but until reading her obituary, I had no idea that she became affiliated with a Baptist church once removing to Yonkers, New York.

During our last visit, I had asked Cousin Hattie about her marriage to Jason McKinley Becton who grew up in her own back yard, yet whom she married in New York. Of their marriage, she said, We didn't stay together that long. She wanted to continue her education to advance her career in elementary education, while he didn't see the need for it, and did not support her efforts. According to her obituary, she became the first African American principal in the Yonkers School System.

I knew Hattie's address in Yonkers from her letter, dated March 29, 2005, as being on the eleven-hundred block of Warburton Avenue. Not till today did I look it up on a map and note that the street lies closest to and runs parallel with the Hudson River in Northeast Yonkers...just across the river from New Jersey, where I was born in Philippsburg...88.9 miles west of where she resided at that time...4.6 miles west of  Sadore Lane, where she lived in Yonkers in 1974.

Unfortunately, any further information seems to be hidden from view for the time being. I had hoped to write a series during the month; but, it now becomes apparent that unless I make some new connections, I may never know the details of the northern migration of our Carter family.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Final Day-A Family Excursion

This is the final day, or should I say, the final evening of the Family History Writing Challenge for 2013. Have I met my goal completely...no. Yet, I have made a start.

The past week has proven a tremendous challenge as work issues mount, my schedule is disturbed in its early morning slumber just before rising to write....and rather than putting words on a screen, I am putting casseroles into an oven, the creativity of cooking for the hungry squelching every bit of creativity of words for the reader....and every bit of energy wrung out of me like soapy water from a dish rag.

And so, this piece was begun on the 23rd day of February...and look, tomorrow begins a new month already! I am determined to finish...to complete this work to its ultimate ending.

This is not farewell, but it is most likely the final post of this nature till next year. I will continue writing...and at times I will offer you glimpses of what I am working on...perhaps a character study, or a scenic description...but, most of my writing will appear again on the main blog, or on the family history journal.

I hope that you will drop by from time to time and offer a comment....

And now, A Family Excursion, Part I


The Mystery Tours Inc. "Ultimate Lunch Cruise" from Beaufort, North Carolina, was not scheduled to depart until noon on Saturday, July 18th. This was an optional reunion activity which cost an additional twenty-five dollars per adult. My husband and I have always enjoyed historical cruises of local areas. So naturally, we awoke early, got showered and dressed, and came down to the Hampton Inn cafe for breakfast.

I had expected to see more family members seated or at least grabbing that first cup of morning coffee...then I realized, that first cup was most likely brewed in the bedroom, to arrive less bleary-eyed at breakfast. But in fact, most of our extended family were still snug in their beds, enjoying a chance to sleep in a little later than usual. Of course it had been a temptation, but when you're away from home, there is always so much to experience that my husband and I never sleep in much later than seven o'clock.

After surveying the fare, I got some yogurt, a muffin and an omelet, a glass of orange juice and a cup of hazelnut coffee, and located an unoccupied table. Around us, parents coaxed their sleepy children to take another bite while their energetic siblings bounced from the chair to the floor, around the table and back to the chair again. It is interesting to see how even from childhood, a morning person can be spotted within a crowd.

I am definitely not a morning person. My husband learned after the first ten or so years of marriage, that it was best not to speak to me any more than a brief Good Morning before I had my first cup of coffee. Any more would either not penetrate the grog of sleepiness, or might even evoke a grumble or two. And sometimes any more than Morning is more than I can bear. Unlike the virtual optimist who expresses any morning that we're alive...vertical...and moving as good, I usually reserve that commentary until I have fully experienced the wake-up ritual.

Across the room sat a sofa and cushioned chairs before a large screen television, mounted on the wall above an ornamental fireplace. A few sat comfortably, sipping their coffee...or in my husband's case, reminiscent of Jean-Luc Picard aboard the Enterprise-D: Tea, Earl Gray, hot...and watching the morning news, weather and sports review. At the tables adjoining the cafe and the television area,  several businessmen read their morning newspapers.

By the time the families had nearly finished their breakfast, the channel changed to Saturday morning cartoons...unlike the cartoons of my childhood....

To be continued...

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Days 19-22-In Search of a Familiar Face

NOTE: Since several years have elapsed since this reunion and my memory has faded, the following draft was assembled by viewing digitized photos taken by multiple family photographers. I assembled them in order based upon groupings within the room, and used the variations of sunlight and darkness from the windows to attempt some sort of chronological order. I "tell" this story in its rough draft, but later on I will go back and develop the "show" element that is lacking in my attempt to reconstruct the events coarsely.

Sandwiches, chips, a variety of salads, two-liter bottles of soda and bottled water sat on a table to our left as we first entered the room, and family members (we had not yet met) were busy preparing dessert platters.
"Come on in, family. Help yourself."
Since so few relatives had yet assembled, we decided to take a seat and wait a bit; but, as people we knew entered the room, my husband and I got up to greet them. Dorothy and her daughter descend from Malachi Carter, who was my grandfather-in-law's younger brother by three years. She linked arms with me and beamed,
"Hello, Cousin!" 
Three years older than my mother, and like her, Dorothy does not show her age...a petite lady wearing a royal blue t-shirt and jeans, her short cropped black hair is only edged with gray.
"I want you to meet someone," she says, waving on a tall slender gentleman dressed in white to come join us. "This is your cousin, Walter. He comes from Elijah's line. He lives in Virginia." 
Our small group descends from three brothers: Hezekiah, Malachi and Elijah...born in that order. While there were only three years between the older brothers, seven years had separated the younger two of nine surviving children born to Isaac Carter and Martha Ann (George) Carter. When the family historian is visiting with living descendants, her mind becomes, at times, a whirlwind of attempts to make connections, but seldom is there time enough to capture those moments on paper. I had thought of recording conversations, but soon discovered that in this family it usually brings the natural flow of chatter to an abrupt halt.

The five of us gathered in the far corner of the room near a window, framed with burnt orange, jacquard drapes. Outside, the afternoon sunlight faded in a blue-gray haze of approaching dusk. We talked, catching up on recent family events, and at times looked off into the crowd, seeing new family faces entering the room.

Just behind my chair, along the wall, a man wearing a white polo shirt, khaki shorts & ball cap carried in several large pedigree posters. I had heard that a descendant of the Nathaniel Carter branch would be attending the reunion for the first time, and that he would be sharing his research with us. He sat the first two down against the wall below the banner: GEORGE FAMILY REUNION: Keeping the Tradition Going.

People were curious to see where their leaf of the branch connected from the trunk. One surprising note was that this genealogy confirmed my findings that the father of the five siblings was Theophilus George, as reported in my 2007 presentation, The Land Deeds of Theophilus George, father of Emanuel, James Bland, Nathaniel, Martha Ann and Nancy George. I had thought that the deed was proof enough that the children listed in deed were the children of Theophilus and not Emanuel. Apparently, family myths are hard to part with, and to this day, no one knows why our early family historian had written in his notes the parents of the "original" siblings as Emanuel and Matilda George.

Cousin Eula Mae walked over slowly to our little group in the corner...one of the matriarchs of the Moore family and my husband's third cousin. She appeared as always, very dignified...composed...well dressed, yet casual in her purple and white pants suit. Her smile expressed such love...and something was different in her eyes. A sort of tiredness...or pain, that she would never let on about...the same age as my mother, she carefully took her seat next to Cousin Dorothy.

After my husband posed for a few photos with his cousins, he ventured past our little group to the next one over...the family of the Nathaniel George historian. By this time, a few cousins brought in a large collage of family photos and placed it between the banner and the pedigree charts. I got up to look at them...but at a disadvantage. When you're an outsider...or, one married into a family...adopted, you might say...unless you have been living in the ancestral community or have close ties to your husband's kin, unidentified photos appear as just a collection of nameless...connection-less faces. How I wished I could just photograph every photo, and find someone to identify the faces I did not recognize...but people were more interested in spending time with those in the room than in looking at the collage. And if they did glance at it, they would comment on a few and then move on.

The same thing had happened at the Peter James Hyman Family Reunion we had attended in Beaufort, North Carolina. Our Cousin Margaret had enlisted my help to  preserve the photo collages with clear contact paper...working so closely with untold identities...no time to ask questions in a hurried frenzy of last minute activity.

As the night wore on, one of the cousins from the reunion committee...my co-historian's niece, assembled us to play a game of family history jeopardy. She looked about the room, trying to find volunteers and then selected Cousin Eula Mae's son-in-law, Billy...a tall, slender cousin dressed in green with a broad smile showing several gold teeth...and myself. How did I get selected? I have no idea. Certainly I would not have volunteered...perhaps it is a test to see how much this outsider knows about the family history.

The questions seem to be more related to black history for several rounds until finally, some familiar Craven County questions pop up...and then, finally, a few questions about family ties.

Written on each person's face is the weary of travel catching up with them as the night wears on, and soon after the game, we disband for the night, going back to our hotel rooms to rest for the next day's boating excursion, shipboard lunch, tour of Beaufort and Neuse River.

Word Count: 1065

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 13-Pushing Through Emotional Writing Blocks

Over the past few days, I felt an unsettled sort of disorientation. It has happened every year about this time for the past twenty-three years. At first thought I was tempted to write "twenty-two years"...the number of years since our youngest daughter's death. But that would not be entirely correct, for her conception and birth played an equally unsettling time for me as well as the years following her death. And for that very fact,  great inner turmoil clouded my mind in the days preceding the anniversaries: first of her birth, and then of her death, only eight and a half months later.

Beginning about a month before the anniversary, the event is clear in my thoughts. Awareness. Clarity. No great emotion. Then, as the day creeps its way into the present, a gradual unawareness overcomes me. Perhaps it's not so much unawareness as an unconscious, instinctual survival tactic to enable me to function in the here and now. Suddenly, days of the week become confused, jumbled up as a calendar with its numbers scattered randomly across the month. I find myself asking, What day is it? with greater frequency, until suddenly the day arrives...seeming like it's still at least twenty-four hours away...until the realization becomes heavily apparent: It's today...not tomorrow!

With this year's birthday anniversary behind me, I am now freer to approach whatever task lies ahead. As clouds dissipated by the rushing of a strong wind, as quickly as it came, it leaves me, and skies are blue and filled with brilliant sunlight once again.


Of all the activities a family reunion offers, perhaps the Meet & Greet is the most intimate. For a family historian, it is the time to finally put faces to the records we have so diligently assembled for the family history journal, and a time to get reacquainted with those special family members...those revered elders...the keepers of treasured stories, myths and legends. 

And so when we entered the conference room at the Hampton Inn-Havelock, I searched for those familiar faces. 

Word Count: 338

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 12-Family Reunion

Family reunion is a time for members of different branches of the same tree to come together from near and far to rekindle that spirit of connectedness. We had first learned of the George Family Reunions in March of 2005, when Cousin Hattie sent us a long-awaited, handwritten letter from her home in Yonkers, New York.
March 29, 2005
Dear Cedric and Debbie,
At long last I am able to write you a few lines. You have tried so hard to connect with your roots and family members. I'm very happy that you are doing this. I am enclosing a Family Reunion Booklet that covers to the fourth generation. Several of the children of the fifth generation are anxious to extend this to the fifth and sixth generation. In fact they have scheduled a Family Reunion for July 22, 23, and 24th of this year. I am enclosing all the information regarding this event....
....I hope that you and your family will travel to Havelock, N.C. very soon to see the place of your ancestors....
Cousin, Hattie C. Becton 
That year proved to be one of great happiness and many challenges. We were unable to attend the reunion because both our children would be graduating: our daughter from college, and our son from high school; one in the morning and the other in the afternoon on the same day. But one of my husband's brothers was able to attend with his wife.

On a picture post card canceled from Macon, Georgia on July 25, 2005, he told us that he was able to see "the old Carter land" and took some photos. Later on he mailed me a disk of grave stone photos from the Carter Family Cemetery and a copy of the family reunion booklet.

In September, Cousin Letitia wrote to me about the success of the reunion and how glad she was that my brother-in-law and his wife were able to attend. She enclosed a revised version of the family reunion journal as a "thank you gift for all your dedicated research and help with the family history information." She adds, "There is still much family history to be researched and discrepancies in the history that have to be solved. I look forward to working with you on this history real soon."

The 2007 family reunion was the first we were able to attend, and we were no longer living in Western Massachusetts, but had relocated to Western North Carolina in February of that year. We had hoped to move closer to my husband's family, and had really wanted to live further east...closer to Whiteville where cousins from his mother's side of the family lived. But during the ten year period of waiting for a transfer from the VA Medical Center in Leeds, Massachusetts, his cousin Renee died of complications of Type I Diabetes and kidney disease on August 7, 2004. And seven months later, her husband John, forty-years-old, followed her in death on March 17, 2005...just twelve days before Cousin Hattie had written to us about the George Family Reunion. While he had been struggling with some medical issues of his own, we have always believed that when his wife died, he lost the will to live.

My first time meeting Renee was when my mother-in-law died. I had never been further south than New Jersey...and north Jersey at that...but I fell in love with North Carolina upon my first visit, back in August of 1997.

It is said that funerals are always better attended than family reunions...and I consider this a sad truth as well. I had met my husband's aunts when they had come to visit their sister in Erie, Pennsylvania years before; but, the time surrounding the funeral of their baby sister proved to be the time for true acquaintances.

Then, in July 2004, the Livingston Grand Reunion of the descendants of Frank Livingston of Little River, South Carolina, was held in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. We stayed with Renee and John and spent time with them and my mother-in-law's family members; and, during that time Renee told me the story of how she and John met and became engaged, which was in reality an answer to a very special prayer that her grandmother had helped her formulate, and then told her to put it in God's hands. What a blessed time that was, not just for us, but for our children, too.

While planning the move to Asheville, we offered our daughter and son the choice of moving with us or staying in New England. They chose to remain, and so my husband and I "relocated the nest," as he sometimes says.

Five months later we would be attending our first George Family Reunion in Havelock....little did we know that the 2009 Reunion possibly would be the last.

Word Count: 800

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 9-From Asheville to Havelock

My frustration continues because of the chaos that is packed within boxes from our moving in November. It is amazing how such great care was taken to pack like things together (binders with binders, books with books, etc.); and yet when it gets down to finding the elusive item needed, I realize now that perhaps people have it all backwards when labeling boxes. Instead of noting the category of items packed and the location where we want them taken, we really should label them based on where we found them.

For instance, all the journals and taped reunion messages that were located in the entry closet with the surname binders should have been labeled:
Items from entry closet: Binders, Journals and Tapes.
I am in search of one journal...the one I wrote in when traveling from Asheville to Havelock in July 2009. Three and a half years later, it seems like it has been more like five or more years, and my memory for detail fades.

My greatest impression of the trip are the differences in the land. From the mountainous terrain and winding roads of the Smokies to the flat land and straight roads that seem to stretch ahead for miles and miles without end until we come to the coast.

For now the details are faded, but I know that when I eventually do find my travel journal, I will be able to insert my observations and thoughts here.

We arrived at the Hampton Inn of Havelock early in the early evening, perhaps around 5:50 pm, on Friday, July 17, 2009. I estimated the time based on what I remember about checking in at the hotel. Letitia, our co-historian, and her husband arrived a short time after we did. She told us they would be using the conference room down the hall for the Meet & Greet (6-10pm), and that there were family in there already, setting up refreshments. 

After taking our luggage up to our room and freshening up, we went back down to the conference room.
At this point, I must refer to the family photos posted by our Cousin Chris. I remember the names of some of the faces represented in them, but many I had just met for the first time and their names escape me. I will have to ask our co-historian for assistance in order to preserve them for posterity.

But the photos themselves aid my failing memory of the events of that night, and of the banquet the following night....

Word Count: 421