Tattered Past

Tattered Past: My ongoing journey through genealogy, history, writing, self-exploration and art. ~~~ Rita Ackerman

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Pioneer Life

I haven't been particularly inspired lately. I think it is the allergies and general spring fever. I usually start thinking about my Tuesday post days ahead and decide on the photo and start thinking about what I want to write on Monday.

This week...nothing.

So I pulled out one of the archival boxes where I keep the family photos and started browsing through the faces. I found my first best friend, Patty, a school group including my grandmother, and one of my parents and sister long before I came along. Those will all be shared some day.

Today I have another picture of John and Mattie Keith. Mattie looks much younger and she seems to have a bit of a smile almost like she had a special thought come to mind just as the photo was taken. John looks the same; even the same angle. I wonder if this is their wedding photo.

I did a quick search for W. S. Edwards in Meade, Kansas and didn't find anything.

This is Clyde Keith, the son of Mattie and John, who was killed by a rattlesnake when about two years old. He looks like such a happy baby.
Can't you just imagine John sitting in that chair in the evening with his pipe or cigar? Perhaps a book or newspaper. There sure wasn't much too look at out the window or door from the background in this photo.This must be before they moved to town.

John and Mattie aren't direct ancestors but I have always been drawn to their pictures. I wonder if Mattie and I would have been friends. What kinds of things she liked to do. Did she keep a diary? Her daughter never mentioned one.

I'm still not feeling especially inspired but I'm thinking about Mattie and her life. Perhaps one day I'll write a story about her. What kind of stories would you write?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Back to Family History

 I began doing my genealogy in 1977. I remember so well because it was right after we got married. That was before personal computers and I collected everything in to a small spiral notebook.

Then I found the Family History Society of Arizona; a newly founded group with meetings across town. I drove to those meetings and learned about special forms, the LDS library and the large branch in Mesa, and much more. Tired of driving I founded a chapter closer to home. The Paradise Valley Chapter grew and I made numerous friends. One of them I still meet every Tuesday for lunch. I learned genealogy, taught genealogy, lectured and eventurally became a professional genealogist myself.

Over time I've gotten away from genealogy but always came back. Today I went to a seminar with my lunch buddy. It was great to see the people I haven't seen in years and to get all enthused with ideas for searching my family.

My friend Janna Larson of Genealogy One-On-One.
She kindly let me set up my Inner Critics and a couple of Shabby Journals on one end. They got a few guffaws.
The speaker today was Dick Eastman who has an on-line newsletter for technology and genealogy here. I haven't spent any time with his site but from the information he gave us today it will be well worth the time. He really talked to me as I am currently trying to sort through the research of the past 35 years and making it compact and ready to hand down to my descendants. I worry about digitizing everything vs keeping hard copies. Basically he says to keep as many copies in as many formats as possible.

This is good advice for all genealogists, writers and everybody else who has important documents, family photos and memories.

Please excuse me, while I go back up my laptop.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Family Stories

Study this picture for a few minutes. What do the faces tell you?
What do their clothes and the pose tell you?

This is John and Mattie (Hinsdale) Keith and their daughter, Dottie. They were cousins of my great grandmother Nellie Keith Martin who I have written about many times.

John was born in Illinois in 1863; near the beginning of the Civil War. He moved with other members of the family to Southwestern Kansas in about 1883. John was a store owner, farmer, school master and later the superintendent of the school. John and Mattie were married in 1898 and had two children: Clyde born in 1899 and Rena Dottie born in 1909. When Clyde was two years old he was bitten by a rattlesnake and died. John and Mattie both died in 1950.

After I began doing genealogy research around 1977 I managed to locate Dottie and wrote to her a few times. She was very proud of her father who was well respected in the area. She obviously loved her mother and thought she was beautiful. She told me about the brother she had never known.

Settlers on the prairie had so many things to worry about. Crop failure, fires, drought, outlaws, Indians, small pox... and rattlesnakes. I look at Hattie's face and see the worry, the loss, but also a bit of pride as she surely loved her little girl. John looks wistful. Was he thinking about his son?

I lost touch with Dottie. I wish I'd gotten to know her better. I even wish I had visited her. She was family. I often look at these pictures and think about the people in them. I try to learn as much as I can about my ancestors. Who they were and what they did. I hope, one day, to have all the stories written down so they won't be forgotten. So the family that follows will understand, at least a little bit, why they look worried, sad, or wistful.

Have you tried to find out who your ancestors or family members Really were? Are you preserving their stories. It's never too late to start.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Fairy Wings and Magic

 It's a dreary, cold, rainy day here in the desert. That just makes it more fun to write about my mini-me fairies getting ready to head out into the world.

 Last week I showed you my mini-mes and their prospective wings (Here.)

Since then I've made backgrounds on watercolor paper with acrylics spread on with an old gift card and left to dry. A dark green ivy stamp, drawings of birds and flowers with added bling added to the fun background. Meanwhile, butterfly and moth wings were added to a childhood photo of myself. Then that was added to the top along with the word that describes my fairy self "Believer."

This project was done as a swap with the Yahoo Sketchbook Project Group. A wonderful group of ladies that has taught be so much. Eleven of us will send our little fairies to our fairy hostess, Lisa, who will swap them out and return 11 different fairies to our doors.

On the back of each one we added a current photo of ourselves which will add to the fun since most of us have never met in person. What a great way to get to know each other and experiment with new techniques.
I really got a kick out of cutting out 12 mini-mes (I have to have one for myself) and adding wings.

It felt a bit magical.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Talk With the Grandson

Yesterday my daughter, Jessica, called to say there was a little boy who wanted to talk to Grammy but wouldn't say why. Brendan came on the line to tell me, for the second time, all about their trip to Disneyland and Sea World.


The little guy is so excited about the trip he just had to tell somebody all about it. And Grammy had a blast hearing about it. Including the pirates that go "ARGH."
His favorite ride was Space . He also liked the train on Thunder Mountain. He went on the teacups, Dumbo, cars, Nemo's submarine, and the carousal. He mentioned the Tiki Tiki Room and I reached far back into my memory to sing the song and he joined in.

So much excitement it reminded of all the times we took Jessica to the Magic Kingdom.

They got to pet a dolphin but he was a little afraid of the whales.
The whales jumped "way up high" and splashed him in the face.

A reminder that we should always look at life as through the eyes of a child.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Family Photo Clues

One of the best things about doing these weekly posts and digging through my boxes of photos is finding the details and memories that have lain hidden for so long.

That is me under my favorite tree in its springtime glory. It was a crabapple with little tiny sour apples that I loved to eat. There was a branch that fit me perfectly and I often set there waiting for my mom to come home from work. A few feet in front of me is our pekingese, Smokey. My best childhood friend.

Behind that is the old oak tree where my rope and wood swing hung. I loved to swing up high so I could see over the neighbors fence, garage and on down the street to all the other yards. I haven't thought of that swing in a long time. This picture brought back that feeling of soaring high up in the air and pumping my legs and body to fly higher and higher.

It occurred to me a while back that because our house was so small it might have been a garage or something at some time. Now I can see that it might be two houses put together or possibly an addition. It is so obvious from the two types of siding. I sure didn't remember that detail.

That window was over the kitchen sink. One of my favorite features of our house now is the window over the sink. I don't have any pictures of that kitchen. Sadly.

This is the house I grew up in. I remember it well. This picture and its clues make me wonder what clues are hiding in other family pictures. Pictures of where my various ancestors lived or worked. 

What clues could you find in your family photos?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Borders Closing

Ever since I've been a writer I've been pulled to coffee shops. Isn't that why laptop computers were invented? For writers in coffee shops? Well, how about fountain pens? My favorite way to write is with a fountain pen and spiral notebook. Even when I'm working on a project on the computer. If I get stuck I start using pen and paper and the ideas flow again. I write most of my articles in longhand first.

My favorite place to go has been the Borders on Cactus Road a few miles from my house. It is now gone and I feel like a chunk of my life is also gone.

I can't even imagine how many words I wrote in that store. How many books and magazines I browsed and bought. Pens, journals, books for my daughter and later my grandkids. It's all been in that store right there.

I went by one day with pen and paper in hand to have one last hot chai and do some writing. The coffee shop was already closed. I looked around but didn't find any of the books on my list so I left. Melancholy set in as I saw the empty shelves, darkened coffee shop and booksellers who would soon be out of a job.

Of course, that got me to thinking about special places. Or perhaps "charged places" as my friend and fellow writer, Stella Pope-Duarte calls them. She talks about the ocean and other places that renew your energy.

Going to the mountains or the ocean is great but I was lucky to find one close to home and easily accessible. Now I'm searching for another one. Here I am with a chai at the Barnes & Noble at Desert Ridge. A nice place but not one that was on my regular route. That is obviously changed.

Other charged places in my life are Tombstone, Arizona. When I go to that town my energy explodes. Seattle seems to do that to me, too. I love the ocean but I haven't been there in ages. Mountain tops seem to draw me more. Closer to home I like antique shops, art centers and Old Town Scottsdale.

What are your special places? Where do you unwind or get energized?
If you don't have a special place close to home take the time to find one.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tuesdays With Rita: Four-Year-Old Me

How do you like the many mini-mes?
In my Yahoo Sketchbook Group we are doing an exchange of ourselves as fairies. They will be made in to 4 x 4 pages and swapped to go into a fat book. So I had to cut twelve little mes. That was somewhat relaxing and rather mindless...so I kept thinking about that little me.

What were her dreams? What was that four year old thinking? So much of my childhood has been blacked out. This could have been my first day of school. I remember my kindergarten teacher, somewhat. We had a piano in the classroom and I thought that was really something. There was a great play kitchen and I know I wanted to cook and be like my mother. Of course I had my crush on my cousin as I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Later I know I wanted to be a policewoman, like my mom. And of course I wanted to have horses. There was always the horses. I wanted to be a cowgirl. I think all through my childhood and up through highschool and into college becoming a policewoman was my main dream.
After cutting out the mini-mes I needed wings and happened to find a book on butterflies and moths in the dollar section at Target.

I had lots and lots of wings for my fairy me.

And now I need to take that little me and decide on backgrounds and embellishments.
In the meantime, more thoughts and memories are coming to the surface.

Take a picture of yourself as a child and study it. Think about that little girl or boy and what they wanted at that time. Learn more about yourself.