Category Archives: Genealogy

Roadside: Lake Murray Lodge, Ardmore, Oklahoma

Lately I’ve been cleaning up my digital life and trying to give my files some semblance of order. Through the process I’ve been reliving a bunch of trips via old photos.

Lake Murray Lodge

Lake Murray Lodge

Lake Murray Lodge is really, really close to where my Grandma and Oklahoma family live, though I didn’t visit until 2012. I think my great grandpa Aubrey Hickman worked on building some things at Lake Murray through a WPA program, but I haven’t found the paper trail to confirm it yet.

Supposedly Lake Murray Lodge (built in 1949) and a group of cabins from the 1930s were going to be demolished to make way for building a new lodge.  I haven’t kept up on the story and I’m not sure what’s still there, but I do know that I fell in love with the little old 1930s cabins and aspects of the 1949 Lodge while I was out there.

There are newer cabins still open for rent, but we stayed in the old Lodge because when we planned the trip the cabins were already all booked for the weekend we were out there.  The rooms were really dated, but as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, dated just means a place has character to me.  The bathroom tile was so great I actually took photos of it.

When I go back through these photos of Lake Murray I imagine these places when they were brand new, when a family from 80 years ago got to take a summer vacation and stay by the water in their very own cabin space.  Beautiful lake views through big windows and screened in porches.

Sadly the only cabin denizens when I visited were wasps, but there’s still some magic in these old wood and glass boxes:

Somewhere Over-the-Rhine-bow

Likely Cincinnati (check out the "Queen City" label on the inside of the overhang).  I think the second kid from the left is probably my great grandpa, but I'm not 100%.

Probably Cincinnati (check out the “Queen City” label on the inside of the overhang). I think the second kid from the left is possibly my great grandpa, but I’m not 100%.

It’s been a number of months and I’m still struggling to write down my impressions of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.  I mostly feel a murky sense of awe at the beautiful architecture and a mix of shame and distress over what kind of living conditions many of the people in the neighborhood deal with on a day to day basis.

In the places we encounter we all bring something to the table.  I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost six years now.  It is both the richest and poorest place I’ve lived in.  I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and was taught that the Bay was beautiful, but LA was a dump.  I’ve always been a fan of the underdog, and now that I’ve been in LA for awhile I feel a sense of ownership and pride and think I can finally call this sprawling metropolis my home and my city.

Downtown Los Angeles has its Skid Row.  It’s a blurry line between bars with $12+ cocktails and industrial streets lined with tents and makeshift shelters.  Well-dressed and high-heeled foodies and cocktail connosseurs cross paths with dishelved individuals who often seem to be aimlessly wandering the streets.  Sometimes you get asked for change, sometimes someone from the tent side of town will try to start a conversation with you (that usually doesn’t make much sense), but as long as you mind your own business the vast majority of encounters with Skid Row residents are passive.

Los Angeles gets such a bad rap for its gang issues, its race riots, its Skid Row.  I’d seen parts of Skid Row enough times at all hours of night and day, so I didn’t think seeing a neglected downtown core in another major city would be any kind of shock, but I think that’s the only word I can use.

I know Cincinnati is a Rust Belt city.  I know Cincinnati has an important significance in the history of my Dad’s dad’s side of the family.  I know when I visited suburban Cincinnati in 2006 all my relatives told me not to go downtown (they all now live in the suburban neighborhoods outside of downtown – no one lives in the city anymore).  Of course that made me want to go even more.

When adult people are slumped over motionless in doorways, it’s easier to distance yourself; to make it a “us” and “them” situation.  We all compartmentalize to some extent as a mental survival mechanism.  The world is full of many things both inside and outside of our control and we place our thoughts and feelings in the bins they need to go in so that we can keep functioning within the narrow scope of our individual lives.

A mystery person (probably a relative) in a photograph taken at a studio at 7th and Vine St. in Cincinnati

A mystery person (probably a relative) in a photograph taken near Over-the-Rhine at Young & Carl photo studio at 7th and Vine St. in Cincinnati (Family Photo Reunion says this studio was in operation at this location between 1895 and 1915)

For months now I’ve placed Over-the-Rhine in its historical bin – a curious look into a past place where my ancestors existed.  Neighborhood neglect has been both a blessing and a curse as many structures still exist, but many are also slowly crumbling away.  Taking a walking tour was a great chance to get to walk the streets my ancestors walked and to see the buildings they saw.  Place is a powerful component of the past.  Getting to see the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood with my own two eyes and feet seemed like the next best thing to climbing in a time machine.  But a very current place exists among the structures of a past time.  While the buildings were neglected and forgotten, so too were the communities that came to live in Over-the-Rhine.

I think that was the biggest shock of the decayed downtown core.  Most of the LA Skid Row individuals I’ve encountered are adults, while walking around Over-the-Rhine felt more like seeing the inside of a multigenerational community existing in spite of human and structural threats.  A group of little kids waved at us from an upper story window, while a gangly woman with a beaten face walked over to a man in a doorway, and a buff weightlifter parked his car along the sidewalk to blast some tunes while he hefted big metal dumbbells on the strip of concrete between sidewalk and asphalt.  This place is alive; people really live here.  (And I don’t mean to knock LA’s Skid Row as a place where people don’t live – it just has a much more transient feel to it, unlike the very rooted feeling of Over-the-Rhine.)

At the beginning of this I mentioned “shame” as one of the feelings percolating in my mind.  I’ve written about the idea of the legacy of historical shame in the past (Legacy Guilt), and I think I’ve come around to a good psychological place on personal genealogical issues.  Despite this, I am still working on finding some level of acceptance in confronting bigger picture injustices that were created by past discrimination and neglect and are perpetuated today.  Like dealing with my personal family history, the bigger family history of humanity (and American humanity in particular) is something that I can’t change.

Maybe at least increasing awareness is a good step in the right direction.  It definitely opened my eyes and made me want to know more, to see more, to understand more.  My inner optimist fell in love with the neighborhood and I feel hopeful that there is some sort of possible middle ground for Over-the-Rhine, where it can keep its roots but become a structurally and culturally safer place for the community to grow.

There are changes and movers and shakers working on the neighborhood, though there is always a fine line between saving buildings and bringing in money and pushing out those that live in the neighborhood.  Can gentrification be a positive for everyone involved?

Ancestors, childhood, and abortion.

When researching genealogy, documenting siblings of direct ancestors and the siblings’ children has proven very helpful in finding clues to the whereabouts of my direct ancestors. Though researching the many siblings in large ancestral family groups is also often an old timey reality check. My modern self starts all enthusiastic about tracking down the husbands, wives, and children, only to realize that my ancestor’s sibling died at 10 or 8 or 15 or 1. One of the saddest things is realizing that some families lost half of their children before those kids even had a shot at adulthood.

As a history person the news isn’t surprising. I know that people died young of all sorts of diseases and accidents and general tough living, but seeing it in your own family, giving names and lives to these individuals, makes the statistics people. It makes me realize how lucky we are in the U.S. in 2013. Yeah, people die of curable things because our healthcare system isn’t, erm, optimally run (totally different topic), but when I think of all the families I know with living children – well, this sure isn’t rural Tennessee in 1798!

It is a rarer tragedy when children get sick, and the families I know haven’t lost half their brood to disease or other causes. This makes me think about how our attitudes toward childhood and children are shaped by the expectation that children will make it to adulthood, and how this might inform modern day attitudes toward abortion.

I recently watched a couple documentaries on abortion. The fervent anti-abortion protestors standing outside clinics were most often portrayed as religiously motivated. I have no doubt that religion plays a major role in many individual attitudes on the subject, but the religious fixation of the anti-abortion protestors made me wonder less about biblical rationales and more about other cultural factors that play into American attitudes toward abortion. You don’t have to be super religious or non-religious to have an opinion on the subject. Separate from religious views, how might a modern day American’s worldview impact their attitudes on abortion?  Is it possible to separate religion from the issue?

Retrospect is often shrouded in a glowy halo. Not everyone I know loved childhood, but I think the general American cultural attitude privileges childhood as some sort of sacred phase. When you privilege the phase of life known as “childhood” as something special, memorable, and innocent, it seems worse to deny this phase to any cell with potential to become a human being.

So though vocal anti-abortion advocates cry foul in the name of religion, could more mild opinions be shaped by the value we place on childhood and optimistic beliefs that our modern medicine can solve the woes of childhood disease and award everyone the opportunity to grow to a fulfilling adulthood? Is it harder for modern Americans to accept that sometimes a fetus that doesn’t develop properly or is impeded by incurable disease has no fighting chance?

And this is not to say that the death of children in any time period is ever an easy thing (my great great great grandparents Thomas Crutcher and Nancy Holt each wrote a mourning poem when their son died in 1865), but I wonder if we’ve forgotten how to accept and mourn death with our overly optimistic rosy lenses – visions of cute children playing in the pages of Toys ‘R’ Us ads and in new clothes for the first day of school override images of infants hooked up on life support systems in the few months before they pass or (in abortions based on choice and not on medical conditions) children put in the adoption/foster system or children kept and not given the developmental support of their peers due to poor financial or emotional environments?

The history of American childhood, abortion, and death and mourning are not my specialties, so I could probably use some more reading before coming to any sort of real conclusions, but I do know enough to at least ask questions and wonder.

(As an aside, I’ll also note that I’m super impressed how old some of my ancestors got – 70s, 80s, even 90s!)

Me in DNA form.

Freshly opened DNA kit!

Freshly opened DNA kit!

So I decided to spit in a tube, drop it in a mailbox, and get my DNA analyzed via AncestryDNA (the ancestry.com DNA test, not the other one floating around on Groupon).  It was incredibly simple and the results of the test analysis showed up a couple weeks earlier than I’d anticipated.  Win, win, win.

1. Spit in tube after not eating for awhile.

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Drooool. (After at least 30 minutes of not eating – don’t want to contaminate your precious cargo.)

2. Close tube cap and release spit DNA preservation stuff.  Oooo, it’s blue!

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Spit enhanced by blue preservation substance.

3. Remove tube funnel and screw on the tube cap.  Place the tube in the biohazard envelope.  Oooo, your spit is a biohazard!

Radioactive....but not.

Radioactive….but not.

4. Place the tube+envelope in the mailer and drop it off at your nearest postal pick-up locale.

Have a safe trip little vial of spit!

Have a safe trip little vial of spit!

5. Wait as patiently as possible. (taps foot -> tap, tap, tap, tap)

6.  Get extremely excited when an e-mail shows up in your inbox announcing your results are ready!  Whoo!

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Me in regional DNA estimate form.  It’s like my high-tech selfie.  Oooo, I feel so exposed. (P.S. This is much more readable if you click the image and plaster it across your monitor.)

For the most part I found what I was expecting to find.  I really hoped I was at least a dash American Indian, so that was an exciting find.  The trace of Asia Central was unexpected but not entirely surprising.  The most surprising was the 9% estimate for Iberian Peninsula.

On my paternal side I’m Japanese and a mishmash of European – German, French, Irish, and English mostly.  These ancestors lived in the Ohio/Kentucky/Pennsylvania/Maryland region.

On the maternal side I’m half Eastern European (Polish and Slovene) and a mishmash of European.  I’m still working on researching back further, but so far the European side seems likely to be English/Scottish/Irish.  This group of Euro settlers mostly began in North Carolina, migrated to Tennessee, and then later to Texas and Oklahoma.

I’m really not sure which side (or both?) the Iberian peninsula comes from!  I thought maybe it could be southern France, but the last French ancestor I had intermarried into other communities back in the 1700s, so 9% seemed a little excessive for such a distant ancestor.  I’m also not sure where in France my ancestor came from.  We (the family in general) are pretty certain our French ancestor was Huguenot – I’m not sure if this could have some contribution to the mystery.

My actual initial thought was that there was maybe a connection to Slovenia.  It’s a bit of a leap maybe, but in non-DNA percentages I’m 25% Eastern European, so initially I looked to the other percentages to see why the Eastern European estimate was so low.  The more I think about it, the more obscure this connection seems.  I haven’t found any evidence to back up this knee-jerk theory.  I know the DNA that gets passed down to you doesn’t split 50/50 from each parent and I really don’t know if my Eastern European ancestors moved around a bunch in the past couple hundred years.  I just know that they lived in those particular countries before coming to the U.S. circa 1900.

I also read some stuff online about a possible migratory connection between the Iberian peninsula and Ireland, leaving it possible that a couple of my Irish ancestors might have lived on the Iberian peninsula at one point?  I’m not sure.  I need to do some more reading and researching.  I just feel pretty certain that there isn’t a hidden recent ancestor from Portugal/Spain/Southern France/Northern Africa.  But universe, go ahead and surprise me!

I don’t have any documentation of Scandinavian relatives on either side of the family, but I imagine that has something to do with the migration of Scandinavian groups to the British Isles way back in old timey Viking days.  That seems like a pretty straightforward possibility.  Dang, Britain and Western Europe have a pretty strong showing.  Makes sense, but just looks like such a big number to have all those odds and ends of British and Western European ancestors grouped in one percentage.  I don’t tend to think of that part of my ancestry as cohesive since they’ve all been in the U.S. for so long – I tend to think more distinctly about the cultural/ethnic identities of my 20th century immigrant ancestors.

My Mom tells me her dad (of the generally North Carolina->Tennessee->Texas/Oklahoma branch) always said he was “‘Merican” when asked what he was.  Ultimately, that is what I am too!  Americans often get a bad rap (that is also often earned), but I’m happy and proud to be one.  Somebody get me a Stars and Stripes to wave!

All in all, totally worth it.  It was my birthday present from my parents and definitely exactly what I wanted.  🙂

How many voters?

I’m trying to find out more about the Hickman family.  My Hickman relatives now live in Oklahoma, but before that they lived in Tennessee.  I was looking at the 1870 federal census record for my gggreat grandpa Zachary Taylor Hickman and decided to take a spin around the census block to check out the neighbors.

His (at the time) future wife Mary Jane White is a tough one to pin down.  So far it appears that after Zachary Taylor Hickman died she married at least two more times.  Did she have a husband before Zachary Taylor?  She was 20 when they married in 1873, so the odds are lower than if she’d been older.

So I’m cruising around District 9, Lawrence, Tennessee in  1870, trying to spot Mary Janes or a White family.  I get to the end of the census District and see this:

Page 14, 1870 census, District 9, Lawrence, TN/Ancestry.com and NARA

Page 14, 1870 census, District 9, Lawrence, TN/Ancestry.com and NARA

Go ahead, blow that up on your computer screen and take a look at those stats.  I hadn’t seen a tally like this before, and maybe it’s because of the census year or the region or just the guy they hired to do the job, or maybe I just haven’t reached the end of enough censuses (censi?).  How about that voter count?  It kind of makes me want to go back through the census and compare the number of adults eligible to vote and the number of actual adults in the area.

But that’s a distraction that’s going to derail me.  I’ve been hot on Mary Jane White’s trail and I’m not ready to give up yet.  It seems like the Hickmans reused names way more often than other family branches.  This is making it really tough to figure out which Lemuel is which, and how the Lemuels connect with the Snowdens (I think they do somewhere along the line, maybe future back than Tennessee?).

Anywhoo, back to the census records.  I just wanted to pop in here real quick to make a note of the nice statistical rundown.

The Three Piece Suit.

William Howard Furnier, my paternal great grandpa. , possibly in Cincinnati, likely sometime in the 1910s or 1920s.

William Howard Furnier, my paternal great grandpa. Possibly in Cincinnati, likely sometime in the 1910s or 1920s.

This is my paternal great grandpa William Howard Furnier.  I look at this photo and think, hey, if this were taken in the era of the digital photo they totally would’ve looked at the camera screen and done a second take.  But with this possibly taken in Cincinnati mostly likely in the 1910s or 1920s, great grandpa Howard Furnier was stuck with this eyes shut photo.

But, I digress.  This post is less about my ggrandpa, and more about his attire.  Rewatching Boardwalk Empire made me pay even closer attention to everyone’s clothes, and I am just dying over the three piece suits.  The jacket-pants-vest combo in 1920s wonderfulness is killing me.  I did some google image searching which led me to this fantastic blog with great posts on Jimmy Darmody’s suits (dark pinstripe and blue suit). (Nick Charles has got it goin’ on too.)

Vests and menswear really don’t fit my body type.  Neither does 1920s womenswear, alas.  Thankgoodness me and the Mad Men era get along.

Howard Furnier would’ve been a contemporary to Andrew Holt (all the way over on my Mom’s side of the family).  Andrew was about 10 years older, but they both seem like they were movers and shakers of a sort.  Howard did some amateur boxing in the 1910s and 1920s – exciting!  Totally a future post topic.  I think I’ll be staying in the 1910s/1920s for awhile, I’m getting comfy here.

Not to mention, Howard married my great grandma Edith Graham in Newport, Kentucky in 1929.  I went on an Underground Cincinnati tour, run by the fabulous American Legacy Tours company, and learned they also have a Newport, Kentucky walking tour on gangsters, speakeasies, and all that jazz!  I don’t know when I’ll be back in the Cincinnati area to visit relatives again, but I definitely want to go on the Newport tour next time I’m around town.  I had no idea Newport was a significant place during Prohibition.

Oklahoma and prohibition

I’ve been a little fixated on my ancestor Andrew Holt lately, mostly because it’s been relatively easy to find a couple newspaper articles on his death.  Since I posted the last article I came across more newspaper bits that relate to him.  On one hand I’d like to pick a more obscure relative to research, but obscurity often doesn’t leave a very obvious paper trail, so for now pardon my obsession with the bootlegging/Prohibition related relative.  I’ll do my best not to glorify or harangue any of the participants too much.

My great grandma Julia Holt Hickman's oldest brother in the papers.  Oklahoma Weekly Leader, 1922 January 19.

My great grandma Julia Holt Hickman’s oldest brother in the papers. Oklahoma Weekly Leader, 1922 January 19.

I picked up a book on Prohibition in Oklahoma called Born Sober: Prohibition in Oklahoma, 1907-59 by Jimmie Lewis Franklin, published in 1971.  Before big “P” federal Prohibition was passed and went into effect in 1920, Oklahoma had little “p” prohibition.  Before statehood Oklahoma was divided between Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory.  Indian Territory was always dry, and when Oklahoma became a state in 1907 (uniting the two territories), it too went dry.

Born Sober mentions a saloonkeeper in Ponca City, who reacted to statewide prohibition by posting this statement above his business, “Hush little saloon, don’t you cry; you’ll be a drug store, by and by.” (Franklin 24)  I wish the book had more tasty tidbits like that.  It’s a great statewide overview, but leans more toward political machinations than cultural history.  I also think there is something to be said about race and alcohol prohibition, but maybe someone else wrote that book between 1971 and the present day.  I haven’t done any research on that yet.

I do give the author props for at least touching on the role of religion in the prohibition debate.  Catholics (often more recent immigrants) were sacramental wine users, while Protestants (who made up the majority of Oklahomans at the time) didn’t need booze to satisfy the rituals of their religious practice, and were more likely to be vehemently anti-booze.  For the record, my Oklahoma relatives were somewhere in the Methodist-Episcopal-Baptist range.  Andrew Holt’s grandpa was itinerant minister Thomas Crutcher Holt.  T.C. Holt  is an entire series of posts on his own, so I’ll leave that there for now.

Anywhoo, statewide prohibition was difficult to enforce (hey, just like federal Prohibition a decade or so later).  Local sentiment played a big role in whether or not enforcement was feasible in particular regions.  It was also expensive to enforce and difficult to control liquor coming over the border from wet states. (Franklin 37-40).  Despite enforcement difficulties and attempts to amend or do away with prohibition of alcohol in Oklahoma, the statewide ban remained.

There are some nitty gritty details on the particulars of alcohol prohibition – things like adjustments in the enforcement of the law, restrictions, and the exception that allowed individuals to get a prescription for alcohol from their doctor.  There is also a lot to be said about the background of the whites who moved to Oklahoma before and after statehood, and how that came into play in terms of the political power dynamics.  And, even after federal Prohibition ended in the early 1930s, Oklahoma still had another form of state alcohol prohibition.

For family history purposes in this particular case study I’m going to stick to the 1900-1933 period and keep it general unless it directly pertains to my family in Love County.  I’m mostly interested in better understanding the context of the 1922 shooting of my relative Andrew Holt in Marietta, OK, and any other info is bonus material.

I really hope someone has a picture of him somewhere.  I’d love to put a face with a name.  I do have several pictures of his youngest sister, my great grandma Julia Holt Hickman.  She died when I was young, but I did get to meet her on several occasions.  My Mom was really close to her and has told me a lot of very nice things about her, so I’ll have to do a post on her sometime.

(Researching alcohol prohibition has been a nice build up to the Boardwalk Empire premiere in September!  I can’t wait.  It’s like a birthday present to me – sensationalized history with some of the best costuming and set design.  And the music!  Only place on modern TV to have 1920s dance tunes show up that I can sing along to.  I’m still ecstatic “Barney Google” was at the end of last season……”with the goo goo googly eyes….”  So cool.)

Herminie, PA Coal Mining and Ignatz Kolar

The internet is great and constantly updated.  I feel like every year or so I need to re-search the internet for family names and the history of different regions.

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Rozalija (Rose) and Ignatz (Ignac) Kolar, circa early 1930s

Rozalija and Ignatz Kolar were from Slovenia, or what was then part of Austria-Hungary in the late 19th/early 20th century.  When they first came to the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century, they lived in Herminie, Pennsylvania, outside of Pittsburg.  The region of Slovenia they came from was largely a mining area, and so one of the first jobs Ignac had in the U.S. was a mining job.

I came across the Virtual Museum of Coal Mining in Western Pennsylvania that lists him as a Slovenian miner circa 1912 for the Ocean Coal Company in Herminie, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania at the Ocean/Herminie No. 1 bituminous coal mine.  Sounds about right to me!

There were coal company owned houses and stores in Herminie, but it looks like my great great grandpa Ignatz owned his own home, or at least rented a non-company house.  On the page about the Ocean/Herminie No. 1 mine, there is a line that notes:

“The first settlers, such as Sornig, Mole Gradisek, Coz, Kolar, Bedek, Kapla, Arnold, Drab and Cirar, have their own homes, but religious conditions are rather bad.

On Sundays many worship in the Irish church of Our Lady in Madison. Once a year Rev. J. Mertelj comes from Pittsburgh to hear confessions. In the village there are the following lodges: SNPJ Lodge #87 which was founded in 1906 with 14 members; St. Barbara’s Lodge, founded in 1908 with 16 members, and SSPZ Lodge founded in 1911 with 17 members. The immigrants came mostly from the Upper Carniola (Gorenjska) or Notranjska and have found work in the coal mines. {from Rev. J.M. Trunk text published originally in 1912 Part 8, History of Slovene Communities.}”

The family eventually purchased a farm and moved to Sheldon, Wisconsin.  I believe the photo above was taken in the early 1930s in Wisconsin.  I’ve never been to Herminie and I’ve never worked in a mine, but I can’t help but imagine that working hard as a farmer was a huge move up from laboring in an early 20th century coal mine.

Grandparents and parents.

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Margaret and Donald Hickman with my Uncle and Mom. February 1959 and probably in Garden Grove, CA

I went to a clothing swap on Saturday that confirmed my belief that 1950s and 1960s dresses are my thing.  I still think the early 1930s are my most favorite fashion years, but I wasn’t built to wear those styles.

I’m glad Don Draper on Mad Men is finally becoming aware of his alcoholism.  My grandpa Don was also an alcoholic in the 1950s and 1960s (and other decades).  I hope Don Draper can move beyond his drinking problem and not let it kill him in the 1980s like it did my Don.

My grandparents lived in Southern California for awhile in their younger years.  Don was a Seabee in the Navy at Port Huaneme (and other non-SoCal locales), and then he and my Grandma lived in Los Angeles and Orange County for a bit before they ended up back in Oklahoma.

I haven’t found documentation, but when Don was a little kid I think his parents brought him out to California at least once in the 1930s.  It seems like he had a very unstable childhood.  I’ve always thought his dad James Aubrey Hickman (who I call “Pa” because that’s what my Mom called him) was handsome in photos.  I think he was also an alcoholic?  Maybe I’ll post about Pa next.

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Machiko and James Furnier with my Dad, circa 1960-1961. Could’ve been taken in Montana or Okinawa or Ohio or elsewhere. I’m sure someone knows where. I should ask.

I didn’t get to know my Furnier grandparents very well before they passed away.  My Grandpa James was big into genealogy, which is one of the few things I know about him.  He did a lot of research on the Furniers, back in the days before the internet.  As genealogy torchbearer I’ve been debating creating some kind of online database with all the genealogy related materials digitized and organized.  I don’t think of myself as owner of any of it; I think of myself as steward of materials that belong to the whole family.

For now I’m just going to start posting more about genealogy on this blog.  It seems to be one of the few subjects I feel inclined to ramble about.  Writer’s block is no match for genealogy musings.

Legacy Guilt.

Today I went to the Western History Workshop on Dr. Alice Echols’ work in progress project on her grandfather’s involvement with a Building and Loan Bank scandal in Colorado Springs in the Great Depression.  At the beginning of her presentation she brought up the problematic nature of mining family history for history narratives.  Past lives, like present lives, are riddled with tragedy as much as they are stories of success and triumph.

In my own personal genealogy research I semi-recently learned that my great great great great grandpa was a slave owner in Tennessee.  Most of his sons moved to Texas as young adults and remained there until their deaths.  The sons fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War, while their slave owning father actually sided with the Union.

Thomas Crutcher Holt, one of the sons (and my ancestor) worked as an itinerant Methodist and Baptist preacher in the South.  His son Edgar Eugene Holt moved to southern Oklahoma.  And it was there in southern Oklahoma that Edgar’s son Andrew Holt, my great grandma’s oldest brother, ran whiskey during Prohibition in the 1920s and was shot down by a sheriff (and family oral history also says a U.S. Marshall) in a nighttime raid.

The Morning Tulsa daily world. (Tulsa, Okla.), 21 Jan. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

The Morning Tulsa daily world. (Tulsa, Okla.), 21 Jan. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042345/1922-01-21/ed-1/seq-5/

I don’t feel bad at all about having a Prohibition violating ancestor, though I do feel a little bad about having a slave owning gggg grandfather.  I’ve decided to call this legacy guilt.  It’s a non-monetary inheritance that you can’t really do anything about.  The longer I’ve known about it the easier it has been to reconcile that what an ancestor did is very much in the past, and what you do as an individual in the present is far more important than the actions of any one of the hundreds of ancestors that rotated around the sun before you.

Their actions had far reaching implications and greatly impacted the lives around them, but there is no remedy for that when you are nothing but an agent of the present.

If anything, learning more about the potentially negatives aspects of my family’s past illuminates a general history narrative that often feels generic and impersonal.  I’ve been pursuing information on the cultural context of my slaveowning ancestor in Tennessee and his sons’ move to Texas.  It’s been an exciting journey so far to try to understand the push and pull factors of their choices through the contexts of their lives.