Sunday, January 19, 2014

It’s a Southern Thing


imageThis past week I was able to attend the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.   Having so many southern lines, there  was no question in my mind when I signed up last June but that I would choose the tract  “Southern Research,” with J. Mark Lowe

I have taken courses from Mark before and I knew that in addition to learning the ins and outs of Southern research, I would also learn about the culture and the mindset of the southern people  from a true southerner, accent and all. This week was no exception.

From Mark we learned terms such as  “seasoning”, bran dance, and fictive kin and my “Amazon Wish List” grew by leaps and bounds, as did my bookmarks for my “go-to” websites.  In addition, Mark taught us the value of “mull and ponder,” a step so many of us researchers overlook in our race to acquire yet more information.

In class Mark compared, overlaid and lined up side by side, topographic, physiographic, soil survey and migration maps, in addition to maps showing historic county boundaries. We learned about the geographic features of the states and how those things impacted our ancestor’s daily lives and ability to travel.  Among other things, we learned about wills, estates and guardianship records as well as some of the traditions of the south.  Mark taught us the value of knowing our ancestor’s religion and how we can track down the histories and records of those itinerant preachers that may have performed and recorded the important events of our ancestor’s lives. Mark covered Federal claims, road lists, long hunters, tax records and a variety of records that are unique to the South.  We even learned the history behind such places as Cheek’s Stand (I wasn’t sure I would sleep that night).  And just when we felt our heads might burst, he gave us homework assignments that provided an opportunity to try out some of our newly acquired knowledge.
image
SLIG 2014
Michelle & Mark Lowe

But as is typical, Mark’s class wasn’t all work.  We enjoyed the opportunity to visit, ask questions, discuss and we laughed…..a lot.  Mark helped us to not only know the South, but to feel something of that wonderful Southern hospitality.  He is as warm and genuine as he is knowledgeable.

At the end of the class, Mark teased that I held the record for taking his classes the most and I think it just may be the truth.  I love my Southern kin, and I long to not only fill my brain with a knowledge of their history, but also my heart with an understanding of their lives. And so I have jumped at opportunities to take classes from J. Mark Lowe, and this week, as always, I left feeling warmly rewarded for the effort. 

Follow Mark at http://keepingthestoryalive.blogspot.com/ and http://kytnstories.blogspot.com/


Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

For the Love of Tula


Tula Faucett with Ola 2
Tula (Faucett) Eckles and daughter Ola
She was particular about her appearance, that much I could tell.   Her hair and her clothes revealed an attention to detail as well as a certain degree of refinement. Her pictures stand in sharp contrast to many of the other pictures in my collection, reflecting a woman that not only was selective about what she wore, but appears to have been financially comfortable, at least at the time. But who was she?  There were no dates, only a first name.  I realized as I looked through the scant few pictures within my grandma’s bag, that one thing was for certain, the woman in the pictures had been special to someone in my family.  While the pictures were few, there were more of her than any other single person. The backs of the pictures identified her simply as “Tula.”  There were five pictures in all of Tula, with two pictures of other individuals, identified by their relationship to her. 

In checking my database I realized that while there was more than one known Tula in my ancestry,  there was really only one that fit and made any sense.  Tula H. Faucett was born 11 Sept 1873 in Walker County, Georgia and was a sister to my great grandmother Sarah E. Faucett.  While studying my great grandmother’s family,  I had passed over Tula’s name many times without even pausing to learn anything about her.  Intrigued now by her pictures, I decided it was high time I got to know her.

Unlike so many of those in my family tree, Tula was not hard to find. I was pleased to be able to locate her in census records, marriage records, a cemetery listing and newspaper clippings, which not only helped to tie her to the other people in the pictures, but also confirmed that I had the right Tula.  Thrilled to have both pictures and documents, I was able to piece together at least portions of Tula’s life.

Tula was born to James Merritt Faucett and Elmina Bowers on 11 September 1873 in the rolling wooded hills of Walker County, Georgia,  just across the Tennessee border.   The youngest of seven children,  Tula had three sisters and three brothers. 

Tragedy struck the Faucett family when on August 3, 1876, Tula’s mother, Elmina, died leaving behind her husband, James, with the five children who were still at home. Tula was just 3 years old at the time and I can imagine that her sisters Martha and Sarah took her by the hand and helped her with her many needs in the months following their mother's death.  Tula's older sister, Martha, soon married and moved out of the home, leaving Tula to rely on her sister Sarah, who was my great grandmother.  Although as adults, Tula and Sarah lived in different states, the sisters stayed in touch,  sharing some of their important life events through pictures.  Those pictures remained in my grandmother's suitcase until after her death when they found their way to me.

Tula Faucett and Ola
Tula (Faucett) Eckles and daughter Ola 
James Merritt Faucett and his children joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and migrated along with other members of the church from Georgia to the San Luis Valley in Colorado in the early 1880's.  There he married Mary Elizabeth Kirkus.  The 1885 Census shows James and his wife, Mary, living in Conejos County along with their two year old daughter.  Tula is also living in Conejos County, but in a different household.  Twelve years old and listed as a servant, specifically a cook, Tula is shown living with Lisle Wainwright and his wife Martha. I wish I knew the circumstances and story behind Tula living with another family and working as a cook at such a young age, but while there are likely many possible reasons for it,  I can’t help but wonder if it implies something about the relationship between Tula and her new stepmother.

On 2 February 1896,  Tula married Charles H. Eckles  in Alamosa, Colorado and two years later, on March 6, 1898, their first child, Ola Eckles, was born.  But once again tragedy struck in Tula’s life when her husband Charles passed away  just 15 days after Ola‘s birth.  I sadly realized that the pictures of Tula and Ola reflected not only that of a young wife and mother with  her beloved daughter, but a woman that had already learned much about hardship and loss. I will share more of Tula's pictures and her story in coming posts.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'll Be Home For Christmas


“I’ll be home for Christmas.” As the song played softly on the radio, stirring up memories of my childhood and of days when our own children were home,  I felt the familiar lump rise in my throat. That song has been responsible for many tears over the years.  It made me cry when I was away at college and longing for home.  It made me cry the first year after I was married when we lived too far from my parents and siblings to visit, and now I cry because I miss both my childhood Christmases as well as the days when my own sweet children were at home.

The words ring true for me, I will always be home for Christmas, even if it is in my dreams and I know I am not alone in feeling that way.  While I now create new memories with family,  life is perpetually changing and I will always cherish the memories of past Christmas. 

While Christmas traditions have varied greatly over the years, one theme seems to always be consistent and that is that Christmas has always been a time to gather with family and friends.  For that reason, the Christmas of 1886 must have been particularly difficult for my great great grandparents, John and Olivia (Rainwater) Ganus.  Having left their native Georgia on the 16th of November,  John and Olivia, along with their sons and their families, spent December 1886 on the cold wind swept plains of southern Colorado.  Nearly 1500 miles from “home,”  they were far from their extended family and lifelong friends.


Trena Ganus, Sanford, Colorado
View looking across San Luis Valley, Colorado,
 Taken August 2013
By Trena Ganus

They were totally new to the wide open spaces of the west and, while I personally love the valley where they settled,  not much about Southern Colorado would have reminded them of “home.”  The seemingly unending fields of grassland stand in stark contrast to the Haralson County area of Georgia with its hills and pine forests.  While Georgia’s low temperatures can dip as low as the mid 30’s during December,
temperatures in the 30’s are frequently the high for Southern Colorado with temperature sometimes dropping as low as 40 below zero. Were John and Olivia prepared for the harsh winters of their new home?  Did they have adequate clothing and bedding? 

Many of the foods of Southern Colorado reflect the heritage of the Mexican people who originally settled the area, in addition to foods typical of the Scandinavian and English people who settled the area prior to the arrival of the Southerners. These foods were vastly different from the foods most often enjoyed by the southern people.  I can only assume that the Christmas traditions also reflected the cultural heritage of the earlier settlers and were also somewhat foreign to John and Olivia.

Having left all extended family behind,  there would have been no family near by that December to drop by John and Olivia’s home for a visit or to drop off even a simple gift or homemade goodie, nor would there have been invitations to extended family gatherings. On Christmas day, long before the days when home phones were common place,  there would not have been calls made to brothers and sisters back home to help ease the homesickness. I wonder, how did the Ganus family feel that Christmas season?  Did they reflect on past Christmases?  Did they long for family and friends left behind?   

Over the years, the Christmas Season has become exponentially bigger, louder and brighter.  Despite the aggressive sales campaigns, Christmas music blasting in the stores way before I want to hear it and the traditional colors of red and green now sharing the stage with hot pink, purple and lime, one thing seems to remain the same and that is the desire to be with family.  I suspect that at Christmas time I will always reflect over the memories of past years with parents, siblings and our children and that just as the song says, " I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams."  

May your Christmas be filled with the love of family and of our Savior, Jesus Christ, whose birthday we celebrate.

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2013


 Top left:  "Farmyard in Winter" by George Henry Durrie, 1858 PD Art, courtesy of Wikimedia; in public domain.   http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Farmyard_in_Winter_by_George_Henry_Durrie,_1858.jpg