Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Vintage Christmas

The older I get, the more Christmas time becomes a time to reflect. As I decorate the Christmas tree, I think back on my childhood Christmases which were full of anticipation and fun family activities. I also think about our own sweet children and the fun things we did together during the Christmas season. Many of the things my husband and I did were carry overs from our childhoods.

Christmas village I purchased

It's interesting to discover that many of the decorations I remember as a kid are now "vintage." One of my favorite Christmas decorations from my childhood is a little village. The little miniature houses were made of a thin cardboard like material. The windows were cut out and had colored cellophane covering them, giving the appearance of stained glass. Mom set the little houses in billowy piles of cotton that gave the appearance of snow. I remember how I loved to sit and gaze at the houses while my imagination ran wild with stories about the tiny imaginary people who lived in the houses. My mom still has her village, but since it is one of my fondest memories, I was thrilled to find and buy some similar little houses. 

My Santa cup

When I was just a little girl, one of my mom's friends made a cute little Santa mug for me and it's been part of my Christmas ever since. When I was little, I drank everything from root beer to hot apple cider from the cup and although I have no memory of my mother's friend who made the cup, it's one of my favorite decorations because of all the happy memories associated with it.

Tree made by my Aunt Sally

After I married, my dear Aunt Sally gave me one of my first Christmas decorations. She painted and fired a ceramic Christmas tree and gave it to my husband and me on one of our first Christmases. It quickly became one of my favorites because it reminds me of her and the love that I have always felt for her. Our kids loved to be the ones to put the little lights in each hole. Our oldest daughter found a similar tree at a resale shop and bought it because it reminded her of mine. 

Made for me by Grandma Ganus

A few years after I got married, my Grandma Hazel (Mickelsen) Ganus sent me a little crocheted door hanger with little jingle bells on it. It became our tradition to tie it onto our front door so that we heard the bells jingle whenever anyone came or left. Notice I didn't put it on the back door. I am sure it would have driven me crazy to listen to the bells jingling along with the constant door slamming as our kids came and went out to play.

These decorations certainly aren't trendy, but as I pull them out each Christmas, they stir up many good Christmas memories and I would never consider retiring any of them.

Time flies by and things change, but thank goodness for family, traditions, good memories and the love of Jesus Christ to sustain us through it all. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and peace for the upcoming year.

                          Merry Christmas! 

Robin Bean, Bakersfield, California, Santa, Christmas, traditions, genealogy, family
Me and my friend and neighbor, Robin Bean

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Family History for Kids isn't Rocket Science!

A grandfather's watch, a great uncle's marbles
and a photo beg children to ask
"Whose did these belong to? 

With the crazy world that we live in, it is so easy to worry these days and my grandkids are at the top of my worry list. Not only do we live in challenging times, but several of my grandkids are dealing with some difficult issues. How can I help them?

There has been a lot written and shared over the past few years about the benefits of involving children in family history and the many ways it helps them, especially when times are tough. In a series in the Deseret News newspaper, Linda and Richard Eyre shared not only reasons why we should involve children in genealogy, but relatively simple ways to do it, including creating a story book of ancestor stories. You can find their article here: "Top parenting ideas, No. 2--The 'Ancestor Stories Book'."

In the Eyres' article, they reference a well-known article published in The New York Times back in 2013, "The Stories That Bind Us", in which the author shared the strength and "grit" that seems to be more apparent in those children who know their ancestors' stories. Determined to find ways to incorporate family history into the time spent with my grandchildren, I've found some relatively simple ideas that are fun! 

Grandchildren helping me to
pick out a bleeding heart plant 
Although one grandson is very interested in helping with the research end of genealogy, the others seem to do better with a more sutble approach. Much of what I have done with my grandkids is not totally new or original, but are just simple things that they enjoy. 

I like to have photos and memorabilia that have been passed down mixed in with other decor on my shelves and tables in my home (see photo above, right.) Children are naturally curious and they tend to ask questions, like "Where did you get that?" "Whose was it?" "Am I related to them?" I try to keep my answers and stories relatively short and simple so that they don't regret asking, but I am willing to say more depending on their interest level.  

As I was planting this past spring, I was sure to include things that my grandparents had grown and I took grandkids with me to pick the plants out.The kids loved hearing stories about my grandparents and how they had some of the same plants in their yards and gardens.

One item high on my must-have list was a bleeding heart plant because my grandmother always had a bleeding heart in her garden. As a child, the name intrigued me. I loved the delicate heart that dangled from the plant  As we looked at the different colors of bleeding heart and tried to decide which one to get, I told them a few short stories about my grandmother. They decided they needed to have one as well and I was told they shared some of the stories I had told them with others. Mission accomplished!  

It drove them nuts trying to figure out who our guest was
We regularly have our children and their families over for Sunday dinner and periodically we like to do "Guess who is coming for dinner?"  A dear friend shared this idea with me and my family has really enjoyed it. We simply set an extra place setting at the table for an ancestor, as if they were going to come to dinner. We cut out of butcher paper a life-sized outline of a person which we use each time. For the face we can scan a photo, blow the photo up, print it and then tape it onto the butcher paper. The first month I did it, my ancestor's picture was so poor and distorted when I tried to enlarge it so I just set a picture of her on the dinner plate.

I have the cutout sitting on a chair at a place setting when everyone comes for dinner. I try to make it as mysterious as possible, allowing the grandkids to ask questions about who it is and giving them interesting little teasing tidbits about the ancestors as we eat. The adults may chatter about other things, but I have noticed the grandkids are so intrigued with who the ancestor is, they keep bringing the conversation back to who is visiting and give us one more clue! After dinner we gathered in the living room and I told them all about the ancestor.  

They loved the scavenger hunt

 Recently I took some of my grandkids on a cemetery scavenger hunt. Just google "cemetery scavenger hunt" and you will find many ideas for things to look for in a cemetery, or you can come up with your own list. The list I used had things on it like find the oldest headstone, find the most interesting first name, find a headstone that shows or mentions someone's occupation---you get the idea. The kids loved it. 

I didn't grow up here, so none of my ancestors were actually buried in the local cemetery, but as the grandkids looked for various things on the list, it prompted questions about their own ancestors. After two hours, yes, you read that right, TWO HOURS, and as it began to sprinkle, we decided to head home. 

Of course treats afterwards are always a good option with kids and allows time to talk about what we've seen and done. 

I admit, several years ago when I first heard people talk about involving children in family history, I was skeptical. I thought of my own carefree childhood days spent riding bikes, playing games and playing outside and I couldn't imagine myself choosing to do genealogy over any one of those things. My grandkids love to do those things too, but we have found simple ways to work family history into their lives as well and it has paid off. 

There are so many fun ways to interest kids in family history and there are so many good reasons to do it. Family history helps anchor kids, gives them a sense of who they are and helps them to see that although life presents many challenges, they can succeed just as their ancestors did. 

Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Cloudy Night Rainwater--Really?

Cloudy Night Rainwater. How could you run across such a name in your lineage and not be curious? Initially, I wondered if it really was his name. Did his parents believe that the name Rainwater was Native American? Why would they choose a name like Cloudy Night, with or without the last name of Rainwater? 

Although the true origins of the Rainwater name are unknown, there are many theories. Different Rainwater families suggest the name is everything from Cherokee to Jewish in origin. Susan Chance-Rainwater shares some of the various theories on her website "The Rainwater Collection."  

Cloudy Night Rainwater was born September 1894 in Arkansas and was the son of Homer Cloud Rainwater and Pearl Rivers McCracken. Cloudy Night Rainwater was my fourth cousin, once removed. 

I  was thrilled to find not only a short little story about Cloudy Night in a newspaper but a sketch of him as well. 

Cloudy Night Rainwater, Rainwater family, Arkansas, Homer Cloud Rainwater, Pearl Rivers McCracken, genealogy, ancestry, ancestor, research, newspaper

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana)
23 Jul 1899, Sun Page 28 

"Cloudy Night Rainwater, whose picture you see here is the 4-year-old son of Dr. H. Cloud Rainwater and Pearl Rivers McCracken, the favorite niece of the late Mrs. Nicholson (Pearl Rivers), proprietor of the Picayune. Cloudy Night is a fine boy and like his grandfather, he is a great practical joker. One day, not long ago he called to one of his little playmates, "Hello! don't you want some rock candy?" at the same time holding out a tempting-looking morsel. The other little boy took it eagerly and put it into his mouth; but he quickly spit it out again. It was salt! Cloudy Night knows his letters already, and wants very much to learn to read, so that he can read Lilliput Land for himself. "
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2015, All rights reserved