Heart of a Southern Woman

A snapshot of life one blog post at a time.

Surviving the Mississippi River Flood of 2008

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June 21, 2018 

 Today I am publishing a treat for us, as we have a guest author.  My second cousin, Susan Walker Youngblood Kerr is joining me to share an amazing family story. Let me introduce her to you first.  Susan married Robert Kerr, called Bob, and together they have three young adult children, Lauren, Robert, and Ryan Kerr. Ryan is married to Katy. Born in Virginia, Susan was raised around the world as she traveled with her career military family with Dad a Colonel at retirement. After marriage, Susan and Robert settled in Iowa, very close to the Mississippi River where it intersects with the Des Moines River.  Susan has recently retired from a career in teaching, and Robert has farmed successfully for many years.  

Youngblood, Susan Kerr, map of area lived in in 2008

Susan tells this account of trial, tribulation, survival, patience, and as she describes: “God’s provision.”

 “We had a saltbox wood- framed farmhouse, part of it built in the 1800’s. We had remodeled the house and added a downstairs master bedroom and bath with a full basement underneath the addition.  We had also added a computer room. The house was 2600 square feet on less than an acre. The Great Flood hit us ten years ago this month, June 15, 2008, but the story needs to begin in January 2008.  At that time, I was teaching, Bob was farming and the children were 14,16, and 18 years old.

 In January 2008, I received an email at work that a family had a house fire and among items they needed were beds for their children. I had just bought full beds for my sons so I called my husband and he brought the twin beds over to the KEOKUK armory to give to a Sgt. Steffens. Sgt. Steffen was about a 6’ft 8 ‘’ guy that started crying when he received the beds the morning after the fire. He conversed with my husband and asked where we lived and farmed. My husband told him we lived and farmed on the Mississippi bottomland. Sgt. Steffen told Bob, my husband, that National guard had already been called out for a major flood on the Mississippi the following summer. We were in disbelief because we were at the end of a three-year drought! Barges were getting stuck and the river was less than five feet. An all-time low. Flood stage is 15 feet.

 However, we watched the weather patterns closely. Flood insurance is very costly in the Midwest. About March there were huge storms up north. We started watching houses plunge into lakes in Wisconsin. We decided that it was time to get flood insurance. It took 2 months going through red tape to acquire flood insurance but we were finally insured on Bobs birthday, May 12th. This is important because you have to have flood insurance in place 30 days before the time the water enters your home.  

 We had to cancel our 20th wedding anniversary plans on June 11, 2008. There was a wall of water headed our way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Des Moines River had flooded the entire bottom area of Cedar Rapids.  Our farm is several miles from where the Des Moines and the Mississippi River intersect.

 The water was predicted to crest at 30 feet and our levee is built to hold up to 26 feet flood stage.  On June 15th, the water was actually 32 feet! The water came up under the Canton Dam and flooded the Hunt Drainage District which is 32,000 acres of farmland. What a shock and nightmare as we lost almost everything!

We were thankful, however, because we had gotten flood insurance. However, we were only insured 50 percent of the square footage. That is how flood insurance works. It doesn’t matter how old or new the structure is but how much based on $100.00 a square foot, it would cost to build a new house. We also had $20,000 coverage on contents but got some things out, so the assessors gave us $6,000 on contents. So, we had a check for $136,000 that we banked immediately.   

Youngblood, Susan Kerr, flooded house of 2008, June 15

 

Youngblood, Susan Kerr, flooded home of 2008, interior

Believe it or not, we had been through the “once in a lifetime, 500- year flood” of 1993!  We had just closed on the farm in May, then get flooded in July. Bob was a contractor so put the home back together. But I had no interest in doing this a 3rd time. It all has to do with mismanagement of our river system. The Mississippi is silted in.  

We moved into a house that was less than a mile away, up on the bluff road. It was basically a 1400 square foot FHA house with an added 4 car garage. The house had a black mold problem and they were asking $176,000 for it. No thank you. But the garage was great for moving our household items out. My eldest son started getting severe nosebleeds. His doctor told us to get the “ hell “ out of that house because it was killing him.

Under doctor’s orders, we moved again, to a house on the river above the dam, in Hamilton, Illinois. It was a log house but had been steel sided. The outside of the house was ugly but the inside was beautiful log with 20-foot ceilings, a stone fireplace, and a wood burning stove. The house was fairly close to my job (10 minutes) but was 30 minutes from the farm. We learned then that in order to be an effective farmer you have to live near the farm. We lived in this home for two Christmases. It was a great place to clear our heads and heal our hearts. The girl’s bathroom had this huge jacuzzi tub where you could sit in it and not see over the rim, it was so deep.  We loved this home and would have built one just like it, minus the siding, but location, location, location…. it was wrong.

We had a plot map and asked everyone in our area if they would sell us some land on the bluff. Nothing, absolutely nothing would open up. (All of our land is in the floodplain) we looked for 18 months!

One day we heard that a house on the bluff was in sheriff foreclosure. My husband had mowed the lawn there as a teenager. The house was padlocked but my husband knew the secret passage into the house and went in and looked around. We didn’t know who was handling the foreclosure so we called our county treasurer. She gave us the name of the realtor, Bert Berthound. We googled that odd name but nothing came up. I told my husband to try Gertrude. He did and the name of a realtor came up. We lost her trail in Hannibal, MO. My husband got the thought to trace who was paying the electric and water. He was told it was Century 21 out of Quincy, IL. He looked in the phone book and found five Century 21’s. On the 4th Century 21, he asked if there was a Gertrude Berthound. They said they had a Bertie Kunz. When he spoke to her she said Berthound was her name two marriages ago. The house was not on the market yet but she agreed to drive the 30 minutes to meet him.  A half-hour later, this little lady drives up in her pickup truck with Harley emblems emblazoned on it, a tough but nice person to work with. Bob took her down to see our flooded house. When they came back he wrote out an earnest check and made an offer on the house she was handling. Bert said, Bob. I believe you need to up your offer $50,000 to buy this house. Bob said he would like to stay with his offer and see what happened.

Bert called us a few days later to tell us that if we wanted the house, we needed to counter offer. Bob asked her what he should counter offer. She said “Bob, this has never happened in all of my years in foreclosure realty but the bank has a predetermined price. You need to redo your bid to $23,500 LESS than you originally offered!  Are you still interested? We about ran everybody off of the road to get to the bank and fax our new offer!

Amazingly, we closed and moved into the home in 30 days! Oh, we bought the house, with closing costs, for $136,000. Our flood insurance check was $136,000! We moved into a 3000 square foot brick house with an 800 ft., two-story sunroom, on 18 acres, on the bluff, overlooking our farmland! Included were custom drapes, lilacs, and an 80-foot blue spruce tree. We feel very blessed! All along, my husband spoke the one-word “patience” to me.  It has been 10 years since the levee broke June 15th, 2008. Don’t feel sorry for us or our house though. We came out pretty well even though it took two years of faith, patience, and perseverance!

I was a school teacher just a few weeks retired now. Ten years ago, I took my class to see the house after the waters receded. It took 2 years of patience but we have a testimony of Gods goodness through this. We had a 2300 wood frame farm house, on an acre of land (but surrounded by our farmland). We closed on a 3,000 ft. brick home with an 800 square foot two-story sunroom, on 18 acres.  We bought the home for the exact amount of our flood insurance check. This had to be a gift from God and is a testimony that can never be taken away from me. 

Susan Walker Youngblood Kerr, June 2018

 

Helen‘s note:  What an amazing story that resulted in a true blessing for a wonderful family! I cannot tell you how much I admire Susan and her family for their courage and faith!  They are an excellent example and light to many of us in our often-challenging world.  Thank you so much, Susan, for sharing all of this with us, the extended family and for generations to come.  Hopefully, it will stand as a great example to trust in God, to persevere, work hard, and have patience. 

Until we meet again, I wish you all well, 

Helen Youngblood Holshouser  Southern woman whose heart is family!

 

 

 

 

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Genealogy Research Identifies Easter Traditions from Relatives and Ancestors Worldwide

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In my genealogical research, I have learned that my family is a typical American melting pot of ethnic origins! Our ancestors hail from Denmark, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, Sweden, and Switzerland—at least. As we are preparing for our own Easter celebration, I was wondering how similar or how different some of my ancestor’s traditions might have been.  

Our own traditions include attending church as we were raised Protestant and believe that Easter represents the death and the rising of Jesus Christ, Son of God, to save us all from our sins and to give us eternal life.  It is basically, the basis of our Faith, and, is such an important time in the life of Christians.  We celebrate Easter with a long season of Lent.  However, Holy Week is marked with Maundy Thursday Communion in church on the Thursday before Easter Sunday.  This communion celebrates the Lord’s last supper with his disciples. On Good Friday, we gather at church to mourn the death of Christ upon the cross. Our own church holds a “Tenebrae service of Shadows”.  One of our daughters will sing special music with the choir, “One Sacrifice”.   The service itself begins with 14 lighted candles in the sanctuary, and as Christ walks his final passion, each candle is extinguished to signify his abandonment.  Easter Sunday, we gather to celebrate the joy of Christ’s resurrection and His salvation for each of us individually throughout the whole world. This is an astounding day for many of us faith wise!

Part of the joy of Easter at our house is gathering with family and friends for dinner.  Many in the United States serve ham for this dinner with other spring vegetables especially like asparagus and carrots for the Easter bunny. Surely you see turkey and beef as well. My own sister, however, serves a Crown Roast of Lamb every Easter without fail!  Bunny rabbit salads made of half pears are a treat for our family.

Since our family includes young grandchildren, an Easter egg hunt is in order for the day!  Of course, we give the children Easter baskets full of trinkets, chocolate, and other candy.  We hard boil and decorate Easter eggs as well.  In our own family, we often hide the baskets and the children have to follow clues to find them!

Easter 2015, hunting eggs with Katy and Evie

This is one way to hunt eggs! -grandchildren of author, personal library, HY Holshouser. 

Evie, Katy, and Liam with Easter Bunny, 2016

Grandchildren visiting the Easter Bunny—from the personal library of this author, H Y Holshouser.

What about our Hogue ancestors from Scotland?  I understand that they especially were sheepherders and that their and most Scottish Easter dinners include roasted lamb!  As with us in America, chocolate is the taste of the day!  Dessert might be chocolate cake and coffee! Chocolate eggs and bunnies are ever present for both! Easter egg hunts, horse displays, and battle reenactments make for fun and festive occasions. Of course, churches throughout Scotland hold special Easter services like ours, to celebrate Christ’s rising from death and giving us the grace of salvation. We had many ministers, mainly Presbyterian, in our Hogue family.  In fact, we are told that our first immigrant from Scotland was a Covenanter.  A covenanter was one of the many Scottish people who fought against the Catholics for the right to have their own personal covenant with God. In fact, his persecution by the Catholics apparently led to his flight to America.

Our Kearse family from Ireland and the same ancient family, the Des Cearsais of France, how did they celebrate Easter?  The French word for Easter is Pâques. To say Happy Easter, you can say “Joyeuses Pâques or “Bonnes Pâques.”  According to my general research, Easter is an important holiday in France also. It is a religious one, and a lively, fun time with Easter egg hunts to honor the coming of Spring. Like Ireland, roast lamb is the choice for a large family meal. In Ireland, it is also an important religious holiday as well, with many traditions. Confession on Good Friday, silence on the Saturday before Easter lends to a meditative state. Eggs take center stage on Easter as they are given up for the forty days of lent by many.  Chocolate eggs, decorated eggs—all symbolizing Spring, new beginnings, renewal and joy!

What about the Langhornes and others from England? Among many lovely and fun Easter traditions, Easter parades are one of the greatest. Children and adults don new clothes for good luck, and often children make elaborate paper hats to wear as they march in their local town parades!  Fun! Egg rolling, hot cross buns, Simnel cake, Morris dancing, and so much more contradicts the vision of the staid Englishmen and women! 

Abingdon Traditional Morris Dancing Princess Royal

 

Our marvelous Italian ancestors and relatives add so much spirit to our family. The BottosRaffosRivaros, Costas, DeSantos,  and more, mostly originate in the coastal area of northwestern Italy, near Genoa. Italy of course, is home to the Vatican, and the place for the pilgrimage of so many Catholics on Easter.  My mother’s Italian ancestors were Catholic as well.  Mass on Good Friday in St. Peter’s Basilica is followed by the Pope leading a candlelight procession on a walk symbolizing Christ’s walk to the cross.  Our own church reenacts this walk to the cross, and we are protestants.  

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City, Andreas Tille – Own work, Permission details Quote of http://fam-tille.de/italien/rom/2004_030.html – Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this images under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published

 

As I understand it from relatives, northern Italian Easter feasts often feature ham, like us!  Interesting. Of course, salami is a big choice as well.  Colomba, a dove shaped cake, made of almonds, egg whites, and sugar, is probably the most famous cake and available worldwide these days.

Italian bread with almonds and sugar,Colomba-Pasquale

Colomba Pasquale, An Italian Sweet bread J.P.Lon~commonswiki

What about our German JungblutsYoungbloods? And my husband’s Haulzhausen—Holshouser family?  According to a wonderful article from DW –Deutsche Welle —  http://www.dw.com/en/german-easter-traditions/a-1520904 — the Germans of course, also celebrate a religious holiday like most Christians.

Although mainly a Christian holiday commemorating the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, Easter also marks the beginning of spring. The Germans, of course, have a whole range of customs and traditions to celebrate the change of seasons in proper fashion.

A time for eggs and bunnies

Eggs and bunnies are two of the oldest symbols of Easter in Germany and every spring shops boom with eggs and bunnies made of chocolate, cardboard or flowers in different sizes and wrappings.

The tradition for using eggs and bunnies for Easter originates from pagan worshipping where they were symbols of fertility and new birth and traditionally used for celebrations of the coming of the spring.

The Germans have a number of egg games which the children play over the holidays. One tradition is to blow eggs and paint them in multiple colours and patterns on Good Friday. The eggs are then put in a basket for the Easter bunny — Osterhase— to hide around the house on the night leading up to Easter Sunday. On the morning of Easter Sunday, the children go hunting for the eggs and often find that the Easter bunny has also left chocolate eggs and Easter presents for them to find.

It is also a custom that friends exchange the painted eggs as gifts or that young people in love paint eggs for their sweetheart.” Now that is a different tradition, which I find so special and romantic!  

For the Netherlands and our Van Vreeland, Van Swol, Voorhees, and Banta families, what was Easter like for them? According to many articles, they celebrate much the way we do…. or we celebrate much the way they do!  One of our favorite meals is a festive brunch and apparently, it is theirs as well:  eggs, cheese, ham, rolls…and did I say eggs?  The Dutch also take great pride in providing the thousands of tulips to decorate St. Peter’s in Rome for the Pope’s Easter service.  Wow!  Back home, they are also known for their beautiful painted eggs.  However, they do not have the Easter bunny, but the “Paashaas, the Easter hare!  

Our ancestors represent many more countries and traditions from around the world, but as you and I can readily see, we are more alike than different.  This Easter, as I pray, and as I play, I will have a keener sense of connectedness due to my genealogical research, and our worldwide collaboration.

Until we meet again, Helen Youngblood Holshouser

 

 

 

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Cousins Find Each Other Around the World

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A World of family and ancestors, united by DNA

Today’s technology and DNA testing provide all kinds of exciting opportunities in genealogical research.  Many of us, and I am surely one, believe that each individual has the right to know exactly who she/he is and to know her or his ancestors. As my own genealogical research progressed, it helped strengthen my identity– as I learned about the ancestors whose DNA coursed through my own veins as well as theirs, hundreds of years ago.  Lately, I’ve learned that nowhere is this “need to know” stronger than for adoptees. Many, probably most adoptees feel the need to know their own individual identities and heritage.

I have a cousin named Bradley who was adopted. We didn’t know each other until we both did our DNA tests on Ancestry, and discovered our match.  Bradley and I have worked together a lot over the last year or so.  We have used AncestryFTDNA-Family Tree DNA23 and Me, and Gedmatch.com as well as other genealogical research sites and have learned amazing things.

Before Bradley contacted me about our DNA match, he had met another cousin named Courtney–DNA proved she was my cousin also!  I have to tell you, one of us is from California, one from North Carolina, and one from New York–we cover the whole of America, and we are cousins — united by DNA and ancestors/genealogy.

 

People united by DNA

Bradley is a force of nature, who makes things happen. He found two other cousins, Stella and Zoe, both of whom were also adopted, and who are also related to him, and to Courtney and to me by DNA! That is truly incredible!  In my experience, finding five people, unknown to each other, from all over the world, all of whom are related by DNA to each other–well, I would wager that it would be a zero probability that we would find each other!  However, the miracle continues, even more amazing to me is that Stella had met another DNA matched cousin  named Eva and she was related by DNA to the rest of us as well!  That made six of us, three from across the United States, and three from Central Europe — the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Switzerland.  We are three adoptees and three who know their parents, all 4th, 5th, or 6th cousins! 

Bradley then organized us into a group on Facebook, so that we could communicate more easily.  He invited one other DNA match of his to join the group hoping she might also match some of us. Laura did indeed match another one of us, another cherished cousin.  I asked my daughter Ali to join our group, as she speaks and reads German and French fluently, and was also a cousin of course! Eight of us, what a wonderful group of people, all dynamic and interesting to know!  Typically, the Europeans all speak and read English with different levels of experience, while we Americans only speak English, except for my daughter Ali, whose linguistic abilities did not come from her mother, but from other ancestors.

Eight people, eight cousins, three adoptees from all around the world– united by a desire to know our common heritage — awesome!  We truly engage in “Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration”!

We have been working together for a few months, but we may have just discovered our common line of ancestors, one of Netherlander origin.  We still have research to do to be sure.  As we identify our most recent common ancestor–possibly 4th, 5th, and 6th great grandparents depending on our cousinship and as the ancestral lines fall in place, birth parents are often– usually identified.  It is a fact of research.  What happens next is a choice that adoptees and their birth parents, if living, have to make. Reunions can be fulfilling and joyful, or full of rejection. With DNA, technology, and our heritage research, identities can no longer be secret — instead they can be stronger than ever.

There is one more phenomenal situation that we have discovered with our genealogical work together.  Our common ancestors, the Vreeland family, came to America in the mid 1600’s from the Netherlands to New Amsterdam (New York) in Colonial America. They helped found New Jersey, buying land from the Indians, and fighting in the Revolutionary War. Now, 350 years later, eight of us are getting to know each other and one completes this circle of migration.  Zoe was born in America, in New Jersey.  After her adoption, as a very young child of 2, she was taken to the Netherlands to be raised by her adoptive family. She brings OUR family full circle–from the Netherlands to New Jersey and from New Jersey back to Europe!  Isn’t that amazing!

Worldwide Genealogical Collaboration— aren’t we blessed to be a part of it! Enjoy finding your cousins all over the world. 

Until next time, Helen

 

Map depicting migration of colonial settlers from Europe to America and back to Europe. –From DNA Genetic Communities, Ancestry.com.

Originally published in Worldwide Genealogy- A Genealogical Collaboration , 27 July, 2017

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Mapping My Genealogical Research

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Mapping My Genealogical Research
by Helen Y. Holshouser
-first published on the Worldwide Genealogy–Genealogical Collaboration Blog, May 27, 2017

In honor of Mother’s Day, May 2017, my daughter Annie gave me a world map, cork to post it on, and a large box of colorful push pins!  What a lovely gift to give a Mom who is totally “into” genealogy!  As we opened the gift, she explained that she thought we could post it on a wall and use the pins to mark some of my genealogical discoveries.  I was touched by such a thoughtful gift. 

We had so much fun not only posting the map, but placing the push pins according to  things we thought important.  We have just started this project, and already realize that we need a larger map!  How wonderful is that! 

The first thing we did, was place red pins where our immediate family lives. That is mainly in three places, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, USA.  Next. we looked at the family trees I had developed for both my side of the family, and for my husband’s side. We also looked at the genetic ancestry, or ethnicity maps that Ancestry gave me based on my DNA testing.  It was exciting to see the details of our family represented on a map, and like my own genealogical work, the map evolved as we thought it through. It is still a work in progress, and I would welcome your suggestions for other things to add. 

From working on both family trees, I knew before doing my DNA, that I personally was a melting pot American.  On my mother’s side I had inherited traits from Irish, English, French, and Italian ancestors mostly. Perhaps that is where  the  passionate, emotional side of my genetic makeup was nurtured.  On my father’s side, I have the more practical traits of the German and Scottish. (Stereotypes, I know!)  My husband Max’s ancestral make up is mainly English and German.  On our map, I used orange push pins to symbolize our ancestral heritage.  Notice how they are clustered in Western Europe– well, that is 99% of my heritage according to my DNA results.  Look how ancestry breaks it down on this map: 


I keep thinking I need to make a list of all the cousins I have met through my research and on facebook where the many genealogical and family groups enhance our meeting  DNA matches as well as ones found in encouraging each other’s research. For awhile I kept telling people I had met 100 new cousins through my research, then 200, now I have no doubt that it is  500  or more new cousins who have come into my life with a similar interest–genealogy and family  history!  How exciting and life enriching is that!  I used blue pins on the map to represent all the cousins I had met in the States and in Europe and Australia!  Obviously, I did not have a big enough map, nor enough blue pins, to represent all the wonderful cousins I have met. 


The yellow pins stand for the focus of my most recent genealogical research and DNA detective skills that improve with experience. One of the great joys of my life, has been the honor of joining an adoptee’s search for their own ancestral and biological roots. I used the yellow pins to represent some of the adoptees whose journey’s I have joined. Sharing these life experiences–life stories–has been intensely  rewarding—and intensely painful.  There have been the joys of reunions, the pain of rejection, death, lies, hiding, and even discovering horrors like the fact that your biological parent was a rapist or other criminal!  We must look for biological roots with wide open eyes–bracing for the worst that can shake our identities, and allowing joy for good news, which can still shake our identities. We must work to center ourselves before embarking on such a search, which should ultimately enhance, deepen, and expand our sense of self–not shake it to the core! You are not your parents, not your DNA traits, you are who you choose to be. 

This new ancestral map hangs in the hallway in the center of our home. How wonderful to pass by it many times a day and think of all the individuals and their unique stories and personalities–all the new family I’ve come to know and appreciate!  Still it’s evolving.  

All of the authors of this blog engage in genealogical research, most of you  readers are interested as well. What a life enhancing experience doing genealogical work has been for me.  With my severe heart disease, I was told years ago that my time on earth was limited–the joy of this work, the joy of being involved with the people the work represents, well, that has brought an immense quality to my life.  Mapping a few of the projects is a wonderful representation of the joy I feel.

Until we meet again, I am wishing you the very best, and that you meet new cousins who add joy to your life as well!  Helen


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Happy New Year 2017–Looking Back and Looking Forward

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Until yesterday, when I posted my first post of this year, I had not blogged since June, 2016!  Some of you missed me, thank you very much.  It’s been an interesting six months, good and bad as real life always is.  This is my family’s story, part of it for 2016.

The less than good events were of course, my continuing battle with heart disease, and angina, which only creates problems if I walk too far, more than  20 to 35 feet, or stand more than a few minutes, or get too cold, or too hot!  

Health issues continued to try to bring us down, but didn’t succeed!  My husband of 45 years, Max had cancer last year.  He had surgery and treatments, and appears to be cancer free.  We are keeping an eye on his numbers of course, but so far it’s been great!  Max, who is never sick, but our strength and rock, also had bronchitis which would not stop!  We all had viruses as well, so we kind of quarantined ourselves for a couple of weeks, with coughing and hacking being the ultimate sound in our house!  LOL

 Our adult  daughter, one of them,  hurt her back and has been unable to return to work for over a year! Treatment after treatment, doctor after doctor, she had to give up her apartment and move home–then there were the medical bills. Thank God for Obamacare!  Oh, you say Republicans are going to get rid of it? You say they won the elections?  How did I miss that? Not!

Even in my family of origin–normally healthy people were sick last year! Seriously ill. My sister had quintuple bypass and an ablation for afib.  The ablation failed and in a month they did a cardioversion!  Vasculitis set in, so forth and so on!  She continues to improve, but what a battle!  One brother fights severe diabetes, and another had cancer surgery also!  It’s true what they say…

http://www.criticalchristian.com/view.asp?file=431.%20The%20Latest%20Chapter(1).htm&id=3&feature=Essays&title=The%20Latest%20Chapter%20in%20Growing%20Old

http://www.criticalchristian.com/view.asp?file=431.%20The%20Latest%20Chapter(1).htm&id=3&feature=Essays&title=The%20Latest%20Chapter%20in%20Growing%20Old

So you can see that health concerns overshadowed our lives this past year.

Good news buoyed us however, our faith sustained us and fun and adventures brought joy!  Max is much better, I am stable, and our daughter is improving, slowly but surely!  So why did I not blog for six months?

I kept thinking I would.  But besides health issues, I got into helping people find their birth parents and their true heritage, genealogy!  It was so rewarding, and so much fun, I felt like a detective!  Amazingly, and as we all know, the universe works in strange ways. Most of the people I had the joy of being involved with were people who matched my own dna on ancestry!  I’ve written about a case or two before actually, but in the last six months, the numbers of folks topped fifteen that I was involved in searching for roots with! I can hardly wait to tell you about some of them, some successful, some not, some still in progress. However, all were successful in one way, I met a new cousin!   I met generally  3rd, 4th, even 6th cousins who had been adopted, and were kin to me!  Amazing adventures!

Of course my other special hobbies, of my 3 g’s, besides genealogy, are grandchildren and gardening. They each brought us so very much joy this year, that we can still smile,laugh,and enjoy life…and maybe even blog a little.  

Fully present in the moment, children help you focus on joy! Fully beautiful at the moment, flowers do also.  And don’t forget Elvis, it’s his birthday!

 Lift your head, look around, breathe, smile, life is worth living. Wishing you all the best, and looking forward to the journey. 

Personal photo collection, grandchildren enjoying first snow of 2017

Personal photo collection, grandchildren enjoying first snow of 2017

daylillies-onpatio-of-90-castlerock-dr-youngsville-nc-helen-and-max

Personal photo collection, lillies in our garden

 

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“We Are the Storytellers, Called by Our Ancestors”

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“We are the storytellers– called by our ancestors.

 In each family there is one who seems called to find the 
ancestors. To put flesh on their bones and make them live again, to tell the family story and to feel that somehow they know and approve.

Doing genealogy is not a cold gathering of facts but, instead, breathing life into all who have gone before. We are the storytellers of the tribe. All tribes have one. We have been called, as it were, by our genes. Those who have gone before cry out to us, “Tell our story!” So, we do. In finding them, we somehow find ourselves.

 How many graves have I stood before now and cried? I have lost count. How many times have I walked up to a grave and felt somehow there was love there for me? The bones here are bones of my bone and flesh of my flesh.

 How many times have I told the ancestors, “You have a wonderful family; you would be proud of us.” I cannot say.

It goes beyond just documenting facts. It goes to who am I and why do I do the things I do. It goes to pride in what our ancestors were able to accomplish, how they contributed to what we are today. It goes to respecting their hardships and losses, their never giving in or giving up, their resoluteness to go on and build a life for their family.

With love and caring and scribing each fact of their existence, because we are they and they are the sum of who we are. So, as a scribe called, I tell the story of my family. It is up to that one called in the next generation to answer the call and take my place in the long line of family storytellers.

That is why I do my family genealogy, and that is what calls those young and old to step up and restore the memory –or greet those whom we had never known before.” Author Unknown
While many of you may have seen this writing, author unfortunately unknown, I have only read it recently.  As a person who has been telling family stories for years, this message speaks to me.  It also reminds me of so many of you whom I have come to know.  You, the genealogy bloggers, the researchers, the family reunioners, the bedtime story tellers about great grandpa folks, you are the Storytellers of your family, and  I know how valuable you are, how much it will be appreciated in years to come, how much I appreciate others who left stories and information for me to find.  

This poem inspired me to get back to blogging, and to start 2017 with enthusiasm and renewed energy.  Looking forward to being in touch with you all again.  I am also wishing you the very best in 2017!  

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Memorial Day–Remembering Two Who Died Serving Their Country in the Armed Services or Collaterally

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All over the world, people pause to remember those who fought and died trying to protect their countrymen.  Different countries use unique ways to celebrate and honor their lives.  In my opinion, war is a terrible thing. If it can be avoided, I would hope leaders all over the world would choose peace and collaboration over pain and suffering.

In the USA, Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday in May. It is a federally declared holiday. Flying our flags, family picnics, parades of soldiers and sailors, decorating cemeteries, and remembering the many who gave of their lives to serve their country are some of  the ways it is celebrated.

Like countries everywhere, we have lost millions of lives in our many wars. Today I want to tell you the story about  two of my family members who suffered dramatic deaths/wounds that represent the tragedies experienced by almost every family in the world.
 

World War II saw millions of people all over the world die due both to armed battles, and/or as civilians caught in those fights. In 1943, one of my aunts, my mother’s sister Nancy, had the opportunity to marry her sweetheart Bob while he was home from the war on leave. He was an Air Force Pilot, and she was so proud of him! I wasn’t even born yet, but my mother told us this story many times.

Kerse sisters at Nancy's wedding

Five sisters participate in their sister Nancy’s wedding to Bob Guthrie in 1943.  l to r, Katherine Kerse Buck with husband Roger next to her.The next two adults are Guthries, she is Cilla Guthrie, sister of the Groom. The child is the flower girl, Claudia Burnett Williamson, daughter of Julia Louise Kerse Burnett standing with her. In the middle you see the bride Nancy Langhorne Kerse and her husband Bob Guthrie. Next is Margaret Steptoe Kerse Youngblood, with an unknown man next to her. The last sister shown is Janey Bell Kerse Sommers, and behind her on the end is Cecil Hogue Youngblood, Margaret’s husband, my father.

When their boyfriends and husbands were at war, several of my mother’s six sisters lived together in an apartment.  My mother Margaret and her sisters Nancy and Julia lived together. After having been married for a very short while, Nancy was missing her husband terribly. One Saturday  afternoon, she napped in her room. Suddenly she ran out into the living room crying and talking rapidly. “No, no, no!  Bob is dead! Bob is dead, I can’t stand it, I can’t say goodbye!”  Her sisters thought she was still sleeping and having a nightmare. However, Nancy soon explained that she awakened to see an image of Bob sitting on the bottom of her bed. She said that he spoke with her kindly, saying he was sorry, but he had to leave her, had to say goodbye. “He told me he loved me, and wanted me to have a good life.”  “No!”, she moaned in inconsolable grief, so sure of the reality of her dream.  The event shook all of the family, but most believed it was just a dream.  However, within 24 hours, two military personnel came to the door and notified Nancy officially that Bob had been killed! The extreme joy of a wedding, dreams of the future,  and it all died that day with her beloved Bob Guthrie. Apparently, Bob had truly appeared to my aunt, how else would she have know that news before it was delivered?  Every Memorial Day as I was growing up, we heard this story which became a family classic. Other relatives died in the wars, but this one stood out. A group of Bob’s classmates at the Military Academy wrote and sent this to my Aunt Nancy:

“Courtesy of His Classmates

United States Military Academy

Robert Wood Dailey Guthrie

14 May 1920 – 14 August 1944

Died near Brest, France, aged 24 years

Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

As June 1944 approached, many divisions including the 78th were raided for privates and lieutenants — among them First Lieutenant Guthrie. Even the goodbyes were hasty and Bob sailed for Northern Ireland as one of the many fillers destined for Normandy. His assignment was in Company “D,” 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, 8th Infantry Division.

On the fourth of July 1944, the 1st Battalion entered into the severe combat of Normandy and over a month of testing for Bob. The baptism of fire began on the 8th and 9th of July against a determined enemy. This was the most costly combat for the battalion; 124 enlisted men and five officers. But more was yet to come. The best ground over which to break out of Normandy lay in front of the 1st battalion. But the enemy knew it as well. On 25 July, the battalion spearheaded the St. Lo breakout through which moved two armored divisions and the 79th Division. For that action the unit received battle honors in Army orders. In the breakout the battalion went 50 miles by foot to join in the capture of Rennes. In early August, the unit cleaned up enemy resistance and took in more than 300 replacements.

Then the 8th Division and the 6th Armored were sent west to surround the fortified port city of Brest. Here a German hero from Crete commanded three divisions plus many other units and was under direct orders from Hitler to hold out for four months. It was the lot of the 1st Battalion to be the first divisional unit to hit these fortifications. From 8 August, the battalion began to learn how to deal with piercing the forts as they closed the noose around the garrison. But the airfield had to be taken in order to close the last route of escape. On 11 August, while leading his men in that attack, Bob Guthrie was mortally wounded by enemy machine gun fire. He died in a field hospital on the 14th — an infantry combat leader of great courage hit at the head of his troops.”

American Flags Are Placed On Gravestones In Arlington To Honor War Dead

ARLINGTON, VA – MAY 27: A member of the U.S. Army Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), salutes after placing a flag on a grave stone at Arlington National Cemetary May 27, 2004 in Arlington, Virginia. An event called “Flags In” takes place before every Memorial Day weekend in honor of those veterans who have lost their lives. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

When we think of the men and women who gave their lives protecting their countries, most of us think  of the actual fighters, and rightly so. However, “50 to 85 million people worldwide were killed during WWII.”  (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II)  “Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died as a result of WWI.” (Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I)  How is it that we choose this suffering for our world!   

Civilian deaths are sometimes called “collateral” damage. Their families might feel collateral  is not the right term. My maternal grandmother was one to be counted as collateral damage from WWI, but I’m sure she was not included in the numbers. On Memorial Day I have come to think of her wounding and death.  

It’s hard to believe, but this wonderful woman, a nurse by profession and by all reports a superb one, met tragedy at the hands of a patient. She was caring for a comatose private duty patient, a veteran of WWI. She had bathed him and went to empty the water, as my mother told the story. When she returned to the room, he yelled out for her to get away and called her by the derogatory name of some of our military adversaries in  WWI. He was delirious, but afraid. Unfortunately, there was a rifle hanging on the wall that was still loaded, no one had realized or dreamed it was still loaded!  In his delirious state he shot my grandmother in the head! Within a couple of hours, he was dead of his own illness, just that last semiconscious rousing  turned her whole world upside down and that of her children and husband also! She was shot on January 28, 1930, but not killed. The bullet apparently split in half, half traveling down her neck, and half lodging in her brain, inoperable. She lived, but was unable to talk and walk well for the rest of her life–and she had six children!  Shot by a mortally wounded soldier, she was a victim of the war herself.

Kate Steptoe Houchins Kearse, w out border

Even though I’d heard this story all my life, as I worked on my genealogy,I found several newspaper articles in archives regarding her being shot. Her death certificate, and the patient’s certificate  were available to me in a records search. Since this was my mother’s mother, I heard the story from family repeatedly.

 These are two deaths that I will remember specifically on this Memorial day. There have been many more in our own family, and in yours, I know. This Memorial Day I will remember and honor the dead, but I will pray for leaders who seek peace.

 

This blog post was initially published by this author in the Worldwide Genealogy~A Genealogical Collaboration.

 

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