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"The ancestor of every action is a thought." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday
Oct202011

Tom Brokaw's Tribute to The Greatest Generation

I'm just about finished reading The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw and I couldn't wait to spread the word about how much I enjoyed this book. This is a very emotional and inspirational tribute to those of the World War II generation. He shares the stories of ordinary people who were called to serve and protect our country overseas, women who found work in factories to support the forces, heroes who gave their lives for our freedom, individuals who faced racial adversity. Brokaw pieced together the stories of this generation beautifuly. He demonstrated how this great generation played a significant role in securing the future prosperity of our country; through hard work, determination, teamwork, and the heartbreaking love stories.

Brokaw opens the book with his childhood. Growing up in the prairies of South Dakota he was surrounded by individuals who gave their service to our country in World War II. But it wasn't until he was on assignment in Normandy, France for the 40th anniversary of D-Day, that the true sacrifice and greatness of this generation hit home. Talking with American soldiers who returned to the beaches for the somber anniversary, listening to their stories, hearing the pain and sadness in their voices. Brokaw describes this experience as "a life-changing experience".

I completely understand this sentiment. What I have learned about my grandfather and his WWII experience has changed my life. Growing up I knew my grandfather, Col. Joseph K Wright, had served in WWII but had little to no interest in what he did or his story. He passed away in 2004, before I started on this journey of exploring my family history and it's place in the history and I am left with questions and a sadness for him. I am doing what I can to piece together his story, but I just wish I could have discussed it with him. Reading this book has given me such insight into the struggle and sacrifice of his generation.

In 1942 Joseph married my grandmother in Seattle, Washington where he was stationed for training, probably wanting to be married before his inevitable deployment overseas. A story so common for the time period. My grandmother was one of the lucky ones who had her sweetheart return to her alive. A byproduct of this terrible war I never considered was the vast number of young twenty something widows left to rebuild and move on with their lives. So many with young babies who never had the chance to meet their father. How devastating it must have been for them, one day learning the life they had envisioned and planned would never happen. In the book Brokaw shares a few of their stories and it is truly heart breaking. (Pg. 257 the stories of Jeanette Gagne Norton and Daphne Cavin...get the tissues ready.)

The picture to the left was taken May 1943 in Olympia, Washington. Left to right: Joe (my grandfather), Marjorie (my grandmother), Charlie, Jimmy, Bea, Peg, Rus, Harry, Nella.

With the current economic climate this book would be a a real eye opener for many to realize just how bad it could really be (AND WAS!) and serve as inspiration for moving forward through tough times. This generation worked hard and persevered through the toughest of times. They grew up during the great depression with nothing. When called to action they enlisted and fought in foreign lands leaving behind loved ones and their individual future. While they fought they saw their friends and brothers killed- all the while having to continue on and stay alive. For those who made it back home they continued to work hard and administered the principles learned in the war to their every day lives. A never ending work ethic and dedication to community. We could all learn a lot from this great generation.

I definitely recommend reading this book. Do you have a WWII book recommendation?

Friday
Oct142011

Friday Love Letters: September 24, 1920

I am so lucky to have a series of letters from my great grandfather Wentworth Middleton to my great grandmother Edith Shaw Middleton. This collection of letters is one of my most treasured family heirlooms. These simple pieces of paper have been passed down and saved for almost 100 years. More on this collection and how to preserve.

Sept. 23. 1920- 91 years ago.

A letter from my great grandfather Wentworth Middleton to his wife Edith. Wentworth is working in a NJ steel mill while Edith and their daughter Marjorie are down the (jersey!) shore with friends. It seems like he planned to go down to meet them on Friday- but because of work he has to delay his trip. I love the nicknames he had for my grandmother, "kiddo". In other letters he refers to her as "chickie".

Dear Edie,

I was going to call you up but did not think about there not being any phone. You certainly are having fine weather and I wish that I could be down there with you, but it does not seem to be possible just now. Am sure that the Kiddo must be much better by now, as she was improving very much (pg.2) last Sunday and Monday.

I called up your Mother and she said that they had sent you a letter to the old place but were sending you a postal to tell you about so you must have that by now. She also said that Anna was feeling very bad again. I said that it would be very nice if she could go down to the shore it would do her good. But she said (pg.3) it would be impossible for her to get down there.

Matt sent some eggs yesterday and I will bring some or all of them when I come down. You better call me up Saturday morning at 9 o’clock. I am afraid it will be impossible for me to come down Friday A.M. I will tell you then what time I will be down (pg.4) on Saturday. I will probably be able to stay Monday and maybe Tuesday.

Tell Mort if you see him that he can play at Deal by paying the greens fee.

Am using a fountain pen and the ink has run out. I hope you are feeling fine and do not worry about things too much. (pg.5) Give lots of love and kisses to Marg and also yourself tell her I will see her soon. Give my love to the Middleton’s and lots more to yourself and the kiddo.

                                                                                    Daddy

When I read these letters I feel like I'm really getting to know them. I can't imagine any other way I could tap into their personal thoughts the way these letters do.

Do you send/save letters and cards? Do we still value the handwritten word? Inspired?

Write your sweetheart or friend a letter today!

Wednesday
Oct122011

Joining the Daughters of the American Revolution: First Steps 

I am in the beginning stages of joining the prestigious Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). A non profit women's organization established in 1890, the organization focuses on the promotion of historic preservation, education, and patriotism.  If you are a male, you can apply for membership in the Sons of the American Revolution.

Membership in these organizations gives you a forum for the exchange of historical information and genealogy research with others with shared interests. Any female 18+ who can provide documentation of their lineal descent* from a Patriot of the American Revolution can apply for DAR membership. There are approx 3,000 local chapters of the DAR, you can search for a chapter near you. *Lineal Descent: Belonging to or being in the direct line of descent from an ancestor. Ex parent, grandparent, great grandparent...

I recently discovered my 7x great grandfather, Samuel Merrill, was a participant of the American Revolution as a Lieutenant in the 30th Regiment of Foot from Buxton, ME. I first learned of his involvement in the American Revolution from my Ancestry.com family tree. When viewing Samuel Merrill there was a leaf indicating a possible historical record match. When I reviewed the hint I was brought to an application to the DAR from 1909 with a Samuel Merrill listed as the Patriot in which the applicant was proving their lineal descent. The applicant was not from my direct line but had similar information so I decided to do a little digging to see if this was in fact the same Samuel Merrill I was researching.

To do this I focused on my direct line from Samuel Merrill to flush through and verify the information and sources I already had for these specific ancestors. I worked my way up the line, starting with myself going up 10 generations in my tree to Samuel. Feeling confident in my lineal descent from Samuel, I filled out a Member Interest form on the DAR website to get the ball rolling. This is simple form to notify DAR of your interest and get you connected to a local chapter to learn more about the application process.

A week or two later I received an email from the Brooklyn DAR Chapter with a genealogy worksheet for me to complete. The genealogy worksheet has blanks to fill in genealogical information about the ancestors in your direct line to connect the generations up to the Patriot. All of the information needs to supplemented with documented sources and you have to indicate what sources you have for the information you provide (vital records, census records, certificates, etc.). I thought I was pretty organized but I quickly found out how scattered my information was! If anything this process so far has really helped me organize, connect loose ends, and encourage me to learn more about these ancestors.

I've completed the worksheet and emailed it back to my contact. Hopefully I'll hear back soon! I hope I entered in the information correctly and thoroughly enough. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday
Sep272011

Desperate Genie Travels to Scotland: Day Five on the Isle of Skye

We woke up early and made our way northwest- the Isle of Sky being our main destination. According to the Isle of Sky website, National Geographic named this destination the "4th best island in the world"! And really, who doesn't love a beautiful island? It was a hike from our accommodations in Aviemore, about a 3 hour drive, but there was much to see along the way! The scenic drive brought us pass Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle,  and the Eilean Donan Castle. Click on the map below for a larger image of our travels!

We just briefly stopped at Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness, the entrance fees were a little steep (I don't remember the exact amount but I'm thinking it was around £10 for adults). We had so much we wanted to see that day we had to keep going. It was beautiful though! We continued our trip up and around Loch Ness until we arrived at the Eilean Donan Castle- the most photographed castle in Scotland!

The admission price for a self guided tour of this restored castle is £6 for adults and was definitely worth it. There are many historical and family pieces, a great way to experience the history of the castle and family. The have guides located on each floor and they were more than happy to share their expertise with us. Again, no photography is allowed indoors.  

We were on a fish and chips kick and on the recommendation of a guide we enjoyed a delicious lunch at Hector's Bothy. This friendly local spot was located just a 5 minute drive from the castle in Kyle Lochalsh, right before the Isle of Skye Bridge. After lunch we headed to Skye via the Skye Bridge. We then found a small road and decided to explore. It turned out to be a very narrow road with only room for one car. It twisted and turned through the hillsides of the island, complete with steep cliffs and amazing views. This was by far one of the craziest drives ever!

 

As the 20 or so minute drive brought us closer to the water, we realized the final (and ONLY) destination at the end of this road was the Skye Ferry, transporting cars to and from the mainland. Upon our arrival to the end of the road/ferry line, we learned the ferry information from chatting with passengers from the 2 other cars waiting. There wasn't anyone who worked for the ferry on our side and we had no cell phone service, so we took a chance. We could see the ferry on the Glenelg side and waited about 20 minutes for the ferry to make the trip over to us on the island.  

Once we started loading the entire trip from lasted 15 minutes max. On our trip there were a total of 3 cars, 2 ferrymen, and their boat loving dog. A single trip was £12 per car for up to 4 car passengers. This ferry is known as "the last manually operated turntable ferry in Scotland"...what that means exactly, I'm not really sure. But after the unique experience, I do suggest their services and encourage you to invest in similar "historic" achievements found in your communities!

There was MUCH to see when we exited the ferry in the small town of Glenelg. I'm thinking the rest of our afternoon in Glenelg deserve an entire post.  It was a mix of small town seaside culture, neolithic landmarks, and war memorials which made for a very interesting tourist experience.

If you have any questions about these locations or want to know more, please leave a comment or send me an email! I'm more than happy to help, happy travels!