Back Door. Walking around the alleys off Robinson Street. #photography #rva #storefront (at Halcyon Vintage Clothing)
Pitching My Ancestors’ Past
I’ve gained much healing, inspiration, and knowledge, as I’ve reflected on my place in my family and upon my family’s place in history. I started with a desire to preserve photographs and 35mm slides before they were lost to time and the elements. Then I dug up the “ancient landmarks” set by my maternal grandmother, as I reconnected with the genealogical research she had done throughout her life. Since then, I’ve learned history I’d never heard before, as each discovery of an ancestor’s life makes me want to understand the social and cultural forces that were affecting them. From the Mayflower to the Pequot War and from Rhode Island to Kentucky, from Ellis Island to Chicago, I am just starting to find the meaning that generations before me have given into my care. With this blog, I hope to bring their past into my present, and on to the future generations that come after me.
And the seasons, they go ‘round & ‘round, & the painted ponies go up and down; we’re captive on the carousel of time. We can’t return, we can only look behind from where we came, & go ‘round & ‘round & ‘round in the circle game.
On Saturday I took the Billion Graves app (@billiongraves on Twitter) on my iPhone 4 out for a spin. It was pretty hot here in Richmond, Virginia, but I hopped out at two cemeteries here. The first was a newer section of the Hebrew Cemetery, and the second — where this old stone was shot — was Shockoe Hill Cemetery across the street. I’m a four day newbie with the camera itself, so I was learning that along with the app.
Both were easy enough!
Open the app. Shoot one or more shots. Upload to website.
I like the fact that you can change BillionGraves settings for whether or not you want photos to upload automatically, and whether or not you want to save or delete a shot to your phone.
I had to re-shoot a couple, and besides uploading a whopping nine markers, I saved all of the photos to my camera roll for later use. I couldn’t upload this shot, as the tree has grown up around the dates.
I was dubious when the app first came out, but now that I’ve used it I can recommend it!
What Are the Odds? My grandmother was an avid student of genealogy and completed so much research in her lifetime. Madeline (Keithley) Fitz was my mother’s mother, but we called her Mema. Though we lived in different states, I had the wonderful privilege of knowing her as I grew up. I loved the stone and clinker house where she lived with Grandad in Michigan City, Indiana — the house where my mom grew up. I remember her cheery whistling, which you hardly hear anyone doing these days! My mom always made me aware of her activities in various genealogical endeavors. Mema was proud to belong to the DAR, and compiled many typed notes that formed the foundation for my own research into our family history.
On April 22, 1963, Mema and Grandad took a road trip to Missouri to visit the old Keithley homestead in Missouri, where her grandfather Jacob Carter Keithley and her grandmother Jane Neave Vawter raised their family. I don’t know how she met Mister A. H. Orr, but this picture shows her reviewing family history materials that he had. When she left he gave her a precious book, which I’ll write more about later.
Sticking with a blog is more challenging than I thought it would be, but it does seem to be taking shape, don’t you think?
One Must Begin
After my mother died in May of 2010, I coped in various ways. I survived by eating peanut butter wafer cookies. I started pulling out all of the old 35mm slides from my mother’s sewing room. I learned to scan them, and organize them, and tag them. I got better at it. I found her father’s even older slides in my father’s little den. I scanned some more and got better still. I saw pictures of my self as a child that I had never seen before. I saw pictures of my mother from when she was an only child. I reviewed my parents’ wedding, and saw myself and my sister on camping trips. I found portraits of relatives I had known when I was very young, and photographs of people I could not recall. Some pictures made me happy and some made me nervous, but they all resonated with me and informed the year of my loss. The pictures made me want to read my mother’s short autobiography, and return to the genealogies of my grandmother. And so I dug up the notes and the binders and the printed genealogies. I added genealogy software to my computer. I started finding The Ancestors. I visualized where they had lived, how they got to America, and what their lives were like. Now I must know them as best I can, and keep up the good work.