Saturday, June 17, 2017

Where Have All the Front Porches Gone?

When I was younger, many houses still had front porches.  A lot of time was spent on them, especially in the days before the air conditioner.  People would go out on the porch for the fresh air, to catch a breeze and in many cases, to shoot the breeze with their neighbors.  Many neighborhood streets were lined with homes that had a front porch and it became a time where they could socialize with one another. 

Have you ever been on a front porch that had a swing, and just sat there rocking back and forth, enjoying the peacefulness of it.  There is something about time spent in a swing that is so relaxing and being on the front porch allowed you to see the happenings in the neighborhood.

I have been on many front porches and they were all different.  They may be as wide as the front of the house, just large enough for a couple chairs by the front door or just a stoop to an entryway.  My favorites were always the ones that spanned the length of the front of the house.  This was where family members and friends could gather and solve all the problems of the world.  Where you could watch for fireflies or hear the whippoorwill and bobwhite calling their names.  (As I write, the fireflies are very plentiful in my backyard.)  The pictures below are all of my mom on or by the front porch of the Garrison home.

My all time favorite front porch was at my Grandma and Grandpa Garrison’s house.  It looked out on two majestic magnolia trees and had a view of the original family home.  Over the years, many people gathered there and lots of family pictures were taken and memories were made.  My mom was the youngest of twelve, and many of our family reunions were held right on the property where my grandparents lived.  Many of us would sit out on the porch and catch up, having not seen each other for great lengths of time.  For my family, being that my dad was Air Force, it was usually several years, depending on where we were stationed at the time. 

Grandma and Grandpa Garrison's house.

The Garrison Clan on the front porch.
This is the way the front porch looks today,
thanks to my Cousin Gwen and my
Aunt Gladys.

Chairs similar to ones on my
Grandparent's front porch.  
I can remember one reunion where we were sitting out there and my dad was in one of those metal chairs, and I went over and plopped down in his lap.  Well, that was a rude awakening moment as the chair collapsed under us, leaving us laughing and mortified at the same time.  I want to believe that the chair was weak and that it was not our weight that caused the damage. 

We played lots of outdoor games at those reunions and they would start and end at the porch.  Boo-boos were bandaged there and beautiful pictures were taken, sitting or standing with the porch as a background.

South Dakota, 1958 above, Alaska
early 60's below.
Have you noticed, though, that many of the houses being built today don’t have front porches?  Many have elaborate decks and patios behind the house, closed off from their neighbors.  The porch of yesterday has pretty much vanished.  I couldn’t get one chair on my porch, much less more.  It is more of an entryway, plain, not near as inviting.  But they just don’t seem to make them like they used to.  All the new fangled amenities have taken us indoors, computers, smart TV’s, air conditioning.   Are we missing out?  I think, to a certain extent, we are.  It was a part of the lifestyle…a little piece of Americana.  To the left are some of      the front porches of houses I lived in, growing up.  

There is a movement out there, (slowly growing) to bring back the front porch.  There are even organizations that are actively promoting it.  According to an article there is actually a “Professional Porch Sitters Union Local 1339” in Louisville, Kentucky.  The author of the article, Michelle Norris, titled the article, “Sitting on the Porch: Not a Place, But a State of Mind”.  I agree with that.  To see the full article, click here.   

House in Southern Pines,
NC, we lived in a short time.
How many times did you sit on the porch and watch a storm roll in?  Or watch the kids play in the street?  Those times were much more tranquil and quiet than now, with all the loud cars, stereos blaring, and revving engines.  But being out there is still so much better than sitting inside, with all those electronic devices we have become attached to.  (Myself included)  Would it be healthier to have that “down” time, fresh air, and neighborhood fellowship?  I can’t help but think it would be.  

So, here’s to houses with front porches!  If you have one, make a point to go out and enjoy it more.  If you don’t, figure out a way that you can accomplish the same type of experiences.  You won’t regret it!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Cemeteries: A Grave Decision

In an earlier Blog, I touched on a trip that we made to North Carolina and some of the cemeteries we visited.  I wanted to do some more research on each of these places and have found some very interesting history and stories.  It made me think about what will happen when I pass.  Have you thought about where your final resting place will be?  Will you be buried in a family plot, in a different place from other family members, in a national cemetery, cremated?  What are your preferences when it comes to picking that final destination?  It's not something we like to think about, but necessary, none the less.  

Have you visited many cemeteries?  They can seem very eery, scary and dark places.  But they can also be fascinating.  There are many names for the places where we will be interred.  Cemetery, graveyard, churchyard, burial ground, boneyard, God's acre, final resting place, to mention just a few.

You have probably been at a cemetery, or two, during a funeral for a friend or loved one.  They come in all shapes and sizes and the grave markers are as different as the people they represent.  Some resting places are right next to the church's the people belonged to, some are on the land where they lived, and some are just on land somewhere in the city.

During my genealogy research, I have walked many graveyards looking for deceased ancestors.  Some large, some small, some very old, some more modern.  Some I couldn't even find.  All of them, however, leave me with a sense of sadness and on the other hand, curiosity.  I want to know more about the lives of these people. 

Photo by Ed Starling of Abbott's Creek Cemetery.  As
seen on Find A Grave website.  (4)
Some of my family members are buried at Abbott's Creek Primitive Baptist Church in Davidson County, North Carolina.  This cemetery has some very old gravestones and some very unique ones.    There are some 450 stones and the oldest one that can be read, dates back to 1795.  The ones that can't be read could date back further, since the church was started in 1756.  There are many ornate ones that were crafted by local German stonecutters.  A description in a form for the North Carolina National Register of Historic Places states, that it is "the largest collection of locally-made gravestones in Davidson County...  67 being the 'Pierced Style' attributed to the Swisegood School and it followers...The 'Pierced' group have death dates from 1802 to the 1850s."(1)

Entrance to Abbott's Creek Cemetery

Swisegood School, according to a website on Davidson County history says that it, "is believed that the makers of many of these stones were a group of early Davidson County cabinet-makers known as the Swisegood School from the Browntown/Abbotts Creek area of the county. No pierced grave markers are known to exist outside of Davidson County. According to the State Historic Preservation Office, these highly sculptured gravestones carved in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century by descendants of German settlers are not only historically and culturally important in NC, but also represent a nationally significant collection of folk sculpture."(2)
Photo by Keith Osborn as found on
Find A Grave (3)

On a sign located near the Abbott’s Creek cemetery, given by the Daughters of the American Colonists, it says: “This 1756 church contains unique and artistic North Carolina soft soapstone & pierced tombstones carved by Anglo-German cabinet and furniture makers, many attributed to the  Swicegood  School, using the same tools as used in furniture.  They made coffins and tombstones to supplement their furniture making income and decorated all with beautiful German symbols such as the fylfot cross meaning eternity.  These tombstones are unique to Davidson County and believed to be found nowhere else in America.”  

Above are some of the unique soapstone grave markers in the Abbott's Creek cemetery.  Check out the cutouts.  They are so cool and vary in some way.  You just don't see craftsmanship like this anymore. These are, by far, the most intricate of any of the rest of the family members I found in other locations.  

Unfortunately, many of headstones are very hard, if not impossible, to read.  I wish there was a group somewhere around that area that could take on, as a project, to help preserve them.  Click here to see an example of some successful preservation projects on Texas cemeteries, that did just that at some of their local cemeteries.  Do you have any one-of-a-kind tombstone pictures from your family members? I would love to see them.  
(3) Photo by Keith Osborne as found on Find A Grave website
(4) Photo by Ed Starling as found on Find A Grave website

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Are We Related? DNA Says "Yes"

A couple of years ago I had my DNA tested.  Both MtDNA (DNA from my mom) and Autosomal (the 22 numbered chromosomes as opposed to the sex determining ones).  My brothers and I bought our dad a kit for Father's Day one year and now my brother has been tested.  I still haven't figured it all out.  I may never have a complete handle on it.  But, there are people out there that know what it is all about and my reading list gets longer as I find them.

You've heard me say before that I subscribe to a podcast called Genealogy Gems.  If you are into genealogy you really need to check out this website. There are free podcasts and they also have a Premium Membership, that has a fee involved.  I invested in the premium and it has been well worth the modest cost, for all the information I have gleaned from listening.

Lisa Louis Cooke is the host and she has an expert in DNA that contributes to each podcast.  Her name is Diahan Southard and she is very knowledgeable on all things DNA.  So I continue to listen, in hopes that I will learn exactly what the results mean or at least have a better understanding.

My results were downloaded onto Family Tree DNA and that site searches for matches.  I receive something several times a week that says they have found a match to my dad. This week I had an email inquiring about my Autosomal DNA.  The email said they were trying to find the grandfather of a relative and I had come up as a close match.  In this case, close meant third to fourth generation.  I didn't recognize the surname given but thought I would do a little research.

The family lived in a little town in northwest Kansas.  I had never heard of the town and decided to look it up.  The town was started in the late 1800's and people were there primarily because of cattle. However, the railroad did come through at one time.  I decided to look into the census, in the time frame they gave me, to see what I would find.  It was so interesting.  This little town was a melting pot of people from all over the world.  There were folks listed from France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Austria, Hungary, just to name a few.  They were from many states too.  I found this fascinating!  What took them to this little town way out in Kansas?  It appears that it was fertile land with lots of good grazing for the cattle.

I looked through the entire census of this small town, in hopes I might recognize one of my family surnames, that might help us get a clue as to how we were related.  There was not one.  And as far as I knew, I didn't have any relatives in Kansas.  However, the DNA says otherwise.  So I am just as curious, at this point, to know the connection.

I have had other inquiries, as well.  One woman was trying to find her birth parents and we were somehow related on my mother's side.  I gave her what I could but have no clue if she found out anything concrete.

More and more companies are starting to offer DNA testing.  Have you had yours done?  Did you find out anything surprising or exciting?  Let me know if you did!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Hello! It's me again!

Today marks two years ago that I wrote my first blog.  Where have I been, you might be asking?  Why haven't there been any blogs for the last 7 months?  Well, we were off making memories. We were blessed with lots of family and friend time, and great trips.  Our most recent trips were so fabulous that we mentioned several times that we wished we could stay in both places.

The Fab 4 in Liverpool, Englan
RAF Bar behind the Eagle
The Eagle Pub in Cambridge
First, we went on a cruise that circled the British Isles. My recent DNA testing said I was 97% from the British Isles.  A wonderful reason to see that area of the world.  We were blessed to be able to visit many wonderful cities in England, Scotland, and Ireland.  I always wanted to visit Scotland and Ireland and it is was great fun to go back to England. We stayed in London two nights before heading to Southhampton to get on the ship. One of the days we were in London, we took a train and went to Cambridge.  It was such a fun town, full of history, educational facilities, churches and restaurants. We had heard of The Eagle Cambridge  Pub from some friends, so we looked  for it and had lunch there. At the back of the pub is another bar where the  pilots used to hang out, back during World War II, called the RAF Bar.  They would write their names on the ceiling and to this day, the names are  still there.  A very nostalgic spot and the food wasn't too bad either.

 As we ventured around the British Isles, we visited Dublin, Glascow,  Liverpool, Edinburg, Belfast and Inverness.  Each having their own  unique  characteristics.  We liked them all but only had a short time in  each port.  I  would like to go back some day and spend more time.  We also visited  Stirling and Blarney Castles.  Stirling most famous for  Robert the Bruce of  Braveheart fame and Blarney for the famous  "Blarney Stone" that you  practically hang upside down to kiss.  There  is not enough antibacterial gel  in this world to get me to do it.  However we did do a photo op!  We had fun on that cruise!
Blarney Castle

We got to spend some time in Hawaii in January,  A really nice time to be there, even though the weather in Texas was pretty good during that time.  We were on the island of Maui and had lots of fantastic beach time and great seafood!

We loved these trips but our time spent with family was by far the best.  We have been from one end of this continent to the next over the last six months, for weddings, graduations, birthdays and more.  From Seattle, to Georgia, to Michigan, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, Hawaii, and Houston.

Maui, Hawaii
So as you can see, we have been very busy and, unfortunately, my blog writing time went by the way side.  So did my genealogy research.  But I am back at it and hope to get some more blogs out soon!  In my spare time I have still been trying to find my great, great great grandfather on my maternal grandfather's side, father to John Garrison, Browntown/ Abbott's Creek, Davidson County, North Carolina.  I have searched, what I feel like is every possible place, and still have no proof of who he is.  We all speculate who we think he is, but I want proof positive.  I am going to have to spend some time at our local Family History Place because I have cancelled my account, for now. (too costly)  Fact finding is tedious work but work I enjoy doing!

There are lots of other avenues I want to pursue, so I will be back soon!