Saturday, October 31, 2015

Past Customs or Happy Halloween

With my recent hiatus from Cousins, I have not only lost my groove with writing but also with reading blogs. So, today I started surfing again. I just love reading family history blogs. One article leads to another, and soon I am lost wondering how I got to wherever I have ended up. Today I ended up reading about post mortum photographs. What???  Here is a whole topic I knew nothing about. How about you?

I started out reading someone's blog on this topic and one thing lead to another. You know how that goes.  According to some of the articles I read, taking pictures of the deceased was common in the past. Wikipedia says that this was a normal part of American and European culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  It was often the only visual remembrance of the deceased and the photograph was considered a precious possession. It also may have been the only image the family had of the family member.

I possess a few photographs of ancestors in their caskets, but none sitting up in a chair as I saw in several articles.  Some images appear to be professional photographs and others are snapshots. I remember when I was a little girl hearing my mother and aunt discuss whether or not to take a casket photo of a relative. They agreed to do it when no one else was around. It had a bit of a tabu feel to me. It seems that this became the general feeling as photography improved and people began to have numerous photos of their loved ones. I read that at one time 1/3 of all photos were post mortem. Amazing the things one can learn about past customs from just a recliner and an ipad.

I do not intend to be morbid, but became aware of a past custom practiced in Palermo, Sicily from the 17th -19th century that readers might not have heard of before. I know I certainly hadn't. The Capuchin Catacombs houses the largest collection of mummies in the world.  Prior to my September visit to this site, I had read a little about it. Unfortunately, a couple of friends who accompanied me had not. The place was a bit too morbid for them. I found it fascinating, but then I like cemeteries like most genealogists. The following is a list of thoughts or descriptions of the catacombs that are common to reviews.

Dehydrated corpses
Beyond creepy
Almost looks like decorations
Underground passages
Peek back into history
8,000 corpses
Clothing of profession
Hung in niches
Glass sided coffins
Corridors for:
Unique in the world

If you find this interesting at all or are just a little curious, here are a couple of sites to learn more. 

The first site will tell you about the site. The second will show pictures. After clicking on the link, look for Comprehensive Index which is hi-lited. From there find the article The Bone Chilling Catacombs of the Capucin Monks.

Actually unless you like Halloween, I would wait to view these pictures. It is probably about the spookiest place you could be.

We do need to realize some of our current customs could seem as odd to our descendants as the above customs seem to us. Then again, maybe not.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Under the Walnut Tree

I was always very familiar with my maternal grandmother's siblings. (Nina Smith Grisso) Since these were the children of my great grandmother (Estella Smith) with whom I spent my childhood, it is only natural that I either knew them first hand or heard many, many stories about them. My maternal grandfather's siblings (Bert Grisso) were not as familiar, but I could always name them. On my dad's side, my maternal grandmother was Nina. It was easy to remember her siblings because she was an only me. She went on to have eight children...unlike me. I always was certain this was not a family tradition I planned to carry on. The family I could never keep straight was my paternal grandfather's siblings.
(Albert Wright) Only in recent years have I been able to make much sense of these five children of Charles and Jenni Wright. I have discovered numerous second cousins from this branch and even am Facebook friends with some of them. The Wright side of my family is my projected topic for next winter.

I mention all of this because I have noticed my own kids get my aunts and uncles confused just like I did my dad's aunts and uncles. Searching 4th great grandparents and beyond is fascinating to me, but I think I also should try to help my kids and my grandchildren understand some of the memories I have This might help them a little. Granted, these stories seem too new for genealogy posts and yet what could be a better forum. After all, Cousins is also for them.

My dad was the oldest of eight kids. I knew them all well. The first of dad's siblings to pass away was my Uncle Al in 1994.  Do not confuse Uncle Al Wright with Uncle Al Tubra who was married to Dad's sister, my Aunt Bonnie. This Uncle Al was named Albert Wright Jr. after his father. I always thought it odd that it was the second son to be named for the father.

Albert Wright Jr. married Norma Seely. They had three children, my first cousins. These cousins, like all of my cousins, were younger than me. A few days ago I received word that Aunt Norma died on Oct. 23. She had been a resident of Idaho for decades and had recently moved to Oregon where she could be better cared for by one of her daughters.

Anyway, my fondest memories of Uncle Al and Aunt Norma were when they lived under our walnut tree. The walnut tree was next to the garage on our farm (The Sixty). They lived in a trailer house under the tree. I have no idea how long they lived there. Their oldest child was a new baby so I loved to go see her. I think I was only about five or six. I remember Aunt Norma using the wringer washing machine on our porch and making crass remarks about big bossomed women and wringer washing machines. It was a bit much for my innocent little ears. They moved west eventually and I only saw them when they came for family visits. Maybe I didn't know them as well as I think, but my parents always spoke lovingly about them. I knew they were special.  For me, I have wonderful childhood memories of them when they lived under the walnut tree in our yard.

Rest In Peace,  Aunt Norma.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday With Mary - 10/26/2015

Tomorrow my mother would have been 94. She died twelve years ago just after her 82 birthday. If she had lived until tomorrow (October 27, 2015), she still would not have been as old as my recently passed mother-in-law (who made it to age 97).

I have checked Mom's calendars and some years she wrote about her birthday and other years she didn't.

Tuesday, October 27, 1981 (She was 60)

Beautiful day - no wind- up into 60ties. John - Ina - Margie - Bonnie - Doll -called me for my birthday - got picker & wagons home - Ray S. put lids on cribs -fixed river bottom fence in p.m. Went to Ta & Doug's for supper & cake.

Sunday, October 27, 1991 (She was 70)

Cloudy but in 50ties most of day- Ina - Margie called
Also Joyce - Micki - Delores
Watched Series to-nite  M. Twins won- worked on quilt to-nite.

Saturday, October 27, 2001 (She was 80)

18 degrees @ 5:20 a.m. Margie & I went to
Perry to Hotel Pattee for lunch with
Midge, Mary & girls- David & Jenni G.
home at 4:15 p.m. Went to Sabus' for
cake & ice cream & another birthday party.
Scott, Bill G. & Florence & Ed Robinson called.

I had planned a few pictures for this special birthday post. However, I am still fighting the technology. I think it will be solved soon. I know you are on the edge of your seats waiting to see how long this might take. No bets, please.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Well, she just couldn't wait to turn this into a travel log, you say. Actually, this is going to be a genealogy tip for anyone interested  in Sicilian Genealogy.

On the second day in Palermo, Sicily, we visited the Cathedral of Montreale. As one of the members of our tour mentioned, she had seen enough cathedrals from her travels and approached this one without much enthusiasm. Once inside, we were all awestruck. The interior is done in gold mosaics that simply take away one's breath. We had a local guide whose English was without accent. It turns out one of her parents was American and the family moved back to Sicily when she was in her teens. She mentioned that she was an author and that her books could be found on Amazon.

After reading about her, I marveled that we were so lucky as to have had her as our guide that day.  Her name is Jacqueline Olio and is considered one of Sicily's leading historians. Just google the name to learn more. I haven't ordered any of her books yet, but I will be placing my order soon. One of the reviews of The People's of Sicily: A Multicultural Legacy caught my attention, and I wanted to share it with anyone who might be working on Sicilian Genealogy.

One reviewer says:

"Has answered many questions about my family history and even found family names listed.  Confirmed stories I learned from my grandmother and now I know they are not fable.  I am intrigued beyond measure, but more than that I have found so much information that I would need to go through many, many sources to find this history."

Another adds:
"Let me start off by saying this book is one of the most valuable tools for researching Sicilian genealogy."

The People's of Sicily: A Multicultural Legacy was co-authored by Jacqueline Olio and Louis Mendola. Mendola is the author of Sicilian Genealogy and Heraldry and Jacqueline Alio has written Women of Sicily: Saints, Queens and Rebels.

I hope this is of use to someone out there. It makes me wish I were Sicilian. Well, maybe if I dig far enough... after all it was a crossroads of so many cultures. I could have had an ancestor among the Normans, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Arabs, Germans, Greeks, or Jews. Or even one of the civilizations I had never heard of before this trip.  Yes, I know, I am stretching a bit.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Just in Time / Wordless or Wordy Wednesday

Here I am still trying to get back in the writing groove and not having a kernel of an idea for a post.  And then...

Yesterday, I spent some time with my sister-in-law going through the remaining possessions of my mother-in-law who recently passed away.  What do we come across but some fabulous old photos!

So, today I planned to post a great picture of Celestia Phillips Marsh.
Her daughter was Minerva Jane Marsh Reeder.
Her daughter was Ina Reeder Augustus.
Her daughter was Doris Augustus Tolsdorf (my husband's mother). This makes her 2nd great grandmother to my husband. Third great grandmother to my kids and 4th great grandmother to my grandchildren.

Of course, this post would be perfect if I could share the photo. Also, it would be clever of me to link to the post I wrote about her August 14 called Celestia...Friday's Feature.

So here is Wordless Wednesday with only words. I can't make anything work. Is it the new upgrade? Is it the slow network? Is it a problem with the platform? Or is it just operator error, and I need to be retrained. I am terribly afraid it is the last option.  Time will tell.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Monday With Mary / Harvest Time

All around me there are neighbors in the fields bringing in the harvest. It is a time of year that many people love. I am taken with the colors and especially those amber waves of grain (it isn't just song lyrics).  Really, there is so much beauty in a herd of black cattle grazing across a newly combined field of corn. The stark contrast of color is a painter/ photographers dream. I have a photography friend that helped me see this. She photographs huge corn piles and dilapidated sheds. She has taught me to look at the world around me in a different/more observant way.

Checking Mary's calendar journal, I can report a little of the 1981 harvest.

Thursday, October 15

60 degrees and up to 70.  Went to Scranton in a.m. for truck gas & coffee -picked 8 load of corn in p.m. Moved elevator to round crib. Nona helped us today -Went to Scranton for supper. Put 19 load in crib.

Friday, October 16

40 degrees @ 6:30 a.m. up in 60ties & a beautiful day -finished picking corn -picked 14 load yesterday. Nona helped me unload.  Nona, Linda, Cindy & Missy helped us bring the heifers down from N. pasture & boy I'm pooped to-night. 15 load of corn in round crib.

Saturday, October 17

Rained this a.m. Cloudy & miserable all day. 60 degrees at 8 a.m. but started dropping about noon -  wind coming up. Vern went to town in a.m. I went to Carroll for groceries & grease. Sewed in p.m. Short down awhile. Vern watched ball game & slept -went to town for supper. ( BBQ Ribs)

Sunday, October 18
40 degrees at 7:00 a.m. High winds-sun shining
Dale -Dave & Jenni-John & Midge here in p.m. Midge & I drove over to Carroll a little while. Getting colder all day.

Just a couple of additional comments.

"Short" is actually the nickname of a neighbor.
My dad was watching a ballgame!!!!! Unbelievable!!!!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Monday, Monday

Yes, I know it is Friday, but I am getting this post out of the way so I can start fresh next week.

I am starting this post by singing "Monday, Monday" from the Mamas and the Papas.

"Monday, Monday, can't trust that day." Hum along if you are old enough to know this tune. This was the favorite song of a college friend who played it no fewer than 500 gazillion times. I doubt that there is any song on my lifetime that I have heard as many times. Usually, it brings a groan when I hear it, but also a smile thinking of those youthful days.

However,  I felt like Monday, October 12,  was not being good to me. My schedule included two funerals at 11:00 on the same Monday morning.


I am ready to put all of this behind me and move on. Time is getting more precious by the day. I am starting to glimpse an end to my days. Not good! It makes me want to dig in deeper and harder and leave as many family stories for my family as I possibly can.

Cousins is back!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Where to Next?

My writing break from Cousins is making it hard to figure out where to begin again. I enjoyed prewriting several posts which were published while I was gone on my trip.  I was able to anticipate my upcoming adventure as well as cover my days away. It was a good plan. We had been assured of Wifi connections in all the hotels across Sicily and Southern Italy. Well, sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. Publishing a blog would have been a nightmare. The trip was fantastic, and I could go on and on about it. However, this is not a travel blog, but a family history/genealogy blog. Give me some time, and I will undoubtedly figure out a way to weave the trip into my blog.

As I stated before, upon arrival in Rome, I received the sad news of my mother-in-law's death. She had been doing genealogy years ago and was a great resource for me. I had even written about this fact in the post Another Limb.

So, the funeral is over. The siblings and families have departed. Now what? I thought about sharing her obituary. I thought about writing about her, but this loss has left me genealogically unenthused.

Then, I received word that the mother of my cousin's husband passed away. So, it is off to another funeral.  This year of 2015 has taken its toll. I have written about some, but there are others that I have not mentioned on my blog like my best friend's 50 year old daughter or my eighth grade teacher as well as a few local residents who I have known all my life. It has just been too many. However, maybe this is one of the stages of life that as a younger person its existence never crosses your mind. It is not a welcome experience, but one that gets your attention again and shakes you up. Once again you vow: I will enjoy today. Tomorrow many not come my way.

As family historian, I deal with those birthdate, death dates, and as much of a life as I can discover in what we call the dash. Death dates are easier when they are so many years ago not yesterday or last week, or last month or in the year 2015.

And I will post my mother-in-law's the obituary, but not today. Today I want to share a verse shared on Facebook by a special cousin.  It was from

A limb has fallen from the family tree.
I keep hearing a voice that says, "Grieve not for me
Remember the best times, the laughter, the song.
The good life I lived while I was strong.
Continue my heritage, I am counting on you.
Keep smiling and surely the sun will shine through.
My mind is at ease, my soul is at rest.
Remembering all, how I truly was blessed.
Continue traditions, no matter how small.
Go on with your life, don't worry about falls.
I miss you all dearly, so keep up your chin.
Until the day comes we're together again."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cousins Goes Dark

While packing and planning for my recent trip to Southern Italy and Sicily, I worked hard at keeping up with my regular writing schedule for Cousins. Thanks to the scheduling feature on Blogger, I was able to prewrite and publish over two weeks worth of ramblings.  I had warned my regular readers that those two weeks might be a little erratic by showing up on various days of the week.

When I reached Rome, I received the sad news that my mother-in-law had passed away. She was 97 but it was still too soon. She was an active and independent 97 until just before the end. I have mentioned her on Cousins several times and will be adding many memories and genealogical information she had helped me with just recently.

However, for now, Cousins will be dark during the next week. I hope you understand.