An Adventure

On the drive into work the other morning I was lamenting not having any good adventure stories to share.  I was coming to grips with having finally reached the bottom of my story well and preparing to settle for sharing quips about the giant mug of water I’ve been drinking daily (well, it is really huge) or maybe some stories of “Sam did the most adorable thing the other day.  Get this, she woke up, padded around, got some food and took a nap.”. “I opened AND closed the door today!” (This is actually something to celebrate if we’re talking about the kitchen cabines or the pantry.) “There was this bumper stick you see, said something about “whirled peas”.  Get it?” You get the idea – bottom of the story well.

Then it hit me.  I vaguely remembered having actually done a few things that I hadn’t shared.  (Look, blame Facebook or the times for the overshare of stuff – I personally blame my friends for encouraging me – you can, too!) It appeared that I had actually engaged in… adventures!  Adventures that proved I left the house at some point for short stints.  Go me!  Way to shrug off the hermit rags (which are, for the record, comfy, warm and after a few days you hardly notice the smell).

So, back in February… (I never said this was a recent adventure) I decided to join my friend April for a curling class.  You might remember April as the friend who tried to do me in at the Texas State Fair.  She’s got a mean streak that borders on homicidal, but is clearly unwilling to explore her own personal orange jumpsuit opportunities, so she cleverly tries to lead me into accidents.  This time her ploy involved tennis shoes on ice and a 42 pound stone.  You’d think I’d learn better, but as you may have gathered through previous stories I’m rather “bless your heart” naive/goofy.  (Southern fact: If you’re in the South and someone says “bless your heart” it’s rarely a kind thing.)

Off I went to the ice rink bundled in my Texas winter attire.  For most Texans that’s just long sleeves, but I actually managed a sweater.  I’m cold natured!  We got a little introduction to the sport and the rules, then off we went to the ice.  Now I’d been on this same ice before – back  in college for something called broomball – a sport where you smack around a hockey puck with a broom (sans bristles) while in your sneakers.  I stayed upright, unlike several other dorm mates – one who had to go to the hospital, but I should confess that I did manage to smack my co-RA’s knuckles to the point that they swelled up pretty nicely. Hey, it’s basically Texas hockey and things got REAL! (It had nothing to do with me spactically flailing around and accidentally hitting someone.)

Since we didn’t have the gear, like their fancy shoes, we were handed a slip cover.  It basically amounted to putting teflon on one foot to make it extra glidey (or fall-y depending on your balance).  They explained how to throw your stone, use your broom for balance and then get into this contraption to push off.  The first guy got in and was flawless.  He was the ringer.  Then everyone else took their turn with varying amounts of success.  Most would get a tiny push, go a few inches, release the stone a few inches and do a small unglamorous pancake on the ice.

Then it was my turn.  I was hoping to push a few inches down the ice and with any luck not  pancake.  I got my feet placed, got down on the ice and realized not only could I not push off, I wasn’t sure I could get back up.  I decided it was a great time to panic as I surveyed the 50+ highly successful participants.  “Successful” was defined by whether they could get up off the ice and while I realized I hadn’t seen everyone, I knew in my soul they all could. I was the embarrassment of the ice rink!  I might actually die out here on the ice unable to leave this spot.  Maybe the zamboni could push me to safety? Maybe I’d become a human puck and one day reach the exit?  Maybe I could belly crawl to the side, someone could open the little door out and I would once again be on terra firma.  It was settled.  The last plan was the best.  Now how to begin the belly slide that way without drawing any attention.  This was going to be difficult.

My little group was now staring and my poor little trainer (who wore possibly the best pants ever if you forget the Norwegian Olympic team) tried his best to help, extending a hand.  I couldn’t take it.  I knew if I took it, I’d pull him down, too.  I did consider that if he were down on the ground, I could use him as a way to get up.  This actually wasn’t the worst idea I’d had and it beat living on the ice. Still, I didn’t want to push up with my own hands off the ice, because well… ice is slippery and not meant for stability. I finally got up and declared, “I’m done!” Not in a pouty way.  More in a “thank you tons for your time! I’m personally mortified! This is great! I’m going to stand back here and take pictures. No, no, I enjoy taking picture! You’re great! Buh bye!”

Well, it turns out most of the curling club is packed with Canadians who may be the friendliest people on the planet.  They weren’t having anyone missing out on the fun, so one of the curling club leaders slid over and offered a solution.  A stick! Yes, a stick is a solution.  You basically hook it into the stone, step off the same little contraption I couldn’t push off of and release the stone.  They gave me a little tutorial so I could get the stone to “curl” and pointed out people in their club who used it regularly for various reason and explained there was no shame in the stick.  I had a shameless stick!

I returned to the group with my little stick and I proceeded to heave that stone down the ice every time I had a turn.  And I made those little sweepers work it, because by not being challenged by the stance and merely walking out onto the ice, I could make the stone move very quickly and send it down far.  I was triumphant! (Well, we’ll end the story here so I can say that and we’ll never mention my sweeping “ability”.  Never.)

At the end our group leader with the fabulous pants encouraged each of us to join the club.  When I made a face that read like “you kind hearted funny pants wearing man” he cheerfully added , “you, too – several people use the stick method and we’d love to have you.”  Bless his heart. I have to admit I did have a moment of “you know, I think I may do it.  I’m going to be a curler!” thanks to the people in the club.

And that’s what I did one day in February.

Below is a video from that day.  I’m in it.  I will never point myself out to you. However, if you still want to see what the rink looked like with a bunch of amateur curlers that I might be among, the news report starts at 23:45.

 

Mommy, I Want to Be a Pariah When I Grow Up

When I was younger, I wanted to be a ballerina, a few years later it was an architect, then a mythologist (which my cousin kept trying to explain wasn’t a real thing), then a museum curator, then finally a “who’s hiring?” I never consciously chose “pariah”. I guess I never dared to hope that I’d be that interesting. Yet, here I am.

If you asked my friends to describe me they’d supply a list of rather bland adjectives you wouldn’t typically ascribe to your average suburban pariah. Clearly I’m a rarer breed. I’m an introvert, I’m shy, I’m reserved, and I’m measured. While I’m not particularly bright or clever, I am occasionally and quite unintentionally amusing. My friends haven’t caught on that most of my humor comes from blunders of speech, but I do admit that when they laugh I try to pass it off as intentional. I meant to say that! Aren’t I funny? (If they have caught on, they go ahead and let me enjoy the moment. They’re great like that.)

My routine is stay in the house, stay in the house, stay in the house, go to work, come back inside the house, move to the computer room, go to the backyard, and get back inside. I’ve become more agoraphobic since my neighbor’s (unleashed) dog charged us snarling, snapping and baring its teeth several times (with no apology), since she threatened to call the cops while I was sitting in the backyard and Sam was baying at the emergency vehicle sirens (she later apologized and said it was insomnia – the apology was timely – 5 years later), since she tore up part of our fence without warning to repair it and then left the old pickets and garbage behind in our yard, since she tore up the vines we had growing up the fence (they dared to grow down its back side, so she promptly chopped them up and threw all of it over the fence without a word) and since she joined the Human Chihuahua (HC) as HC ranted about how we should go to jail for the abhorrent lifestyle my husband and I lead – the one that the neighbors all disapproved of, and that you can read about here: That’s A Wrap: The Austin 48 Hour Film Project.

Needless to say, going outside typically gives me a mild anxiety attack. The real kind. I cannot walk our dog. I cannot walk to the mailbox. I can barely water the lawn and landscaping is out of the question. All of those activities expose me to the front of the house for far too long of a period and if I am going to do any of that it involves a long pep talk about “you live here, too – go get ‘em, champ!”

So, about three weeks ago a shabby little sign-up sheet appeared on my door with the word “YUM!” glued all over it. The invitation was for what amounted to a block party and promised burgers, sausage wraps, hot dogs, etc. I was surprised to see it on my door. We’re the neighborhood pariahs. We’re the ones the “neighborhood disapproves of”. I looked at it, my stomach started rolling and I decided we had to go. We had to show them that they couldn’t force us (or me) to stay in the house. Unfortunately, Jay had to work and there was no way I’d go by myself. I immediately posted a note on Facebook begging for a date. Thankfully, my good friend Jennifer agreed. (I will forever love Jennifer for this.)

The day of the event, this past Saturday, I had another anxiety attack. My blood pressure skyrocketed. I started combing the pantry for anything that might act as a depressant, something to undo the caffeine from earlier in the day, and stumbled on the wine we use for cooking – cheesy little screw top/plastic bottles. Blech! (I’m not a big drinker and wine from a plastic bottle is well, wine from a plastic bottle.)

Jennifer and I wandered over at the appropriate time and there was Bill, the good neighbor. He walked up to me and said, “I’m so glad you came. I didn’t think they were going to invite you. If they hadn’t, I was going to come and get you.” I like Bill because he sees this stuff going on and he thinks it’s awful and ridiculous, too. I told him, “I had to come, even though I don’t want to be here so I can show them who I am.” Then I asked him to point out the woman who insulted me on my porch so Jennifer could see who she was. The story about HC is legend among my friends and there’s even a song inspired by the event that most of my friends know and sing. (This is what happens when you stomp on my porch unaware that some of Austin’s top improvisers are inside and you’re actually screaming at one of them in the form of our writer for that shoot.) I put on my biggest smile and went and forced people to see me, to talk to me, and to be polite to me. I reminded myself that the people who gossiped about me made up approximately 1/10th of the households that were invited – approximately 10%. They made up 1/4th of our actual cul-de-sac which meant 3/4th were undecided about who I was in the cul-de-sac and 9/10th of the entire two blocks. Math helps with anxiety.

The organizer (the one with the aggressive dog and the lead gossiper) walked up and said something like, “Beth, I’m so glad you made it. Everyone here has been wanting to meet you.” She’s mentioned that kind of thing to me in the past, “you know, people have been wondering about you all since they never see you.” Personally, I’ve always prized people who minded their own business and were generally not a nuisance, but here that’s a problem. Jennifer said, “wow, they really do talk about you, don’t they?” Yep.

The hardest part, aside from eating their food (breaking bread with them), was when I heard HC speaking to a neighbor and that neighbor responded, “she’s right over here, do you want to meet her?” knowing that “she” referred to me. I looked up, smiled brightly, extended my hand and chatted away. I asked her about herself and her family. I carried on. I joked. And inside I choked down a world of anger. Being polite to a person who implied Jay and I lead a deviant lifestyle, one that involves the exploitation of children was hard. Laughing with a woman who threatened to call the police and suggested not only what I do in my house is illegal, it’s abhorrent, was stomach churning. Yet, there I was. Throughout the whole event, Jennifer and I would refer to the song and sing the chorus a bit. It helped push down the hard feelings by adding levity.

I stayed for a little over an hour and a half. My friend Topping had given me goals. “You can leave in 40 minutes if you’ve gone around and mingled with everyone. After 40 minutes, if you find you’re hunkering in a corner, you have to stay an extra amount of time until you feel comfortable. You can leave after an hour and a half.” (That was the gist of it, if not exact.) I mingled, I retreated, I mingled some more. I chatted up neighbors I’d been wanting to meet who were as lovely as I expected. I shook the hands with the gossipers and I laughed with them. As I left I stopped by and said goodbye to most everyone who was still there from my cul-de-sac. I thanked the organizers for inviting me, telling them the event was just perfect. Then I finally stopped Bill as he was exiting and thanked him for just being awesome; he blushed, waved and headed home with his family. (Bill & Becky still win as the best neighbors, although now I think I may have added one or two additional allies.)

Overall a success thanks to Topping (for writing that song and for pre-party advice) and especially thanks to Jennifer for being so gracious as to stand by me on an extremely hard day. (I owe you big time. I don’t think you will ever know how much your being there meant.)

Who knows, I may try to go outside in the front, we’ll see. I’m still working through a phobia, so there may not be huge changes – just baby steps.

Foster Needed – Austin, Texas

My good friend Julie has an amazing opportunity of a lifetime – a chance to practice medicine in New Zealand for a year. The downside, aside from not being able to see her at all during that time and only getting to live vicariously through her adventures, is that she can’t take her beloved dog Sami.

WE NEED YOUR HELP! SAMI NEEDS A FOSTER FAMILY!

Sami is a senior girl. She has a goofy smile, long legs, big ears and an even bigger heart. From the time we’ve spent with her, we can tell she loves soft pats, ear scratching (right there, yes right there), naps, showing off her toy for the kitty, chasing wild rabbits and eating. She’s easy going, mellow and super friendly.

She looks great in a hat!

If you chose to foster her for a year, you’ll receive:

  • A year’s supply of all her medicines (she’s a senior, so she has a few and this includes her heartworm meds)
  • Vet bills paid (of course within reason – no open heart surgery, knee replacements, cybernetic implants, diamond doggy grills, etc.)
  • A gigantic crate with her bed, blankets and her toy.
  • A whole lot of love!
  • Wet doggy kisses!

WE NEED YOUR HELP! SAMI DESERVES A LOVING FOSTER FAMILY!

Sami is house trained, crate trained, and dinner trained (she’ll always come for dinner!).

She’s 60 lbs. and her vet believes she may be part Catahoula, Australian Shepherd and she is definitely all heart.  She needs to be able to come in from the extreme Texas heat and of course the cold.

Beth, why can’t you keep her? Great question! We’d love to, she’s a great house guest. Unfortunately our dog attacks her. Please note: all fighting is initiated by our dog. Sami is not responsible for any of the aggression; she’s easy-going and seems to want to make friends, but ours isn’t having it. Sami and our dog have to spend most of their time separated and food cannot be out when they’re both out (or a trash bag that you’re trying to seal up and take out). She needs a better place where she doesn’t have to be stressed out by our aggressive beagle. (Who knew beagles could be aggressive?)

SAMI NEEDS YOU!

All legs, ears and heart waiting for you!

Can you help? Do you know of anyone who can? Have any questions? Please leave a comment here or send me an email at bigbluemess at gmail dot com.

Cousin Removal Explained – Now with Pictures!

One of the most confusing terms when talking about family relationships and Family Trees is the term “removed”. People will consciously avoid it opting for a second or third cousin reference, because it’s seemingly too confusing. Well, a long time ago, because I’m quite an accomplished nerd, I decided I needed to conquer it if I were going to work on my family tree.  A little staring at the explanation and the light bulb came on, and now I’m going to attempt to explain it to you.

I should tell you at the outset, that I’m terrible about teaching things. If Word weren’t fighting me at the moment or I had Visio at home, I’d probably do a better job, but you got me and text, and well… like I said I’m terrible at teaching things. Good luck! ENJOY!

Here we go!

Let’s say there’s YOU and YOU have two cousins ALLIE and ARNOLD. ALLIE and ARNOLD are your Mother’s sister’s children; they are your first cousins. Now ALLIE grows up and has one son, BERNARD. BERNARD is your cousin. As your first cousin’s son; he’s your first cousin (ALLIE) once removed. At some point you go off and meet the spouse of your dreams and your first child (apple of your eye with only your good qualities) is BARBARA. BARBARA, as your child, is ALLIE and ARNOLD’s first cousin (you) once removed – BARBARA. However, BARBARA and BERNARD are second cousins.

Think of it in terms of Family Tree tiers. YOU, ALLIE and ARNOLD are on the same tier. ALLIE’s son, BERNARD and your daughter BARBARA are on the next tier. The same tiers represent first, second, and third cousins, and so on. If someone is not on the same tier as YOU (in other words, they are not ALLIE or ARNOLD) they’re considered “removed.”

ALLIE’s son BERNARD has a girl, CATHY. She is ALLIE’s granddaughter, so she is your first cousin (ALLIE), twice removed (BERNARD – once removed, CATHY – twice removed). If BARBARA has a daughter CAROLYN, then CAROLYN is also ALLIE and ARNOLD’s first cousin twice removed. CAROLYN is also BERNARD’s second cousin, once removed and she is CATHY’S third cousin.

So, now that you’ve got that completely straightened out (aka “survived”) – meet my third cousin, five times removed – Hazel Bess Laugenour. (I cheated and had Family Tree Maker figure that bit out, but now that you’re a relationship pro you could easily map it.) She’s my latest genealogical find! She’s a hoot! She’s also a swimmer, a vaudevillian, an inventor (something with a hydroelectric current), graduate of Berkeley in the early 1900’s, and chock full of spunk and sass. You should read the news articles on her!

Neptune’s Perfect Girl

… and because I now understand “removed”, you can tell that Hazel and I are incredibly close (thus the similarities in disposition and achievements – Like I’m incredible at flailing around in the water – a careful (carefree?) balance of water ballet and drowning. I’m quite the little water naiad. Then there was that time I invented ummm… well, we have to have some differences otherwise how would you distinguish the two of us? You couldn’t!)

Armed with this newly found knowledge, imagine what you’ll discover! Now go forth and remove those cousins!

 

Calling all Greens/Singletons/Robbins/Swinsons/Baileys/Howards/Touchstones/Webbs

First, let me introduce myself, I’m Beth. I’m the granddaughter of Jim Swinson and Elizabeth Cearley. You can read the reasoning behind my posting my family information on a blog in the previous post or by clicking here.

I’m looking for more information on our family – from stories to photos to very simple things like full names. (Sometimes the information you find through censuses, family trees, etc doesn’t paint a complete picture, which is why I need your help.) I have been fortunate that several descendants of the Singletons have been extremely generous with their information, but we all seem to be missing information from both the Greens and their ancestors, and the Robbins and their descendants. If you have any information on the following people, I’d love to hear from you:

Daniel Madison Singleton (1/18/1848 – 1/21/1930) – Rabun, Georgia; Dahlonega, Georgia; Chechero, Georgia, Delta, Texas, Cooper, Texas

m. Amanda Green (6/8/1848 – 1872) – Amanda died in Benton County, Arizona; Lumpkin County, Georgia

David Franklin Singleton, Sr. (2/29/1868 – 11/22/1953) – Rabun County, Georgia; Paris, Texas

m. Lera Hamilton (7/1/1877 – 12/12/1958)

Mary E. Singleton (abt. 1902)

David Franklin Singleton, Jr. (abt. 1907)

Amanda Talitha Singleton (4/26/1872 – 5/10/1946) – Benton County, Arkansas; Donie, Texas; Limestone, Texas; Dallas, Texas

m. Reverend William P. Robbins (3/7/1873 – 8/13/1938) (I’ve seen his middle initial listed as “Pete”, “Pate”, and “Peter”.)

Daniel Frank Robbins (2/1/1893 – 11/19/1965) – Donie, Texas

Winnie Jane Robbins (8/9/1899 – 3/9/1935) – Waco, Texas; Donie, Texas

m. Jasper Miller

Katie Ruth Robbins (listed as “Catherine” in Reba Nell Touchtone’s obituary) (4/6/1896 – 3/11/1945) – Dallas, Texas

m. William Stewart Swinson or William Stuart Swinson (7/3/1864 – 3/22/1963) = Dallas, Texas

James Greene Swinson (1/19/1917 – 1/14/1984) – Dallas, Texas

(note: date of death comes from the death certificate of Jim H. Swinson)

m. Hillia Elizabeth Cearley

Anita Christina

Philis Cozette

Quentin Woodrow Swinson (2/3/1919 – 10/11/1991)

Esther Elizabeth Swinson (2/2/1924 – 8/29/1993 or 8/24/1993) – Carson, California; Long Beach, California

m. Henry Webb

Cathy Webb – Laguna Niguel, California

Yvonne Webb – Torrence, California

Henry Webb, Jr.

Reba Nell Swinson (4/5/1926 – 8/26/2009) Dimmitt, Texas

m. Calvin J. Howard, II (10/5/1920 – 2/6/2006)

Calvin J. Howard, III (8/1/1942 – 1/12/1997) – nickname: Wiggy

m. Barbara L. Hammaker Dallas, Texas

Cassandra Lynn Howard – Beauxbridge, Louisiana

Christi L. Howard – Austin, Texas

m. Jay Lee Touchstone – Dimmitt, Texas

Anna Mae Robbins (Annie Mae Robbins) (2/4/1905 – 3/10/1994 – Dallas, Texas

m. Kenneth T. Bailey, Sr. (4/27/1897 – 1/19/1973)

Mary Frances Bailey (abt. 1927)

Kenneth T. Bailey, Jr. (9/20/1929 – )

William Stewart Swinson – (family with first wife)

m. Ida Quinn

  • Henry Ward Swinson (9/16/1905 – 2/1973)
    • Ward Swinson – Ft. Collins, Colorado
  • William Edward Swinson, Sr. (5/29/1898 – )
    • Edwina Swinson Hahn – Columbus, Georgia
    • William Edward Swinson, Jr. – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Richard Hillyer Swinson (7/24/1900 – 9/9/1933)
  • Ruth Swinson (8/1903 – 4/1907)
  • Mary Swinson Smith (6/20/1901- )

William S. Swinson’s Siblings include:

  • Henry Ward Swinson – (9/1859 – 1905)
  • James Daniel Swinson – (5/1/1862 – 7/1/1945)
  • John Wilkes Swinson, Sr. – (6/18/1867 – 6/7/1941)
  • Jesse Lee Swinson (8/9/1869 – 3/30/1933)
  • Lily Davis (Swinson) Blackburn) (3/20/1872 – 8/20/1943)
  • Eva Jackson Swinson (10/26/1876 – 4/21/1958)

For indexing purposes, I’m also going to re-list some of the family with their married names:

  • Amanda Singleton
  • Annie Mae Bailey
  • Reba Nell Howard
  • Reba Nell Touchstone
  • Esther Elizabeth Webb
  • Winnie Jane Miller
  • Yvonne Choate
  • Catherine Lyons

Any information you’re willing to share would go a long way to filling out our family story. Even the smallest details helps move these people beyond mere names and names. For example, I recently learned that Winnie Jane, Robbins, my great-great aunt, was an auditor at a hotel in Waco and performed in her local glee club in the 1930’s.  She wasn’t a teacher or a secretary, which is what I would expect to find.  She was an auditor.  This simple bit of information gives me a slighterly better clue as to who she might have been. If you know anything, even if it’s as simple as a full name, and you are willing to share, please leave a comment below or you can email me at bethd at texas dot net.

I would love to hear from you!  I would love to share with you! (Plus, there are a whole lot of Singletons who are very eager to learn more about you and bring you into their (our) family.)

Shaking the Branches

Sooo… I haven’t received the response I hoped for in my family tree search or really any response and it occurred to me, I have a blog. Then another thought occurred to me, search engines index blogs (and well, the whole internet). I know this because I am one of the top spots for people who hate Houston. Again, Houston haters, I don’t actually hate Houston. SPOILER ALERT: the post was really to address a friend who had told another friend, “Beth hates Houston”. Sure you had to read between the lines, but there you have it. Anyway, back to the indexing and my thought pattern. My final thought, a lot of genealogists use the internet to research their families. Since there is a fee associated with Ancestry.com, which to me is 100% worth it, some researchers don’t have the resources or simply haven’t chosen to invest in that particular tool.

I have been lucky on my quest for information, as least on my Dad’s side of the family. I have met two amazing cousins who I never would have known if I hadn’t been doing genealogy research. One on my Dad’s father’s side, whose every email brings a gigantic smile to my face. She is truly the best treasure to have come out of shaking the branches of my family tree. The other cousin is on my Dad’s mother’s side where she is just waiting for me to start working on that branch so she can share all she knows. Through both of them, I’ve received stories I’ve never heard and seen pictures I’ve never seen. It’s amazing! The experience has made me quite giddy.

My mother’s side is a different story until I get back to my great-great-great grandfather and talk to the descendants of my great-great grandmother’s half siblings’ descendants – truly lovely people who are exactly where I am when it comes to the giant gap in their trees between this common ancestor of ours and me. We don’t have stories or photos or in some cases full names.

This brings me back to internet searches. I’m going to go ahead and list the people I’m searching for in the hopes someone will take a chance that I am not an internet stalker or identity thief or whatever nefarious thing they might think when I ask “can you tell me my great-grandmother’s full name?”

I actually want this to stand out, so I am going to put all of this in the post that follows.

The Withered Leaf: An Ancestry Story

I met my mother’s father once. I was very small, he was very quiet and together we sat on a piano bench as he played a tune. I was told he was rather brilliant and could play multiple instruments. When we parted, I went back to my home where my parents watched over me and he went back to his home, where attendants and orderlies and case workers watched over him. He was institutionalized most of his adult life.

No one talked about him. No one really knew him.

I went looking for him.

On my journey I discovered his mother, her name was Ruth or maybe it was Katie Ruth or Catherine, but my guess is she was more commonly known as Ruth. I had always believed she died in North Carolina an elderly woman. In fact, I believed my grandfather and his siblings had moved to Dallas while their parents remained back in their home, several states away. I had it all wrong. Through a small amount of research, it turns out she was born in Texas, as were all her children, and she actually died a building or two away from a building I once worked in. I never had any idea she was in Austin. It was strange to think about. She spent her remaining 5 years here in an institution and died at the age of 49. Recently, I was on that campus for a meeting and my stomach flipped as I looked up at the windows wondering if she had ever looked down on the spot I stood on. In the 1930’s, was she ever allowed to walk where I walked?

I had been told no one in the family liked to talk about her. Not even her other children, so I know no stories other than what I can glean from a census or two.

I found her father’s, my great-great-grandfather’s, death certificate – also institutionalized. He died of exhaustion after a manic bout. Our history unfolds.

I grasped at the names of Ruth’s siblings and landed on Winnie. Oh dear Winnie! The newspaper articles my co-worker found chronicled her singing in the town’s glee club. She was an auditor at a hotel. Not a teacher or a secretary, which I would expect to find. Winnie. Doubtlessly smart and clearly talented. Finally, someone in this family was ok. Unfortunately, she died at 38, her death certificate said, a head injury sustained “in public”. A young divorcee dying “in public” had to be news worthy. I went searching for an article about it. This was 1935 when the paper seemed to think “Mrs. Miller was visited by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Patterson” made for an interesting piece. Sadly, I couldn’t find one. This was probably a cold case! Before I could even begin to spin-up an amazing tale of murder, betrayal and likely choral glee jealousy, my co-worker came across her obituary. It said she had died in a sanitarium. My face fell when I heard the news. My only rational thought on the matter is that perhaps the head trauma lead to her being briefly in a hospital before she passed away, because it was the 1930’s, maybe it was just called a sanitarium.

(Around this time Jay asked me to see if he was related to Seco Smith. You know, good ol’ Seco. A pioneer’s pioneer. A real Texan whose adventures were chronicled repeatedly in the Frontier Times. I looked, and of course he’s a great-great-more greats nephew of this larger-than-life feller. I gave him the stink-eye. Ancestries are clearly not fair.)

I’m still trying to wrap my head around this awful legacy. These people we don’t talk about.

In this ancestry search, the kind they don’t show on the commercials, I’ve chatted with some of my third cousins on this side. They’re very polite and very curious. “We don’t know about your side, please share what you can.” To which I’ve honestly replied, “neither do I, but when I do I’ll be glad to pass on the information” knowing there’s some I never will.

So, last night, inspired by one of these third-ish cousins, I reached out to my second cousin – my grandfather’s sister’s granddaughter. I awkwardly explained who I was and told her I was researching our family. I asked if she’d be willing to share information. (I would just like to know what our great-grandmother’s full name was or even have a picture of my grandfather’s siblings.)

The only photo I have of this side of the family. Taken around 1900. The gentleman in the middle row, third from the right is my great-great-great grandfather, Daniel. His second wife sits before him and in front of her my great half aunts and uncles. His brothers, my great uncles are the two men that stand next to him.

I can’t possibly convey how that simple request has my stomach in knots knowing that my grandfather’s siblings, including her grandmother, did not like talking about my grandfather. His illness was an embarrassment to the family. And despite being cordial, they never had much to do with my mother or her sister. How do you bridge the shame? Do you say, “Hi, I’m Beth – Jim’s granddaughter, you know “that” Jim. So far I’m asymptomatic for crazy and am allowed to roam “mostly” unattended outside of the house. I even hold down a job! Please be nice to me and tell me what my great-grandmother’s full name is. Do you like hugs? I don’t. I was just curious. Is this weird for you? XXOO Beth”? (Ok, I may not have put it quite like that since I do actually want information.)

You see, I’m the family they don’t talk about trying to ask the “good” side if they’re willing to have a conversation. My pedigree, as it were, from the other sides of the family doesn’t matter. What apparently matters is that I’m descended from a crazy man, who was born to a crazy woman, who was born to a crazy father and because of a chemical imbalance, there are stories of how they damaged their families – stories I played no part in.

Each hour that she doesn’t respond heightens the anxiety. I want to know these people (within reason and that doesn’t involve a BBQ or slumber party), I want to see these people (a picture or two?), but I know I’m marked by this terrible stigma of insanity and it weighs heavily on me.