Sunday, March 20, 2011

Month Long Field Trip

Well, my trip to the South to visit with family and gather family history is coming to an end. Yes, it's been a month. I left Sacramento on February 24 and should make it home by March 22. I need a vacation.

This trip did net me some great stuff though. I met my Uncle R.L. and his family. What a great bunch of cousins I have. (The only one I did not get to meet was his son Danny...that will have to wait till next trip.) I also met my cousin Peggy for the first time. She is already planning a Landry reunion for the next time I make it South.

My cousins Peggy and Andree are determined to get me to speak French, or at the very least not butcher the pronunciation of the names of our ancestors. Which I find hysterical considering that none of them say the name Theaux right. (The h is silent, the name is pronounced Ta (long a) O, but they insist on pronouncing the h.)

My Aunt Lil Fowler
I also got to spend some quality time with my 90 year old Aunt Lil. She took me to a fashion show and we went out to dinner. Lil is very active. She wore me out. She stays up later then me and gets up earlier.

I discovered that artistic talent runs in our family. Somehow it managed to pass right over me. I can't even draw stick figures. My son, however, has some talent, and now I know where it comes from. My Aunt Lil is quite the artist (her medium is oil paints) and I've already introduced you to my cousin Tim who is a sculpture and an amazing portrait artist (his medium being charcoal.) I like his portraits much more than his sculpture....but shhhh, don't tell him.  
One of Aunt Lil's Paintings

I also found out that there are a few health issues that run through the family. I had never thought to do a family health tree...these things are just not thought about when you're adopted, but now I am re-thinking that.

The main purpose for this trip (in addition to meeting family I had not met before) was to gather stories before they were lost and to try and discover information about my great great grandmother Marguerite Irma Domingue Romero. I am happy to report I was successful in all areas.

I recorded my Uncle and my Aunt telling stories about their childhoods and their parents. And my 2nd great grandmother...what did I uncover about her....well, you'll just have to read the next blog.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cajun Hospitality

I've spent the best two days at my cousin Peggy's house.  Peggy and George (her husband) rolled out the red carpet for me.  Yesterday, Peggy and I spent all day talking genealogy, telling family stories and sharing lots of laughs.  The day was topped off with a "Cajun Party" full of good friends, boiled shrimp, Cajun music and more shrimp.  This morning Peggy made me Beignets and tonight she cooked a fabulous Shrimp Etouffe.

Today I learned how to work my embroidery machine...turns out that Peggy and I have the same machine.  But embroidery is what she does for a living.  George is half convinced we are not cousins but long lost sisters separated at birth.

Peggy has giving me the most wonderful gift, a picture of my great grandmother, Felicie Romero, and her brothers and sisters.  I can not begin to express what that means to me. Being adopted I have almost no photos of my birth family.  My sisters gave me a couple of my birth mother, Audrey, when I met them.  Being a genealogist I always have longed for the fabulous old photos that other families seem to have.  The first instruction to a new genealogist is, "go on a treasure hunt in your own attic."  Or, "ask your parents or grandparents for old letters, photographs, the family bible," etc.  I did not have that option.  My mother had passed before I met my fact if she had been alive I would never have met my family.  So I could not ask her for any photos or papers or anything.

I told you that story so I could tell you this one....

In October Peggy contacted me to do George's (her husband's) genealogy for a Christmas gift.  She gave me a budget and told me to go as far as the money would take me.  I guesstimated that I would get about four generations back.

I did like any good 21st century family history detective would do...I went to  I figured I would do a little sleuthing around there to start with and then move on to trying to find wedding certificates or birth certificates...things George could frame...things that pertained to the life his ancestors had lived.  I didn't for one minute think I would find anything other than the usual census records and maybe someone else's tree.

Imagine my surprise and amazement when I found photos of his grandmother, his great grandmother and his great great grandmother.  I also found letters his great grandmother had written.  All courtesy of a distant cousin of George's. The internet is a wonderful thing.

I was so jealous.  Here I had longed for a photograph of someone in my family most of my life. I'm on the computer for about 20 minutes and have great photos for George. NO FAIR.

So today when Peggy gave me that photo I about cried.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Free Class From Louise St. Denis

Did you already sign up for the free (I SAID FREE) class from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies ?

Louise St. Denis was so gracious in offering my readers this wonderful opportunity, this is a beginning class in Methodology.  Normally this class would cost you $89 but she has made it available to you for FREE.

It starts next Monday.  March 14, 2011.

So contact them this week and get signed up for this class.

If you have any trouble getting signed up or if you have questions that the website can't answer call 1-800-580-0165.

See you in class (virtually of course.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Family Traditions

My Aunt Lena was a pistol.  She was a little sprite of a person.  She looked like a little elf.  She was about 4 feet 10 inches tall (that's a guess) and she weighed about 90 pounds dripping wet.  She used to always tell me she was fat.

When Lena met me she was not very friendly.  It took about a year for her to warm up to me, and accept me into the family.  Her sister Lil told me it was because Lena was mad at my mother for not telling her about her secret (me).

From 2003 until 2008 I received an almost weekly newsletter from Lena. She would send them out to the whole family.  I kept 147 of them.  She would tell wonderful stories in them from when she was young and newly married.  Or she would reminisce about being a child in Southwest Louisiana.  She would always end the newsletter with a Cajun joke.

Today I read my cousin Peggy's blog for the first time.  Peggy is Lena's daughter.  Peggy's blog is about her embroidery business Cajun Stitchery.  In it she tells about her life in Florida, her garden, her work, and right now she talks a lot about her Krewe and Mardi Gras.  At the end of her blog I found a Cajun joke.  Just like her mother used to include in her newsletters.  I think that's neat. It brought back so many memories.  Just this one little tradition being carried forth.

It got me thinking about other family traditions.  My family had all the usual traditions, like cooking a turkey at Thanksgiving and putting up a Christmas tree.   We did not have too many traditions that were special just to our family.  The only one I can think of right now was that my mother always had a oil portrait made of the children (my sister and myself and then the grandchildren) when they were two years old and again when they turned 21.

My dad and I did start another one when I turned 21.  Every year at Christmas time he and I would pick a date to go shopping for my mother together.  We would end the evening by going out to dinner and having a drink together.  It was a very special time with my dad.

My husband's family have a tradition at Christmas time.  It has gone on as long as my husband can remember.  Every Christmas Eve his family gathers for Oyster Stew.

My husband and I have quite a few traditions we do.  For example each year at Christmas we buy a "special" ornament; and every year (for the last 13 years) we go to Mardi Gras.

How about you?  Do you have any special traditions?  I know this is not a unique question but I want to know the non-holiday ones.  Traditions like my cousin Peggy's Cajun jokes.

I'll leave you today with one of the Cajun jokes my cousin had on her blog:

Louisiana Declares War on the USA . ONLY IN LOUISIANA !!!!!!! 

President Barack Obama was in the Oval Office when his telephone rang. 

"Hello, Mr.President Obama," in a heavily accented Cajun voice said.
"Dis' is Boudreaux, down here at Slim's in Kinder, I am callin' to tell
y'all that we declaring war on ya!" 

"Well Boudreaux," Barack replied, "This is indeed important news! How
big is your army?" 

"Right now," said Boud, "dere's myself, my brother-in-law Thib, my
next-door-neighbor Bubba, and a few other gator huntn' buddies. Dat
makes eight!" 

Barack paused. "I must tell you Boudreaux that I have one million men
in my army waiting to move on my command." 

"Wow," said Boudreaux. " call ya back!" 

Sure enough, the next day, Boud called again. 

"Mr Obama, de war is on! We got us some infantry equipment!" 

"And what equipment would that be Boudreaux?" Barack asked. 

"We got us two combines, couple of 4 wheelers, a piroque, and Thib's
John Deere.

President Obama sighed. "I must tell you Boudreaux, that I have 16,000
tanks and 14,000 armored personnel carriers. Also I've increased my army
to one and a half million since we last spoke."
 "Lord above", said Boud, "be getting back to ya."
Sure enough, Boudreaux rang again the next day.

"President Obama, de war is still on! We got ourselves airborne!  Bubba fixed
his ultra-lite wit couple of shotguns in de cockpit, and four vets from the 
VFW signed up!" 

Barack was silent for a minute then cleared his throat. "I must tell
you Boudreaux that I have 10,000 bombers and 20,000 fighter planes. My
military complex is surrounded by laser-guided, surface-to-air missile sites.  And since we last spoke, I've increased my army to TWO MILLION!"

"Oh Lord," said Boud, "Call you back." 

Sure enough, Boudreaux called again the next day.
 "President Obama,  sorry to tell you dat we have called off de war."
 "I'm sorry to hear that"  said Barack. "Why the sudden change of heart?"

Well, sir," said Boudreaux, "we all sat down and had a long chat over a
few beers, and come to think that there's just no way our wives can make
enough gumbo to feed two million prisoners.." 


Happy Mardi Gras Y'all

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Families and Photos

Tim Winterbottom is an artist.  His work is modern and abstract.  I like my art real.  Or maybe impressionist.  I like Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, O'Keefe and Rembrandt.  But I think my cousin has some very interesting pieces and one day I hope to see them up close and personal.  So far all I've seen are some pictures of his art.  But pictures are great.

Pictures are one of the things I'm going to talk about today.  At least in part.

RL and his girls brought out a lot of family pictures.  I saw pictures of RL's kids growing up. I saw pictures of my mother and her siblings when they were younger.  And Tim brought over a ton of photos too.  I am going to scan all of them and show a bunch of them to you. (As soon as I learn how to work my new scanner and how to download the photos into this blog...but that's another day.  I tried today, without the aid of "Techie Tutor Tami" and I think I messed up my phone...see what happens when they leave me to my own devices.)

 I got to see a drawn picture (as opposed to a photograph) of a cousin named Jacques Theaux.  This cousin has a tragic tale.  I actually found his story last month in a newspaper that I found in Genealogy  (A wonderful resource for newpapers  Jacques was in World War II and was reported missing.  After being held prisoner for two years by the Germans he was liberated by the Russians.  He was eventually sent to Vienna where he ended up taking his own life.
Looking at his picture made this man real.  Uncle RL told me repeatedly how smart Jacques was.  He spoke several languages and worked in "Intellegence."

The story of Jacques really drove home the importance of gathering not just names and dates but the stories of the people we learn about.  Jacques is so much more than a name and date.

With that in mind I would like to shamlessly plug my friend Tami's blog Finding Family Stories.
Tami talks about just this very thing.

Meanwhile, back to pictures.  One thing I have always wanted to find was a picture of my Grandmother and Grandfather (Mama and Papa Theaux) when they were younger.  Something like a wedding photo.  The only photo I have of them (and the one everyone comes up with when I ask if they have a photo of them) is one taken of them in their golden years.  But this week Tim and RL came up with a photo of them when they were in their 30's or 40's.  What a treasure.

Another treasure is my cousin Eric.  Eric is an avid genealogist and is Tim's half brother.  He has been working on our line for many years.  He lost a lot of his research in Katrina, but he has put most of it back together again and shared a huge amount of information today.  We spent the entire afternoon talking genealogy and walking through the graveyard in St. Martinville, Louisiana.  I took many photos of family graves and felt the "graveyard frenzy fever" come over me. I decided to search for my Grandmother Romero's grave in New Iberia.  (New Iberia is about 12 miles from St. Martinville.)  I couldn't stop myself...I had to find that grave.

So off I went to New Iberia.  My GPS (what a wonderful techie tool) took me to where it thought the graveyard should be; was someone's home.  I wasn't sure I had the right graveyard in the first place.  (Not very prepared...I know) You see, I don't know when she died or where she is buried.  I can't find the records.  But I know it was in New Iberia.  And New Iberia is small.  There is not that many graveyards.  If I have to I'll search them all.  Trouble is...many of the old graves are no longer marked.  The marble has been stolen or broken away.  So I gave up for today. I think the fever has passed.  My bout with the graveyard frenzies has finally subsided.  Once my head cleared I decided to try and approach this in a smarter way.  So back to the drawing board.  I will write to the church in New Iberia and see if they have a record of her death or where she might be buried.

I'm going to take a little time off from genealogy work...I have to the state of Louisiana is about to close down or maybe it's fire up's Mardi Gras...Laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll you'all.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

New Family

I arrived in Lake Charles, Louisiana on Monday afternoon.  First thing I did was head to the library. I spent a couple of hours at the Southwest Louisiana Genealogical Library.  I had a late lunch with one of the librarians, Armajean (sure hope I spelled that right.)  She and I met (along with one of the other librarians from SW LA Genealogical Library, Linda) during the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University in Alabama years ago.

I had not seen Armajean or Linda in many moons, but like peas in a pod, we picked up right where we left off.  After lunch I went back to the library and started to work on my research, however, I could not resist the temptation when a "newbie" and I started talking;  I went into teacher mode.  I couldn't help it.  My husband says I need to learn to take that hat off when I have work that needs doing. (oops...I think I said that with a southern accent)  He was there doing research with his "Mama" and she had some wonderful stories to tell.  (Hi, Kenneth and Mama)  Armajean and I were able to find their family in the 1910 census and point them in the direction of "Mama's" grandmother's death records.  They were thrilled. I love seeing the way people get all excited with a new discovery, or when they catch the "genealogy bug."

That evening I drove to Sulphur, Louisiana and met my Uncle R. L. (Robert Laurent) for the first time. R. L. is in his 80s and sharp as a tack.  He greeted me with a big hug and ushered me into his home.  Inside were two of his daughters (Camille and Beth) and his wife Helen.  Such a welcome!  The girls and I gathered with R. L. around the kitchen table and I told them my story.  (R. L. is the brother of my birth mother) Then they started to catch me up on their lives.  About an hour into our visit we were joined by another daughter, Andree.  (There are five siblings...three girls and two boys)

The five of us set there telling stories, laughing, and sharing pictures till after ten p.m.  Then the girls left.  R. L. and I set up till midnight getting to know each other.  I am so sorry I did not know this wonderful man and his family my whole life.  I have a lot of catching up to do.

In true Cajun style, my uncle told me I was staying at their home and showed me to my room.

The next morning, I went downstairs and found a note from R. L., he and Helen had gone to a doctor's appointment and I was to make myself at home.  My uncle had included the line, "If you get bored, call Tim Winterbottom." He had included the phone number.  I had no idea who Tim was but I figured if my uncle thought I should call him then...

Tim, it turns out, is my cousin.  Now let's see if I have this straight...his grandfather and my grandfather were brothers.  I think that's how it works, but I will find out more tomorrow...and so will you.