Blog, genealogy, SoCS

Obituaries – The Modern Day Tombstone – SoCS

Day 114

Stream of Consciousness Saturday (#SoCS) offered by Linda G. Hill. If you are interested, the rules and a link will be listed below the post.

The subject/prompt for today is: “ad/add/AD (Anno Domini).” Use one, use ’em all–bonus points if you fit them all into your post.


In an earlier post, I mentioned I wanted to write my own obituary. As a family genealogist, I know how hard information can be to find on everyday people. Unless you are well known for some reason, there may not be much of a paper trail.

I found a copy of my mother’s obituary in an Ohio paper even though she passed away in Virginia. I am sure my Dad had it published there because we lived in Ohio for a number of years. Not all the information was correct. There were typos which may make future searchers go down the wrong path.

So, I have decided I want to write my obituary, ready to be published in the newspaper and correct for future generations. The time surrounding the death of a loved one is the most stressful time to remember names, places and correct details about someone’s life.

From the beginning of published news in this country, obituaries were published. More likely for prominent citizens. There may also be a death notice required by law as an estate goes through probate. Most modern-day obituaries are actually purchased as a classified ad which can be very expensive.

Dates and relationships on tombstones were a way of recording the pertinent aspects of one’s life. Even that can be incorrect and I know no matter how accurate I make my obituary, the newspaper can still get it wrong.

My husband’s paternal grandfather has been a mystery. We desperately try to find information about him, his birth, and his family, but we continue to come up blank. After much searching, we did find his obituary which listed a sister and names of the pallbearers but we still cannot find any connection to tie him to any of them. We are stuck at the proverbial brick wall that all genealogists dread. I hoped for a name that we could add to the family tree that was truly related in some way, but no luck.

I recently found an Irish website that has many gravestones documented and I am trying to find some proof of my ancestor who was born in 1765 A.D. If I could find a record of a tombstone, it might be helpful in learning more about who he was, who he married and of course when he died.

So, while some non-genealogical people scoff at this idea of writing one’s own obituary, I discovered that many genealogists have the same line of thinking. We are trying to leave a trail — an accurate trail — for future genealogists.

I’ll leave the epitaph up to my family.

Follow Linda G. Hill’s blog to write along every Saturday.

Here are the rules for SoCS:

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top. NOTE: Pingbacks only work from WordPress sites. If you’re self-hosted or are participating from another host, such as Blogger, please leave a link to your post in the comments below.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!


Classic Poetry

Day 113

Classic poetry has always been (as my granddaughter would say) my jam. My mom always read the classics to us as children and I, in turn, read them to my children when they were young.

I never gave the content much thought other than to be taken in by the descriptive lines and my mother’s ability to captivate us in the way she read them. It wasn’t until I was reading them to my sister when she lay dying in the hospital, I realized how sad many of them were. I even found myself skipping some of the lines about death and dying because suddenly it was all a little too real for me.

Two of my favorite poems were Little Orphant Annie and The Raggedy Man, both by James Whitcomb Riley. It is interesting to read about the inspiration for both and how they inspired works by other people. (Little Orphan Annie and Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy) I can close my eyes and still hear my mother’s voice as she recited the poems from memory.

I fell in love with all the great poems: The Wreck of the Hesperus, Annabel Lee, The Highwayman, Abou Ben Adhem. I loved the rhythm, the imagery, and the movement associated with each. Maybe this is why I have such an affinity for the written word.

As my children got older, they, too, learned to love these poems. They also found poems they loved and wrote poems of their own. While living in Alaska, my daughter fell in love with the poems of Robert Service with her favorite being The Cremation of Sam McGee. I am sure she can still recite it in its entirety. (I text her and like clockwork, my phone rang and she started reciting it from memory. I will do her a kindness and not tell you how many years ago she first memorized this poem.)

My Grandmother’s Edition

How wonderful to think that our written words could live long after us and inspire the generations to come. Through the years the book of poetry my mother read from disappeared.

My daughters did some research and bought me a copy which I treasure. (I went down to photograph the book and realized I now have the previously ‘lost’ copy and my gifted copy may have ended up with my daughter. I suspect thievery.)

I wonder if current students still study these authors and know these poems? I sure hope so.

“The heart, like the mind, has a memory.

And in it are kept the most precious keepsakes.” 
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow





A Nostalgic Trip Down Technology Lane

Day 112

Hubby and I had to take the old (literally) Volvo into the shop today because it is leaking coolant. We live in a rural area, so finding a reliable Volvo mechanic means driving an hour north or south. When we make these treks, we usually plan on spending the day and running all our ‘city’ errands while we are there.

As we were driving and managing our way through roads under construction, we started talking about the improvements made in mapping software and GPS since we married.

Hubby’s first cell phone was a brick he used primarily to respond to pages he received from the office. It stayed in the car all the time. My first cell phone was a flip phone with no screen. Not much chance of navigating with either of those!

In the 1990’s, we purchased software called Street Atlas USA from DeLorme — a Maine-based mapping company. I distinctly remember using the laptop (which was huge and heavy in the 1990’s) with an antennae/receiver placed strategically on the dashboard. Lord help you if you went through any well-treed areas or traveled any tunnels along the way!

Then of course, along came Garmin who had a large display for maps that gave you turn-by-turn GPS instructions. The firmware needed to be updated frequently as new roads were built, or major construction was underway. We had a shared Garmin at work for anyone who needed to travel during the day. There was a policy for checking it out from the office and a very rigid policy to ensure its return at the end of the day.

And we cannot forget Mapquest. I wonder how many of those maps I created and printed?

Now we all have cell phones and using our GPS is a normal course of the day for most of us.

These thoughts reminded me of some days-gone-by memories. My sister always used AAA TripTik when planning a road trip. She would go into the office and tell them where she wanted to go, how many hours a day she wanted to travel and would highlight any scenic destinations she might be interested in seeing. Days later she would receive a bound book of maps highlighted with places to stop and sights to see. I think they still have the service, but it is now more an online tool you do yourself and then print.

Once while traveling from Maine to Virginia with my son, we ran into a major hours-long delay on the highway. My car was overheating and I asked him to pull out the atlas and find us an alternate route. He was probably sixteen at the time and did a great job — with one exception. The route went straight up a some curvy, hillish, mountain roads (did I mention I am not crazy about heights?) and across what I remember as a suspension bridge (did I mention I am not fond of heights)? Of course, if you are open to seeing it, there is always an up side to every situation. We ended up at the gate to Fort Drum, NY — A place my father was stationed and a place I heard many, many stories about growing up. Watertown, 1000 Islands, Camp Drum…such memories.


One further rather funny side note about that trip. In looking at the Google map above, maybe my son did not do so well. We NEVER should have been that far north. But sometimes, we just need to let go and go with the flow. I am puzzled how we ever made THAT detour. I must have been very cranky on that trip!

I do miss the folding and unfolding of a map, trying to find my way. With every gain we make in technology, we lose just a little touch of the romance.


The Ugly Side of the Internet

Day 111

You know how you just cruise along in your own little cocoon of a world where everything is just hunky-dory? Then one day something unexpected rears its ugly head and you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore?

Well, that was me this morning.

I have been weening myself off of Facebook where things are so divisive and political. Instead, I have been spending more time reading other people’s blogs. I enjoy a place where people use words to convey ideas. I have made a lot of new acquaintances who may, over time, become friends.

The blogs I read may not necessarily be penned by like-minded individuals, but I usually find commonality with people who share similar interests or maybe just write compelling blogs that give me something new to consider. Always healthy I think.


One way of finding such blogs is to search the WordPress reader. That has been fine until today when very unexpectedly — WHAM — I was confronted with some very unexpected and unwelcome images.

I am very much a ‘to each his/her own’ kind of person, but I like to control what comes into my world. Not always possible, I know, but generally, it works well for me. Until today. Today a very innocent search using a tag I have used in my blog many times uncovered some VERY adult images. Thankfully, I did not need to see the entire post, but the images were a little too graphic for morning coffee.

So, I tried to block the sites (there were about 4) in WordPress Reader which did not seem to work. I was receiving an error that something went wrong. I tried this several times for each site and eventually, they disappeared from the reader.

Last week when I was contemplating moving my blog to a self-hosted site, I did some research on how to include my blog in the WordPress Reader. My understanding was using JetPack, it could be done except that tags would not carry over. Hmmm. WordPress has a way to report free hosted sites, but from what I saw, they cannot block or remove a site that is self-hosted. (I’m a little fuzzy on the details.) This made me wonder, then, how these sites came up after using a tag search. Still not sure about how that works so maybe I need more research.

The point of my blog today is just the grim reminder that this Internet we all love so much contains the same cross-section of people and society and likes and dislikes found in the broad spectrum of life. I do not always agree with censorship, but I do like to choose if and when I see or hear certain things. Today I was gobsmacked to have this encounter here and in this space — I was being naive.

So, just a reminder that even the most innocent of words or ideas can be construed for any purpose or to attract anyone. I appreciate all the people who take the time to express ideas, work through difficult times or even share their personal successes. For me, however, I need to do a little research and see if there is a way to filter the content that gets presented to me.



Mind Waltz

Day 110

I am doing it again. Too many rambling thoughts rummaging for a place in my head. Best way to tame them is to name them.

WordPress Theme – I love WordPress. I have used it to design many, many websites over the years. I love the flexibility. I have two self-hosted WordPress websites but I have resisted self hosting my blogs. I love the WordPress Reader community. I would miss that. What I would love is the flexibility to format the blog the way I want it – the thing I most love about the platform. I searched out the old Pachyderm theme that I use on my other blog only to find out it is no longer being updated. Bummer. What all this means is that I may change my theme again. And maybe again.

Music – Songs have been running top-speed through my mind this morning. I was listening to one of my favorite songs — also the song I hope will be played at my funeral morbid as that may sound to some. It was written by Tom Waits and is featured on The Black Rider soundtrack but that is not at all the rendition of the song I love. The version that touches my heart is by Niamh Parsons. What an angelic voice and the harmony with Fran McPhail is pure gold. (I also intend to write my own obituary. As an amteur genealogist, accuracy is important!)

Then I found a recording of Ashokan Farewell which our daughter and our niece played at our wedding. The violin and piano duet is simply beautiful. When I played it on YouTube today hubby heard it and came down to look for the music for mandolin (the two instruments — violin and mandolin — are similar in some way). It was nice to hear him play it considering he has only had a few lessons.

The piece was composed by Jay Ungar and he says it comes out of a sense of loss and longing. Not what most people would pick for a wedding, I suppose, but give it a listen. It is beautiful.

Memories – My sisters have been very present in my memories. Maybe because I have been in touch with both my nieces today or maybe because I was perusing some old blog entries. Nonetheless, it was nice because the thoughts were pleasant and not wracked with grief. I do miss them so much. I chuckled today when I stubbed my toe and uttered “Dammit, Jim.” One of my sister’s favorite ways of expressing frustration and for you fans, a definite Star Trek reference.

Cleaning – I did manage to finish packing all the Christmas decorations and hubby stored them away. Well, all but the village pieces atop the kitchen cabinets. Maybe tomorrow.

So, a big jumble of thoughts day. Expecting some icy eather in the morning. Hubby is making his delicious chicken, potato, and kale dish for dinner.  It will go perfectly with our bottle of our favorite new Cabernet — Sailor’s Grave. Try it if you can find it. Check out the video. It’s a hoot.