My son is currently doing a project on family culture…. I think the class is cultural anthropology. The real question is what is our families cultural history. I also was struck recently seeing online a quiz a teacher gave for extra credit on race. The real question comes from if your family immigrated to the US (aka great American Melting Pot) at the start of the country, what is your cultural background?
My grandmother Wakeland’s family immigrated to the US in the early 1900s after 3 of her sisters (my aunts) were already born. I can link superstitions and our Catholic upbringing to them… but beyond that it becomes more of a question. My husband’s family came to the US in the 1920’s, but didn’t really bring a lot of cultural heritage that we know of. The family was also Catholic, but didn’t seem to have all the superstitions that my Italian family did.
For my family the McArdle on my mom’s side and all of my father’s side, were more the been here for ever, what would you consider culture.. but maybe that is a culture?
Family tradition, also called Family culture, is defined as aggregate of attitudes, ideas and ideals, and environment, which a person inherits from his/her parents and ancestors.
Both sides of the family have lots of family history to fall back on. There were strong attitudes too, most were incorporated into the family for generations… My ancestor Rev. John Corbley’s museum still has a family reunion every year at the church near his former farm. Rev Corbley was originally part of the House of Delegates for the state of Virginia, but was voted out due to separation of Church and State in 1777. Corbley was not an ordained minister but was thought to be enough of a minister to be ousted from the government.
Corbley later was part of the resistance during the Whiskey Rebellion when the settlers objected to the first tax imposed by the new country. The government made a new federal tax on whiskey distilled in the area of Pennsylvania. President Washington later released everyone and sent them back home. Stories from Corbley’s life tell of him being allowed to go out during the day and return to the jailers at night until finally being told he could return home to his family.
Other stories from the family include tales of family that were some of the first Postmasters (McArdle), platted towns (Edward Corbley), Farmers (Richters), and even some of the first school board members of their area (Abraham Lincoln Richter)…. These ancestors all helped shape the country that we currently live in. Many faced adversity and though some have faded into obscurity, they helped make the nation that exists today.
The question really is though how does this fit with our current family’s culture… When I think of it, I see my mother who is now active in the Daughters of the American Revolution… many of my cousins and aunts that have been active in politics. I also see my cousins and my children doing what they can to help others and standing up for those in need. We’ve tried to instill in our children to help people when they see injustice or need. Though we sometimes slip, we try to focus on the positive.
Every one I know is a mix of something. It may be race or religion…. or it could even be brain wiring. Not everyone’s difference’s are visible, but they all matter. To me it seems whatever your own difference, that’s the one that is the widest divide……
I recently read an article by someone about what she would tell her children if she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve actually lived through a few instances of both Alzheimer’s and dementia now and in the past. Both are pretty sucky diseases! I got the impression from the article (and I could be wrong) that the person writing it was talking about the disease that you see on television. The forgetful parent that is living in the past and is still mobile. For Alzheimer’s disease that was a stage we did see too. I won’t write much about it other than to say my impression was that the article was written to make caregivers feel guilty for thoughts they may be having. Thoughts that they already are probably having a hard time with. In reality, no two people with Alzheimer’s or Dementia are the same. When I say it’s a sucky disease I mean it becomes a disease like being locked inside your body with no way to communicate and no one has any idea if you are aware or not. Think awake coma…. In this case though there isn’t the television hope of they are going to wake up… the hope really is that they don’t suffer too much.
My Aunt Kate – Alzheimers
My Aunt Kate was my first experience with Alzheimer’s disease. We didn’t even have a clue what was going on at first. Growing up I loved spending time with her. She, my Aunt Lena Mack, and my grandmother had been the youngest girls in the family of nine kids in an immigrant family raised by my great grandmother. The lost their father in 1918 in the flu. My Aunt Kate had married a miner when she was young and then lost him early. She later met my Uncle Ralph who sold insurance and took photos – lots of phots, and developed them himself!
They lived in the coolest house. If I had been old enough when she sold that house in Danville Illinois, I would have bought it for sure! It is still there, but has been changed beyond belief. It’s beside DCFS and is now a hair place painted blue. It had a huge wrap around porch and at least 4 rooms upstairs. One of the rooms was a suite and my aunt and uncle never used that part of the house – except when we visited. One room had a huge walk in closet with a vanity also. I would go up and check out the vanity with the mirror and old style hair brush, ten wander around. My parents would drop us at my aunt and uncles when they wanted to go out and needed a babysitter…. My aunt always had a quilt set up in the dining room also. I loved her quilt frame and went on to have my husband create a similar one for me. My grandmother would piece quilts and my aunt would quilt them. She could finish the whole quilt in a month and her stitches were amazing.
Later she moved to a condo after selling. My grandmother sold her own house and moved nearby, and over time they moved in together. I remember though the first signs being in the apartment where my aunt started repeating the same stories over and over again. She had stories that we had heard a few times before, but it seemed those stories started coming up more often. Why she didn’t have any children was a popular one. At first though it was little things, nothing that we could really say for sure. Over time though it started to become obvious that memory as becoming a problem.
At this point I had left for college and was just seeing everyone on visits. On visits it still appeared my aunt was the same person but told the same stories a few too many times. My family had started to realize though. My grandmother and Aunt got a house together, alarms had to be put on the doors in case she wandered…. and my grandmother had to be the caregiver. But then my grandmother got sick… My grandmother found out she had breast cancer when my oldest was born. We had to debate live vaccines or dead vaccines at the time because of chemo… and rearrange baptisms so that she would be healthy enough to attend. The question though was, if the caregiver now needs care? So my aunt had to go to a facility.
My Aunt Kate at assisted living would call home asking to be picked up. She would try to escape, following people out. She also though would tell people stories about how she worked there and would run around making people’s beds for them. We would bring the kids to visit, and everyone loved them. As time went on her mind retreated and she started recognizing people as the younger version of people from her childhood. Visiting was good, she may have thought we were someone else, but it was good for her to interact.
Near the end though Alzheimer’s patient’s become violent. They are frustrated at the fact they can’t remember and they start to just fight back against everything and everyone. My mother dealt with that. Patients start losing their ability to do basic things. The toughest part is that their body in many parts is healthy, it’s only their mind that is suffering.
My Dad – Vascular Dementia
My dad on the other hand is suffering from vascular dementia. My father had been suffering from untreated high blood pressure for quite a while without realizing it. It apparently put little holes in parts of his brain. Additionally he had a motor cycle accident in his late teens that causes brain damage. The brain damage from the accident was so bad he wasn’t expected to live, but he had made it – and he recovered with just head aches. Now though the accident makes brain scans difficult.
One morning my father had a stroke, that was really the beginning of the end. The doctor found the high blood pressure and started treating it. My father’s family though has a history of strokes and my dad’s strokes didn’t stop them. My father has had trouble with clotting and each stroke the doctors wouldn’t realize what was going on until later. I remember a call where my mother called me and said that my father couldn’t move his hand anymore, had slurred his speech but the doctor over the phone said it couldn’t be a stroke and not to bring him in…. I don’t even have a medical degree and suspected stroke…. Two days later they decided it maybe was a stroke and put him in the hospital.
After a couple years of this, a doctor decided my father needed a heart valve replacement. My father was having issues with memory, slowly slipping. My mother was still able to leave him for short periods of time (though he once threw away their smoke detector when cooking in the microwave). My dad was doing a few odd things like he pushed a grain wagon in the pond by mistake, but he was puttering around the farm… still going out and interacting sometimes. I have a video of him sword fighting with fake swords with my youngest. We debated the surgery though….. without it according to the doctors, my father wouldn’t have much time left. Ultimately we left it up to my dad, who originally was saying no, but in the end said yes.
Ultimately the surgery was the final straw. Unknown to us at the time, surgery like this can cause a drastic decline in some older patients like this…. and my dad was one of those odds. He went through a personality change that was a little tough to deal with, his memory quickly decreased, and physically he never fully recovered. As he declined quickly he needed a walker, but couldn’t remember to use it. Not using a walker when you need it, leads to falls. So we were dealing with health issues, behavior changes, and other new issues and my dad wasn’t a small man.
Moving into memory care, because of the behavior changes, caused my dad to have issues with caregivers in the facilities. Men are much more rare in nursing homes. My father was sent to locked wards at first to adjust his meds for behavior, then the first facility took him and just dropped him at an ER and said they wouldn’t take him back. We were new to all this, dealing with documenting everything, but lost really. Luckily we found a facility in the Amish community (a couple hours away) that was willing to take my father. Due to the first facility my father had been blacklisted everywhere close. After a while my father was able to be moved closer and is now a lot closer… but now he’s no longer in a memory care unit.
Vascular Dementia really can mean that the memory only declines each time there is new brain damage, usually in our case from a stroke. My father’s body itself has failed him completely. He can’t walk, doesn’t use one hand, and is pretty much locked away. My father was always active. My dad was a farmer… He doesn’t normally speak unless you ask him a question, and then sometimes he just stares at you. We will continue to visit, but to me it looks like he’s being tortured. Kind of like the people on television given paralytic drugs and set in front of a tv to watch glimpses of their families lives with no hope of ever escaping.
What I want my Kids to Know
For me I want my kids (and how we decide things) to make decisions that they can live with. There is enough guilt no matter what you decide when dealing with these things. Don’t ever let anyone else make you feel guilty over any choice you make. Never second guess a decision you have made, you can’t back and change something you decided in the past – so just move forward and make future plans. I can say don’t feel guilty over anything you decide or do, but no matter what – if you have anything to do with the decision, you are going to feel some guilt over some parts of what happen.
When Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients reach the point where they no longer remember family and start becoming violent, or the point where they can longer answer questions and just stare, it’s hard to not feel like they are being tortured…. actually some even earlier will tell you that they are being held against their will. They will call at night and ask to be picked up, taken home.
I don’t include normally much about what my dad and mom are going through now. If anyone is going through Vascular Dementia and wants to talk privately though they are always welcome to contact me.
When my great grandfather Moretto immigrated to the US he included on the ship manifest that he was coming to be near a cousin in Westville Illinois. This was right between two censuses, making it hard to be sure that the family would be in the same place at the 1900 Census and the 1910 Census, but my next step should be to search for a person living in the area with a similar name around those times.
My mother remembers being told that my great grandfather was an orphan, but I remember hearing a story about him visiting an aunt that lived in Havre France…. So finding whether he knew his family would be interesting. Great Grandfather passed away when my Grandmother was only about 3 in the flu of 1918. He had worked as a coal miner his whole life in the US, and left 9 kids with my great grandmother. My great grandmother scraped by, cleaning houses, raising a garden, and doing what little she could. My grandmother was the only one of the kids to be able to go to high school. Her mother thought she was too sickly to be able to work, according to my grandmother…. so the kids scraped together the money for her to go to school. My grandmother borrowed old school books and managed to finish high school. I remember her getting to attend her 50th class reunion! One of her jobs, and the one she was working when she married my grandfather, was as a kindergarten teacher. -Teachers at the time couldn’t be married, so she had to hide her marriage until later. My grandfather and grandmother got married in Indiana to hide their marriage.
My grandfather only lived a few years, and then my grandmother moved back with my great grandmother. My great grandmother had left family behind in Italy, but my grandmother never mentioned family that was already here in the US.
Things that I will search include Census Records and Directories….
I was just at my parents and ran into someone that traced their line WAY back…. And to admit it I have a tree that has that too. I know what I need to do to my tree and what’s wrong with it….. It needs SOURCES! and in reality to go back that far the odds of finding sources are pretty near impossible. Though how far really is that back, how many generations? If you think that each generation probably got married younger as you go farther back – up to a point – my grandmother Richter got married at 14 I think…. But I would say an average of 20 to 25 years old. So taking the year 2000 minus the year 600 and an average mother’s age of 25…. You get 56 generations back! Looking at the chart below I suppose by the time you get that far back you pretty much have most of a country (or all of a country) in your family tree….. My tree does go back and I know I need to work on my sources. I have a few places that I need to shore up my documentation definitely.
What do you use for documentation once you get back a certain number of generations? The census and other government records are great here in the US to document back to 1850, but going beyond that you run into what to use? For one side of my family we have a family bible. Family bibles can be a great source of information! There are also newspapers that have some information, church records, and military records. I’ve found probate records for wills that have also helped.
Going back beyond the 1800s though becomes tougher. For some members of my family that are well known there are books that I can find where others have taken the time to trace the tree. I’ve collected all I can find as these books get harder to find as time passes. For regular family lines it gets almost impossible though. Add to that the records being oversees and frequently not in English and the search gets tougher. I’ve slowly been working through my records to add sources, but wondered about everyone else’s trees. I’m also ordering the DNA kit. I thought I may as well give it a try.
I think the biggest mess in family trees on ancestry comes from the family tree merge…. I know when I first started out and saw it…. I made that rookie mistake and am still trying to clean it up. Ancestry allows you to merge other peoples trees to your tree. I also started tracking my family tree when I was about 14… Commodore 64 and paper time, and was just questioning relatives. I didn’t document anything and relied on my memory for some. I do have the paper copies of what I wrote, but my wonderful relatives from the time are all gone. Between family member sources that aren’t documented and merged trees with unreliable sources, I am now using my tree as a source of hints that need researched. I don’t have my tree set to public knowing there is information out there that shouldn’t be relied on. I do have a lot of great information and I have documented almost all of my direct line as well as a lot of other great pictures and documentation, but ughhh! cleaning up a tree with thousands of people is a mess. I never merge family trees now. I will turn on that feature and look when I want new hints, but I won’t link the information…..
What do you use for hints? Sources? How far back does your tree go?
Last weekend I visited home. I thought it would be nice to drive through the town that Edward Corbly help create and take a couple pictures. The school I attended from K – 4, the post office/store where I would stop and get a candy bar when walking from school to the church, the church that I attended vacation bible school (not even my religion, but a lot of my family goes there, so I went each summer and even sang in the choir sometimes).
As I drove through town, I did see a town that is still really small. Population 200 according to one of the signs I’ve found. One of the homes has a sign that says “Drive like your kids live here” (love that)…. I took a few pictures quickly with my cell phone thinking I would come back. Driving through with my mother driving. This was in my mother’s car, a car that has driven through town many times in the past…
I won’t post the rest of the story as this apparently caused quite an uproar. I will say I drove through Belgiumtown with mom (outside Westville) and didn’t have anywhere near the reaction…. So my question or pondering really comes down to, what is the proper way to record memories and history. Downloading and using others pictures really should not be used for anything you will publish – even on a blog. For anything to be published you should take your own pictures. For historic records you must have permission to publish the pictures unless they are within certain constraints (not a lawyer, don’t know what they are).
There are SO many things from history that I wish had been recorded, both people and places! Many were before pictures were easy to take like they are now, but pictures are such a great way to bring back memories and record history – I try to take them when I can. I even try to throw in video once in a while. When going on trips I try to include people in the pictures also. There are many family members that I miss immensely and seeing them in places at certain times brings it all back.
So what’s appropriate? Do you feel that pictures of your house by former residents are inappropriate? Pictures of public places? What about in a small town? And what about if it’s a house that was a public building in the past? – It’s gone now, but friends lived in the one room schoolhouse that my father went to school in. To top it off the larger school (Fithian Grade School) that I went to school in was being converted to a home the last time I heard anything about it…. So pictures?
Keep in mind what I’m talking about involves standing or being in a car and taking pictures from a public location. Pictures that are all of things that can be seen from a public place. I’m not talking about taking a drone and flying up to take a picture in a second floor window… that would be creeeeeepyyyyyy!
Some tips that I try to stick to:
- If anyone asks, speak to them and explain what you are doing – they may have stories.
- If you share the pictures, be respectful. Remember it may have been your location once, but someone else cares about it now…. Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s wrong
- Try to avoid getting people in pictures of private locations if you going to use the pictures later.
- Don’t trespass on private property (get permission)
- There will always be some people that are overzealous about privacy and may not understand your desire to document your history. Additionally some areas may have turned into the ‘bad’ area of town. Be vigilant.
- Join the local history groups for your home towns. I was able to post and ask questions to find out some great information. Additionally I met some great people that knew my grandmother, mother, and great grandmother – and even family I hadn’t met before!
I have to admit I wasn’t the one that posted the picture that got the negative comments, but I did take it and I did send it to a friend that had asked for it. It took a while because I came in late to the game to even figure out which picture had caused trouble… When I found out, it turned out it was a picture I had taken of a foundation for me to research later what had been at that location. I’ve been looking for the train depot in town and a foundation seemed like something to look into….
For taking pictures I have my cell phone and I have a nice Cannon camera. I usually will take any quick pics with my phone and anything that I want to keep for good I take with my good Cannon camera. I have a Wifi connector for my camera making it easy to transfer the pictures and an eyefi card also.
I remember growing up being so proud that I was 25 percent Italian. Every time I would say it though my father would get upset and point out that I was 100 percent American. Yes I am and was 100 percent American and I am proud of my heritage and history in the US also. My family on many lines has been in the US since before the US was the US. That doesn’t stop me from also being proud of my genetic heritage also and how much my ancestors went through to get to the US. My grandmother’s family left Italy in the early 1900s and came through Ellis Island with my Great Grandfather coming first. My Great Grandmother came over by herself with three very little kids, afraid that she would be turned back if anything went wrong – including a runny nose! I feel I have to acknowledge ALL the strong amazing people in my history, not just the relatives that were born in the US. In some cases the ancestors that fought to gain citizenship and then lived through being treated like second class citizens because of coming over to the US later than others have more to be admired for. They have amazing stories that should be told also.
My great grandfather came to the US to make a place for my great grandmother and settled in Clinton IN (they later moved to Belgiumtown in Illinois). He took a job in the coal mines – which is not easy work, and made a home for the rest of his family to come over and settle at. He passed away when my grandmother was just a couple years old of the flu of 1918, leaving my great grandmother a widow with 10 kids and no means of support. My great grandmother went on to raise a garden – they ate what they could raise, clean houses for some of the widowers, and her sons that were still unmarried and were old enough to go to work in the mines took jobs. At the time though, the oldest children were less than 18 years old….
My grandmother ended up being the only child to go on to high school and as the youngest all her siblings contributed some money for her to get to attend. She finished high school and became a kindergarten teacher. Grandma borrowed books and did what she could to get through school….
Each time I see the recent news against different immigrants coming into the US, I can’t help but be reminded of how my great grandparents were treated – especially during the World Wars when Italy was at odds with the US. My ancestors had sworn allegiance to the US, but were still viewed as suspect. I feel the times weren’t as dangerous then as they are now with the current acts of terrorism, but treating any American that has a certain genetic makeup as if they are not 100% American is not following the ideals this country was founded on.
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This country was founded to be a great American melting pot. Everyone in the US (other than the Native American’s) is descended from an Immigrant. They may have come before the country was founded but they still came over from another country. It amazes me that being here first seems to give some people the feeling that they are able to choose how to treat other groups.
All in all though I do still feel proud of my genetic background, but I’m also proud that I am 100% American also. Being American will not stop me from following the traditions and researching more about the groups that I descended from.