Friday, January 8, 2010

Characters In My Closet

I call myself a genealogist. I love the search for ancestors, the thrill of finding a new piece of information, and the pleasure of sharing what I have learned. When I began this blog, initially it was going to cover the Moore’s History in Texas, but has become so much more than that. Too many times recently I have heard that “Aunt Tillie doesn’t have an interest in family history and doesn’t want to be bothered.” Or “there are too many skeleton’s in my closet I would rather not know about.” My favorite though is when people tell me, “I don’t see how looking at microfilm after microfilm, or sitting in an old dusty courthouse can be called fun”. The truth is neither could I! I am so glad I don’t do genealogy that way!

This morning I was watching a rerun of the show “7th Heaven”. It is about a minister’s family who has five children and two parents, thus 7th Heaven. The episode today surrounded the Thanksgiving Holiday and Eric’s sister coming to spend the holidays. Everything seemed so normal on the outside, but inside was a different story. Eric’s sister, Julie had become an alcoholic and she became a person no one knew. She became hateful, selfish, mean, and it didn’t matter who she hurt to get another drink of alcohol. Each family member had to work through their own pain, and forgiveness to be able to get back to a point where they could once again become a family. I broke down when it was pointed out that “Aunt Julie was sick with a disease call Alcoholism”.

I guess it struck me so hard, because I realize I am still dealing with many things from my past, and in doing genealogy realize so many traits have been carried down from generation to generation. As a young child I watched my Dad give my brother a beer when I was 4, and my brother 6. I can still see my brother stumbling around after drinking it and my dad and his buddy laughing. They thought it was funny. I was a sophomore in high school and my brother was a senior, when one night he drove home drunk and stumbled up the stairs. It scared me then, and saddens me today.

Vernon Doak Moore Sr, Grace Linn Schoenbohm Moore, Vernon Doak Moore Jr.

When my dad died, there was an empty whiskey bottle found under his bed my dad was sick, very sick. He wasn’t sick with cancer, he was sick with alcoholism. Alcohol took over his life. Somehow I have gotten lucky, I don’t drink. A friend once asked me if I ever wondered what I was missing out on by not drinking and I said, “No, I do enough stupid things by myself I don’t need alcohol to help me.” I am glad I have taken this road, it is a bit safer. But just because I don’t drink doesn’t mean I don’t have an illness.

My “drug” of choice is food, and in particular, sugar. I love the chocolate, and most anything with sugar tied into it. But, I have also discovered that it is a battle with me and one I need to figure out how to deal with. Right now, I am off sugar until Valentine’s Day. Then I shall re-evaluate and setup another battle plan for the sugar war.

So what has all this got to do with Genealogy? Too often times we find the skeleton’s or as I like to call them the “characters” in our research and we either don’t know what to do with them, or ignore them and hope no one else will discover them. Too often times we slap a label on them, and turn a different direction expecting the problem to go away.

So what do we do with the “Characters in Our Closet?” I think it is important to tell their story as much as the hero story. For my Great Grandfather that I affectionately call “my character in the closet”, I can see his daughters had a great love for him. The person that is portrayed in the newspaper article of assassinating H G Dubose, is not the person they knew.

Genealogy is more than just finding names in a census, or a grave in a cemetery. It is truly finding out who that person was. One case in point deals with my grandfather Vernon Doak Moore Sr. As a child I remember him as a mean old man. Near by his chair was a spittoon that I remember him spitting his chew tobacco in a lot! He chased us with his cane, yelled at us to settle down, was gross when he spit and probably called us names. All the typical stuff of an ole mean person. But when I talk with the older relatives, they remember a different person when they were younger. One relayed to me that when my grandmother was asked why she married my grandfather, she simply said, “He was funny and a lot of fun to be around.” I could never see my grandfather as fun. But in my research I found listing after listing of grand parties held in Taylor, Texas and my grandfather and his siblings always being amongst the listed guests list. It wasn’t one or two parties, but several. Another article on his sister’s wedding stated that “Ellen and her siblings were quite popular the social events.” My grandfather, a socialite? What happened?

To understand where things might have changed for my grandfather, you would have to understand his past. He was born on April 4, 1886 and raised on a cotton plantation. He was only 14 years old when both his parents had passed away and he was left to his grandparents. From the numerous of probate records there are, there was much time spent in courts dealing with the large sum of money the children had been left. Some of the siblings had moved on to the Dakota Territory, my grandfather seemed to have stayed in Texas. In 1917 he married my grandmother and seemed to kind of move around, finding them in at least three different census records in three different counties. His first child was a baby girl, who died at only twelve days old. The house I remember them living at in Corpus Christi was bought for them by their daughter Kathy. Kathy’s husband was a WWII fighter pilot and died doing a test maneuver.

I look at the labels I have put on my grandfather and ask myself, why? Why do we put labels on anyone? I find when I do, then my compassion, love and sympathy for people seem to disappear and I become that other person. I become that person I don’t want to be remembered as. So in my quest for researching my family history, I am striving to find those characteristics that make them who they are. They say everyone has one good thing about them, but often that is overlooked as anger takes over.

I hope today my grandfather is looking down smiling as I try to tell his story. My favorite of him is one of him and his cat Frisky. The shortened version of the story is my grandfather always yelled to my grandmother, “Women there is no chicken in my chicken and dumplings.” My grandmother would sweetly reply, “Yes there is keep looking!” Oh did I forget to tell you my grandfather was blind? You guess what happens to the chicken when a blind man sits down to dinner with a cross eyed Siamese cat nearby!

We always hear to collect your family stories now while you can. By talking with relatives that knew them, you will be able to get a better picture of who they were. What were their loves and passions? What kind of music did they like? What were their hobbies? There are so many things that can clue us in on what things changed their lives to make them a part of our history. My grandfathers are definitely “The Characters in My Closet”. But none the less, they get a spot in my history. After all they have earned them.

1 comment:

  1. Good for you. I look forward to your stories.

    Welcome to the Geneabloggers family. Hope you find the association fruitful; I sure do. I'm fairly new, as well, and have found it most stimulating, especially some of the Daily Themes.

    Keeping telling your ancestor stories!

    Dr. Bill ;-)
    Author of "13 Ways to Tell Your Ancestor Stories"